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TB:

 

I agree that Maisie Was A Lady is the best of the lot no doubt because of that very strong supporting cast.

 

Lydecker

Another reason, besides the cast, for liking MAISIE WAS A LADY is because the conflicts are a bit stronger. Maisie is definitely a fish out of water in this entry. They're such snobs and really do not like or appreciate her-- compared to the other Maisie films, where characters are usually grateful for her help or interference. But in MAISIE WAS A LADY, they are much more antagonistic towards her. And I think it sort of stretches the character, makes her grow in ways the other films do not. At least that is how I see it.

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Katharine Hepburn & Spencer Tracy movies

 

 

Spencer Tracy had already been starring in films at MGM for five years when Katharine Hepburn reported to work at the studio. She had signed a deal to bring her Broadway success The Philadelphia Story to the screen, and it would reunite her with Cary Grant, who up until then was perhaps her most memorable costar in the movies. Some sources claim she wanted Tracy to do the film version of The Philadelphia Story with her, but scheduling conflicts prevented it. At any rate, in less than two years, she would have her first teaming with Tracy in George Stevens’ WOMAN OF THE YEAR, and it would be the beginning of something magical.

woman_of_the_year_publicity_photograph.j

Hepburn had worked with Stevens before at RKO, and she had good rapport with the director. But she had even greater rapport with Tracy. They made the perfect odd couple in a comedy-drama about rival reporters that was a rousing hit with audiences. Based on this success, MGM’s Louis Mayer quickly put them in another picture, released at the end of 1942. However, the follow-up had a much more serious tone. KEEPER OF THE FLAME was directed by Hepburn’s pal George Cukor, and it involved a journalist (Tracy) who is writing a biography about the life of a heroic American but first must speak to the man’s widow (Hepburn). KEEPER OF THE FLAME’s mysterious elements and intriguing backdrop resonated with war-time audiences.

imgres-22.jpg?w=660

It would be another three years before the studio paired them up again. This time it was for WITHOUT LOVE, a 1945 romantic comedy about a woman who marries a scientist and begins to assist him, though initially the union seems to be loveless. In order to ensure the picture has the requisite happy ending, the two eventually grow closer and have a strong marriage. Third-billed in the picture is Lucille Ball who had previously costarred with Hepburn at RKO in STAGE DOOR. WITHOUT LOVE was a hit for MGM, just like it was a hit on Broadway where Hepburn had played the lead role for 113 performances.

imgres-31.jpg?w=660

The next collaboration would be THE SEA OF GRASS, a western-type drama the duo made at MGM after the war. Elia Kazan was assigned directing duties, and the supporting cast included some of the studio’s best players– people like Melvyn Douglas, Phyllis Thaxter and Robert Walker.

imgres-13.jpg?w=660

A year later, Tracy and Hepburn returned to screens for the Frank Capra-helmed STATE OF THE UNION. The story, about an election campaign where an industrialist (Tracy) runs for president and must deal with his outspoken wife (Hepburn), was produced by Capra’s company but distributed by MGM. Other studio contract stars appear in the cast, like Van Johnson and Angela Lansbury. Interestingly, Hepburn was not the first choice– she took over for Claudette Colbert who had creative differences with Capra. Tracy was not the first choice for his role, either– it had been intended for Clark Gable.

imgres12.jpg?w=660

The following year would lead to one of the couple’s most famous screen collaborations. They were once again working for director George Cukor, this time using a script by Garson Kanin and Ruth Gordon in the comedy-drama ADAM’S RIB. The witty story details the professional and personal differences experienced by husband and wife attorneys who are on opposite sides of the courtroom during a sensational murder trial. Costars included Judy Holliday (who would work with Cukor again) and David Wayne.

images8.jpg?w=660

The seventh and last MGM outing for Katharine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy occurred three years later. It would be 1952’s PAT AND MIKE. Like their most recent hit, it reunited them with Cukor as director and Kanin & Gordon as screenwriters. This time, Hepburn is a golfer turned tennis pro, and Tracy plays a sports promoter who becomes her trainer. Of course, sparks fly.

