A Bill of Divorcement (1932) - Rotten Tomatoes

A Bill of Divorcement (1932)

A Bill of Divorcement (1932)

A Bill of Divorcement





Critic Consensus: No consensus yet.

A Bill of Divorcement Trailers & Photos

Movie Info

Based on a play by Clemence Dane, this film is set on the day that Hepburn's mother, Billie Burke, is to divorce her insane and long-institutionalized husband John Barrymore. But Barrymore escapes from the asylum and returns home, only vaguely aware of the passage of time.more
Rating: Unrated
Genre: Drama
Directed By:
Written By: Howard Estabrook, Harry Wagstaff Gribble
In Theaters:
RKO Radio Pictures Inc.


Katharine Hepburn
as Sydney Fairfield
John Barrymore
as Hillary Fairfield
Billie Burke
as Margaret Fairfield
David Manners
as Kit Humphrey
Henry Stephenson
as Doctor Alliot
Paul Cavanagh
as Gray Meredith
Gayle Evers
as Bassett
Julie Haydon
as Party guest
Show More Cast

News & Interviews for A Bill of Divorcement

Critic Reviews for A Bill of Divorcement

All Critics (7) | Top Critics (3)

Full Review… | March 26, 2009
Top Critic

Full Review… | February 9, 2006
Time Out
Top Critic

Full Review… | May 20, 2003
New York Times
Top Critic

The dramaturgy is pure 19th-century, yet Cukor gives you Barrymore and the debuting Hepburn cutting through it like a couple of long-stemmed knives

Full Review… | July 4, 2011

Outdated family drama about dealing with mental illness.

Full Review… | August 12, 2008
Ozus' World Movie Reviews

Even in 1932, when the melodrama was made, the biological and moral issues of insanity were outdated, but Cukor's film features an original, striking turn from Katharine Hepburn in her screen debut.

Full Review… | July 10, 2006

Audience Reviews for A Bill of Divorcement

VERY stagy but interesting film served as Hepburn's screen bow. She's a trifle studied and Barrymore occasionally goes over the top but mixed in with that is some excellent acting by both. Billie Burke, more subdued than usual, delivers the film's best most consistent performance. She does a very fine job of showing the anguish of a life suddenly turned upside down.

jay nixon

Super Reviewer

I have heard for eons about how great an actor John Barrymore was, and I expected some good but overblown silent acting style from him. How wrong I was! He in reality had a naturalistic acting style that would hold up just as good today. This film is about a man who regains his sanity and escapes from a mental institution (after 16 years) only to find that his wife has divorced him and is about to marry again. Barrymore did a wonderful job of making you "feel his pain" at his discovery that the woman he adores loves someone else. And his body language that gave away that he wasn't completely well, was right on the mark, very much like people I have known who were treated for severe mental illness. This was also the first film of 24-year-old Katherine Hepburn. She plays the daughter who was born after the man's commitment to the asylum. All her mannerisms are already developed, and she's beginning to show the talent to come. She claimed later to have learned a great deal about acting from Barrymore during this film. Billie Burke, better known as Glinda in the Wizard of Oz, plays dramatic here as the wife. This really made me want to see more of Barrymore, but also made me wonder what Drew Barrymore could do if someone really gave her a chance.

Cindy I

Super Reviewer


What an interesting movie. Behind the scenes we have the sunset of one legend (John Barrymore) and the sunrise of another (Katharine Hepburn) and it is utterly amazing to see them together on screen. Both actors play perfectly off each other and their relationship will break your heart. The ending with the two of them at the piano had me crying for them both.

John Barrymore plays a man escaped from the assylum that he'd been in since returning from WW1 a shell shocked man. We never are told how long he's been there, but it's long enough that his daughter (Hepburn) doesn't remember him (talks about him at the beginning as if he were dead) and his wife (Billie Burke in the only thing I've ever seen her in other than Wizard of Oz) has filed for divorce and taken up with another man. What proceeds is a dazzling family drama that ends with a family torn apart and his daughter's life resigned when she realizes that his madness could be hereditary- thus her blood damaged (Let's put on our 1930's hats people- insanity was a worse fate than death back then) and her upcoming nuptial plans are now in question.

Granted, you have to conceit to the times to fully appreciate the weight of the decisions these characters make, but other than that a fine, fine little drama that will show you without a shadow of a doubt how Miss Kate Hepburn became a star and give you a chance to catch one of the great American actors: Barrymore in one of his last great roles.

Stephanie Merchant

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