Monday, September 5, 2011
Keeper of the Flame (1943).
Keeper of the Flame (1943). Cast: Katharine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy. Directed by George Cukor from a screenplay by Donald Ogden Stewart.
When a famous hero Robert Forrest, is killed in a car accident, journalist Stephen O'Malley returns from Europe to write his biography. During his funeral, he sees his friends and fellow reporters, Jane Harding and Freddie Ridges. Forrest's widow, Christine, does not want to speak to the reporters. So, O'Malley, finds a way to become friends with Jeb, the son of the gatekeeper, who allows him onto the estate. Christine, still refuses to help with her husbands biography. After O'Malley leaves, Forrest's private secretary, Clive Kerndon, convinces Christine to help so she can protect her husband's memory.
As time goes on, O'Malley thinks, that some "big secret", is being kept from him. He soon learns that Forrest's elderly, mentally ill mother is living in a separate house on the property. He manages to speak with her and finds out more valuable information.
When O'Malley, finds Robert Forrest's office, he sees smoke coming from the chimney. When he asks Kerndon about the office, he tells him it is used for storage and O'Malley, not believing him decides to investigate on his own. There he finds Christine burning what she says are love letters, but.. he thinks that she is also, not telling the truth. Later, Kerndon telephones a unnamed person and tells them that he will take care of the situation.
When O'Malley, tells Christine that he is in love with her, she tells him the truth. Her husband was corrupted by power and was plotting to take over the United States, by turning one group against another.
She said "while out riding that she saw that the bridge had washed-out and that she could have warned her husband, but decided that a "clean death", was the best thing that could happen to Robert Forrest". O'Malley convinces her to help him write a book exposing Forrest's plot against the United States.
Kerndon, over hears them and locks the door and then sets the building on fire. Will they be able to escape the flames and write their book exposing her husband's plot?
Louis B. Mayer was very unhappy about the film's political content, thinking it noncommercial. Katharine Hepburn too felt that the storyline was too dull and needed to be pepped up with some romance. She complained to producer Victor Saville about this but he ignored her comments, so Hepburn went directly to Mayer who was only too happy to make the film into a more conventional Hollywood romance.
Van Johnson was driving to a special screening of Keeper of the Flame when he was involved in the road accident that left him with a metal plate in his forehead.
According to Hepburn biographer Alvin H. Marill, Hepburn was very vocal in critiquing the direction of long-time collaborator George Cukor during filming. After Cukor filmed a fire scene, she questioned his handling of the actors, " I don't think they would have to be told about the fire. They would smell the smoke." Cukor finally Spoke up to his star, "It must be wonderful to know all about acting AND all about fires."
Keeper of the Flame, maybe the only film noir that Tracy with Katherine Hepburn, teamed up in. The story, I thought was very intriguing, with fine performances from the supporting cast: Forrest Tucker, Darryl Hickman, Howard da Silva and Percy Kilbride.