 

PAT AND MIKE was not the last film the two made together– there would be another one at 20th Century Fox later in the decade; and near the end of his life, Tracy teamed up one last time on screen with Hepburn for Stanley Kramer at Columbia. Overall, it was a productive artistic partnership that stuck a chord with audiences. It has endured, giving Hepburn and Tracy cinematic immortality.

 

Katharine Hepburn & Spencer Tracy movies

 

 

Spencer Tracy had already been starring in films at MGM for five years when Katharine Hepburn reported to work at the studio. She had signed a deal to bring her Broadway success The Philadelphia Story to the screen, and it would reunite her with Cary Grant, who up until then was perhaps her most memorable costar in the movies. Some sources claim she wanted Tracy to do the film version of The Philadelphia Story with her, but scheduling conflicts prevented it. At any rate, in less than two years, she would have her first teaming with Tracy in George Stevens’ WOMAN OF THE YEAR, and it would be the beginning of something magical.

woman_of_the_year_publicity_photograph.j

Hepburn had worked with Stevens before at RKO, and she had good rapport with the director. But she had even greater rapport with Tracy. They made the perfect odd couple in a comedy-drama about rival reporters that was a rousing hit with audiences. Based on this success, MGM’s Louis Mayer quickly put them in another picture, released at the end of 1942. However, the follow-up had a much more serious tone. KEEPER OF THE FLAME was directed by Hepburn’s pal George Cukor, and it involved a journalist (Tracy) who is writing a biography about the life of a heroic American but first must speak to the man’s widow (Hepburn). KEEPER OF THE FLAME’s mysterious elements and intriguing backdrop resonated with war-time audiences.

imgres-22.jpg?w=660

It would be another three years before the studio paired them up again. This time it was for WITHOUT LOVE, a 1945 romantic comedy about a woman who marries a scientist and begins to assist him, though initially the union seems to be loveless. In order to ensure the picture has the requisite happy ending, the two eventually grow closer and have a strong marriage. Third-billed in the picture is Lucille Ball who had previously costarred with Hepburn at RKO in STAGE DOOR. WITHOUT LOVE was a hit for MGM, just like it was a hit on Broadway where Hepburn had played the lead role for 113 performances.

imgres-31.jpg?w=660

The next collaboration would be THE SEA OF GRASS, a western-type drama the duo made at MGM after the war. Elia Kazan was assigned directing duties, and the supporting cast included some of the studio’s best players– people like Melvyn Douglas, Phyllis Thaxter and Robert Walker.

imgres-13.jpg?w=660

A year later, Tracy and Hepburn returned to screens for the Frank Capra-helmed STATE OF THE UNION. The story, about an election campaign where an industrialist (Tracy) runs for president and must deal with his outspoken wife (Hepburn), was produced by Capra’s company but distributed by MGM. Other studio contract stars appear in the cast, like Van Johnson and Angela Lansbury. Interestingly, Hepburn was not the first choice– she took over for Claudette Colbert who had creative differences with Capra. Tracy was not the first choice for his role, either– it had been intended for Clark Gable.

https://oforinvolvingmotionpictures.files.wordpress.com/2015/03/imgres12.jpg?w=660

The following year would lead to one of the couple’s most famous screen collaborations. They were once again working for director George Cukor, this time using a script by Garson Kanin and Ruth Gordon in the comedy-drama ADAM’S RIB. The witty story details the professional and personal differences experienced by husband and wife attorneys who are on opposite sides of the courtroom during a sensational murder trial. Costars included Judy Holliday (who would work with Cukor again) and David Wayne.

https://oforinvolvingmotionpictures.files.wordpress.com/2015/03/images8.jpg?w=660

The seventh and last MGM outing for Katharine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy occurred three years later. It would be 1952’s PAT AND MIKE. Like their most recent hit, it reunited them with Cukor as director and Kanin & Gordon as screenwriters. This time, Hepburn is a golfer turned tennis pro, and Tracy plays a sports promoter who becomes her trainer. Of course, sparks fly.

 

PAT AND MIKE was not the last film the two made together– there would be another one at 20th Century Fox later in the decade; and near the end of his life, Tracy teamed up one last time on screen with Hepburn for Stanley Kramer at Columbia. Overall, it was a productive artistic partnership that stuck a chord with audiences. It has endured, giving Hepburn and Tracy cinematic immortality.

