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Without Love (January 24, 2013)

Without Love was based on a 1942 Broadway play in which Katharine Hepburn had starred. The play had been written by Philip Barry, the author of The Philadelphia Story. The script was written by Donald Ogden Stewart. Filming took place from October through December 1944 and the movie was released in March, 1945. The director, Harold S. Bucquet, born in London in 1891, had worked his way up in Hollywood from an extra, to a set designer, to an assistant director, to a director at MGM, mostly on B pictures – the Dr. Kildare series. He had replaced Jack Conway as director on Hepburn’s previous film, Dragon Seed, where she played a Chinese peasant woman leading a revolt against the Japanese occupiers. The music, sparingly used, was by Bronislau Kaper with some bits by Debussy, Cole Porter and others. Everyone always wants to put "Clair de Lune" in a movie and here it’s used to establish the growing attraction of Hepburn for Tracy. The cinematography was by Karl Freund, whose career stretched from classic German films like Metropolis, from 1928, through Universal monster films like Dracula, to I Love Lucy in the 1950s, where he introduced the three-camera filming method used on many television shows after that. Lucille Ball is one of the supporting players in Without Love, along with Keenan Wynn, Patricia Morison, and another actor we’ve seen before, Felix Bressart, a German refugee, who had been a film actor in Berlin as well as in Hollywood. There’s a dog in the picture, too. Without Love was one of the top-grossing films of 1945, confirming the continuing box-office success of Hepburn and Tracy as co-stars. I like that their characters work together in the picture. It’s charming, something that hadn’t happened in their first two films together, and it’s something we’ll see again in future movies.

Variety of the time reviewed it thus: “Competent trouping and topflight production make Without Love a click.” Rose Pelswick of the New York Journal-American called the movie “One of those glossy conversation pieces that MGM does up so handsomely.” The New Yorker’s Wolcott Gibbs, who also was a theatre critic for that magazine, wrote “It is certainly not what Mr. Barry wrote in the first place – I doubt, in fact, if he would recognize much about the MGM production as his own except the title – but it is a very witty and engaging picture, recommended here without hesitation. . the somewhat metallic and stylized quality of Miss Hepburn’s acting is almost perfectly suited to a role that is largely a vehicle for fashionable humor, and Mr. Tracy’s homespun behavior seems just about right for a man who really prefers airplanes to dames. . .I think you can go to Without Love with a reasonable assurance of having a very pleasant time.” Bosley Crowther of the New York Times wrote “Miss Hepburn gives a mischievous performance as the girl who really wants to be chased, and Mr. Tracy is charmingly acerbic when confronted with her cool or coy wiles.” James Agee in The Nation wrote “It is good to see Lucille Ball doing so well with a kind of role new to her.” A contemporary critic, Dave Kehr of the Chicago Reader, points out Without Love’s similarities to a film I showed a couple years back at the library, George Stevens’ The More the Merrier. He remarks that both pictures are love stories that turn on the Washington D.C. housing shortage during World War II. I hope you have a very pleasant time watching Katharine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy in Without Love, with me, this evening.