Typical dinner conversation these days focuses either on war or sports. The new film “Woman of the Year” has both.
Directed by George Stevens, starring Spencer Tracy and Katherine Hepburn, the film gives a comic relief to the stressful times. The combination of comedy, wit, romance, and relatability make this film a success. By juxtaposing the depressing idea of war with the frivolous and fun idea of sports, Stevens is able to capture the many emotions Americans on the home front are feeling today. A famous female writer focusing on war reporting and a laid back sports columnist fall in love, get married, and then fight over who has the more important job.
Tess Harding, played by Hepburn, and Sam Craig, played by Spencer Tracy; fall in love while working for the New York Chronicle. Their relationship did not involve love at first sight, but instead came from conflict. The two journalists got in an argument through their columns over baseball. Aftser getting reprimanded by their boss for having an open feud at the paper, Sam surprises Tess by asking her on a date.
Tess and Sam’s first date is at a baseball game–how fitting. The scene shows a press box filled with all men, except for Tess. This scene is representative of Tess’ life. She breaks barriers and goes against the grain, pushing back against gender stereotypes. She works outside of the home, is a hard news war reporter, and has not a hint of domesticity.
The two come from largely different backgrounds. Sam is all baseball and sports all the time; Tess does not know anything about sports. Tess speaks multiple languages and is knowledgeable about the war; Sam is not. Even with the differing personalities, Tess and Sam fall in love and get married.
The differences do not just dissipate, though. In fact, the couple runs into trouble down the road because of how different they are. Tess is constantly preoccupied with war. She is always getting swept away with a phone call or writing on the typewriter. This raises the concern for Sam that they don’t spend enough time together and that he is not a priority. They have several minor disagreements, but this string of contention is put to the test when Tess decides to take on the care of a Greek refugee child. She doesn’t ask Sam before bringing home the six-year-old boy, leaving Sam to wrestle with the feeling of being left out of Tess’ life.
The film hits a climax when Tess receives the “America’s Outstanding Woman of the Year” award. Tess wants Sam to come to the ceremony, leaving the refugee boy home alone. Sam won’t do it, and Tess worries about what the audience at the award ceremony will think of her if she does not have Sam by her side. Even as “woman of the year,” she can’t escape the societal expectation to have a man supporting her. This is a balancing act we see through out the film. Tess must learn how to balance being a wife and being a strong woman at the time.
The final action of the film takes place in Sam and Tess’s kitchen. Tess has come to a realization that she has to be more committed to Sam and is trying to fix him breakfast. However, she is desperately failing. When Sam sees her in the kitchen, Tess proclaims that she is sorry and will only be his wife and doesn’t wish for anything else. She is ready to give up everything she has fought for and worked for because of social pressures.
Sam counters by saying he doesn’t want her to just be Mrs. Craig, but Tess Harding Craig. This last scene makes the conflict of being a working woman seem easily solvable. They kiss and make up and the screen fades to black, but this conflict that Tess and Sam were dealing with is very real for Americans across the country. As women nationwide are going to work more we see a switch in gender roles. America has been turned on its head and thoughts and practices of the past are being challenged. Expectations to be motherly, a good wife, and domestic are put on women and are very hard to shake off, especially in the work life. If you do not meet these expectations, the perception is that you are not a “good” woman, wife, mom, etc. As women are rising in their careers, this film is a reminder for Americans to not forget the struggle that comes along with being a strong woman in America.
This is a film that every American can relate to. The movie is riddled with light scenes like Sam and Tess’s first date, funny moments of Tess trying to figure out how to cook a meal, and smart, fresh conversations between Tess and Sam. Hepburn and Tracy are perfect for the roles and posses a warmth through their acting. A break from the heaviness of the war, “Woman of the Year” still leaves the viewers contemplating everyday life in wartime.