Sylvia Scarlett - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes

Sylvia Scarlett Reviews

Page 1 of 4
January 20, 2015
Tenìa mejores expectativas, al final terminò aburriendome, en todo caso vale por ver a Katharine Hepburn y Cary Grant.
December 23, 2014
has gr8 gay overtones
½ February 14, 2014
I just don't understand the intentions of this movie at all. It all just seems to fail at every level. When compared to Bringing Up Baby (I know it's not fair) it's just baffling in its difference in quality. It ultimately comes down to a pretty bad story that doesn't make any sense, and its characters' actions are mostly not believable.
September 4, 2012
What do you do when you start watching a film and you realize it isn't that good? Even with a classic film it sometimes is hard to push through and view the entire thing. This is the case with SYLVIA SCARLETT (George Cukor, RKO Pictures, 1935) as the film was particularly hard to follow narratively, the performances were scattered and the film is just old enough that stylistically it doesn't compare favorably with other films made shortly after in the years to follow. The film does have Cary Grant and Katherine Hepburn as it's two stars though, the first of four films pairing these two greats. And while the two of them are often great, this film doesn't offer many times for these two to shine.

There is one thing the film does very well, particularly looking back almost eighty years since its release. I am not sure if it is the persona of Hepburn that determines the role of Sylvia or if the script dictated her portrayal. But the wholehearted attack on gender roles and sexuality this film takes is amazing. This attack is multifaceted and takes on many aspects. Let me begin with Hepburn.

The most obvious physical change would of course be her hair and makeup. She goes under a radical transformation in cutting her hair entirely in a men's fashion. The makeup applied to her in the role is done well and contributes to her deceptively being very boyish. Her costuming helps as well and this is no doubt aided by her slender figure. The most striking aspect of Hepburn in this role is her movement. She moves just like a man does, totally different from all the other women in the film. All the tricks of hair and makeup are great but it's the movement that makes her convincing. And this effective portrayal of a man blurs the gender lines in the film.

Also blurring things is an underlying tone of sexuality to the film, particularly one of homosexuality. I counted three instances of same sex kissing, unheard of in classical Hollywood studio era films. What further muddles this same sex kissing is the pairings. Maudie (Dennie Moore) kisses Sylvia but Sylvia has a penciled mustache. The audience knows its girl kissing girl but the mustache and dress alters the landscape. Next Michael (Brian Aherne) kisses Sylvester. Definitely not a heterosexual moment but allowable because the audience knows Sylvester really is a girl. Finally when Sylvia reveals herself she is kissed by Lily (Natalie Paley). Again, girl kissing girl but the manner of the kiss and it's particular moment in the narrative make it allowable. (Lily is forgiving Sylvia for an earlier slight)

Lily of course has the line of the film, cementing this blurring of genders. When meeting Sylvia she coyly states "were you a girl dressed as a boy or are you a boy dressed as a girl"? This statement of confusion sums up exactly what the film is saying. Sylvia is blurring gender lines and the audience is supposed to buy into whichever role Hepburn is playing at the time. The film entirely belongs to Hepburn and her performance is strong.

