Lively, entertaining reviews of, and essays on, old and newer films and everything relating to them, written by professional author William Schoell.

Thursday, June 6, 2013


Tracy confronts Hepburn
KEEPER OF THE FLAME (1942). Director: George Cukor.

A wooden bridge collapses in a rain storm and famous philanthropist, beloved war hero,  and would-be politician Robert Forrest is killed when his car crashes into the ravine. Journalist Stephen O'Malley (Spencer Tracy) wants to write an admiring biography of the man, but he senses that people in Forrest's inner circle are strangely alarmed by his interest and doing their best to keep secrets from him. He finally gets to meet Forrest's widow, Christine (Katharine Hepburn, who doesn't appear until 25 minutes into the running time), and she at first wants no part of him or of his project. But she relents. But the more O'Malley digs, the more he suspects something strange is going on, and the more he is drawn to the attractive young widow ... Keeper of the Flame is one of the most compelling films to feature the duo of Tracy and Hepburn, and, as usual, they play very well together. Tracy is excellent throughout, and while Hepburn is a touch stagey at times, she also gives a very good, underplayed performance. Also notable are Margaret Wycherly as Forrest's senile and desperate mother; Richard Whorf [later a director] as Kerndon, Forrest's associate; Audrey Christie as Jane, a fellow reporter who's carrying a torch for O'Malley; and Forrest Tucker as Christine's over-protective cousin, Geoffrey. Donald Meek, Frank Craven and Stephen McNally are also first-rate in smaller roles, as is Darryl Hickman as a young boy greatly affected by Forrest's death and befriended by O'Malley. Keeper of the Flame not only works as a first-rate and unusual suspense item but illustrates the dangers of blind hero-worship, and is still interesting enough to have transcended whatever its original political motivations may have been. William Daniels' cinematography is an added bonus. This was Christie's first credit. She was also in Carousel but mostly did work in television.

Verdict: A top triumvirate of Tracy, Hepburn and Cukor. ***.

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