The film is not good and is rather tedious to watch. But there are some fantastic moments within and the undertones that are broached are remarkable. And of course you get Grant and Hepburn.
½ June 9, 2012
totally over the top, but in a great way. hollywood just doesn't do the overdramatics they way they used to.
½ May 26, 2012
Though it was certainly ground-breaking for its time, it has aged horribly. And just because a movie is ground-breaking, doesn't make it good in and of itself: the pacing at the end is downright terrible.
½ January 8, 2012
Think fast! Your dad, Edmund Gwenn has been embezzling money and you have to escape the country and you look like Katharine Hepburn. In order to evade the authorities, do you cut off your long braids and pose as a boy? Of course you do! When you and dad run across a smuggler who looks an awful lot like Cary Grant you decide to keep up the ruse so that you might learn the tricks of being a con man. Unfortunately, you wind up being too honest to do any decent thieving so you decide to start a touring performance troupe (you, your dad, Cary Grant and some other dame you found). When some loud mouth heckles the dame in your group while you're doing your act onstage, you go home with him, and spend the rest of the movie trying to decide whether you love him or Cary Grant. Everyone in this movie is confused and the plot is sloppy/messy, but I thought Hepburn was pretty cute in this gender-bending role (there's even a "lesbian" kiss). Granted, this was probably one of the first films of this kind, but that still doesn't make it very good.
Mr Awesome
Super Reviewer
January 8, 2012
Think fast! Your dad, Edmund Gwenn has been embezzling money and you have to escape the country and you look like Katharine Hepburn. In order to evade the authorities, do you cut off your long braids and pose as a boy? Of course you do! When you and dad run across a smuggler who looks an awful lot like Cary Grant you decide to keep up the ruse so that you might learn the tricks of being a con man. Unfortunately, you wind up being too honest to do any decent thieving so you decide to start a touring performance troupe (you, your dad, Cary Grant and some other dame you found). When some loud mouth heckles the dame in your group while you're doing your act onstage, you go home with him, and spend the rest of the movie trying to decide whether you love him or Cary Grant. Everyone in this movie is confused and the plot is sloppy/messy, but I thought Hepburn was pretty cute in this gender-bending role (there's even a "lesbian" kiss). Granted, this was probably one of the first films of this kind, but that still doesn't make it very good.
January 5, 2012
Gender bending - girls kissing girls, boys wondering why they are attracted to boy and drag. 1935? 77 years later and films like these are a rarity. Its amazing to think how "modern and progressive" this concept was and equally amazing to think how conservative some of us are today.
½ December 12, 2011
The film is a little unfocused. Grant is playing a character that is not charming, which is interesting. Hepburn, a woman partly responsible for women being allowed to wear pants, is pretty awesome and takes part in one of cinema's first lesbian kisses. Other than a for a few moments, the film is quite forgettable.
½ November 23, 2011
More of a curiosity piece than a classic. Hepburn and Grant do enough to warrant to a look, but it's a disappointing workthrough of a promising storyline.
May 13, 2011
Charming George Cukor movie.
Super Reviewer
February 7, 2011
This is a film that stars Katherine Hepburn, Cary Grant, Edmund Gwenn and Brian Aherne. The basic plot has Hepburn character and her father escape to England after a embezzlement charge. So no one suspects who they are his daughter pretends to be a boy. They end up meeting a scoundrel played by Grant and start a life of crime then on to a traveling show across the country. This story was a bit odd. Your never sure how this film is going to end. The film is a mix of drama, comedy and romance. All the actors do a fine job in their roles. Hepburn and Grant are the best in their roles. A solid film overall. If your a Grant or Hepburn fan then give this a watch.
½ January 12, 2011
Tenìa mejores expectativas, al final terminò aburriendome, en todo caso vale por ver a Katharine Hepburn y Cary Grant.
January 11, 2011
In single words:Hepburn,Katharine Hepburn.Check it.
Super Reviewer
½ September 14, 2010
This movie is somewhat strange, mostly because I didn't think Hepburn's character had a good enough reason to dress up as a boy. I didn't understand that part, and the movie doesn't explain it. Hepburn and Grant are really good in this movie, though, and it's really funny, so I stopped questioning it.
½ July 23, 2010
I know some people think Hepburn acts tough all the time so she's convincing as a boy, but I just didn't think so. She looks too much like a girl to ever be mistaken as a young man, just look at her figure! This movie is really silly, and somewhat sloppy. But it's fun too. I loved Grant as always! The story reminded me of Twelfth Night, if you like that play you'll like this movie.
½ March 13, 2010
2.5: Of all the stars of her day, Katharine Hepburn is probably just about the only one that could credibly pass for boy. I took far more pleasure in Cary Grant's performance than hers though. He stole the picture away from her in my opinion. His laugh at the end is absolutely classic Grant even if his character doesn't exactly fit with his movie star persona. That persona hadn't quite been created yet, but one can sure see it here. He seems to be having more than a little fun with the character and as he rarely had the chance later in life, he can show a bit of his British roots here. The sets were quite interesting, especially the caravans and the artists residence. I was a bit curious to see them actually drive the caravan around as it seemed to be a bit large for those narrow English roads.
½ January 3, 2010
A movie ahead of its time. Maybe society wasn't ready for it back then, but had it been produced a few decades latter, maybe the success would have been other. Katherine Hepburn and Cary Grant are brilliant as always and the storyline was well developed.
Page 1 of 4