 

 

There was to be another early Tracy/Hepburn film, "Happy Birthday", based on a Broadway hit. Another comedy, it would have been done in the early war years; I don't know why it wasn't made. MGM probably worked on quite a few potential vehicles for the duo over the years.

 

A later, more importan teaming would have been in LONG DAY'S JOURNEY INTO NIGHT. I think Tracy's health didn't permit him joining Kate.

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You're welcome Lydecker. Yeah, I am not sure it was going to be a series-- though that's possible-- with Harlow (maybe just a standalone film which would have had a slightly larger budget and probably someone like Gable in the other lead role, not Robert Young). I'm just speculating. But the character was a hit with audiences and Ann was quickly drafted into doing a series. I think it is also interesting that for the second one they used an old Harlow script, which shows Harlow's memory was still influencing the series at least in the beginning. CONGO MAISIE, incidentally, is the only one that takes place on foreign soil. In the other pictures, Maisie is roaming across America.

Yes, MAISIE was going to be another vehicle for Harlow, never intended as a series. With the success of the film with Sothern, the studio saw it as a way to make money. They were beginning to have great success with their other series, such as The Hardy Family and Dr. Kildare, and with Ann not quite an A lister, they saw it as a way for the public to get to know her better, and identify her with this likeable character.

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Yes, MAISIE was going to be another vehicle for Harlow, never intended as a series. With the success of the film with Sothern, the studio saw it as a way to make money. They were beginning to have great success with their other series, such as The Hardy Family and Dr. Kildare, and with Ann not quite an A lister, they saw it as a way for the public to get to know her better, and identify her with this likeable character.

I agree. She ran the risk of being typecast, but to MGM's credit (probably because of her talent as a musician) they did use her in more prestigious fare, like some of the big-budget musicals the studio specialized in producing. 

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TB:

 

Thanks for these background notes and mini reviews.  Hard to believe that MGM originally

wanted Jean Harlow for this series.  Seems as though she was way too big of a star to

be in a "B" series. Any thoughts about that?

 

Thanks.

 

Lydecker

The Maisie films were not quite B films; they were programmers, A films made by the studio's A unit, but with modest budgets and no splashy promotion. Sometimes, when a series would be losing steam, later entries might have reduced budgets, so that what had been programmers would indeed become Bs. Or another technique would be to not have any reference to the title or title character; unsuspecting patrons might stumble upon it without knowing it was an entry in a psrticuoar series they might avoid otherwise.

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The Maisie films were not quite B films; they were programmers, A films made by the studio's A unit, but with modest budgets and no splashy promotion. Sometimes, when a series would be losing steam, later entries might have reduced budgets, so that what had been programmers would indeed become Bs. Or another technique would be to not have any reference to the title or title character; unsuspecting patrons might stumble upon it without knowing it was an entry in a psrticuoar series they might avoid otherwise.

Good point(s), Arturo. I think this is what happened with the Scattergood Baines series at RKO with Guy Kibbee in the main role. The final entry was renamed CINDERELLA SWINGS IT, which doesn't sound anything like the earlier titles in the series.

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Well MGM had a series involving two of their biggest stars in the Thin Man movies.    So I could see the studio planning on having Harlow in an initial movie and if that did well having follow up films that either featured her or featured another actresses (e.g.  using Harlow to help kick start the series and then replacing her with an secondary type actress).

 

Interestingly, MGM did attempt another series similar to THE THIN MAN films (every studio in Hollywood had copied that formula, mostly as 'one-off' films), of which Ann Sothern was a part. However, despite strong reviews for the principal players, they changed from film to film. The first of these, FAST COMPANY (1938), starred Melvyn Douglas and Florence Rice; the second, FAST AND LOOSE, had Robert Montgomery and Rosalind Russell; and the third (and last), FAST AND FURIOUS (1939), featured Ann Sothern and Franchot Tone. The series, which the studio had initiated due to exhibitors' clamoring for more Thin Man films (which were not coming out often enough, mainly due to William Powell's health issues), was then discontinued.

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Good point(s), Arturo. I think this is what happened with the Scattergood Baines series at RKO with Guy Kibbee in the main role. The final entry was renamed CINDERELLA SWINGS IT, which doesn't sound anything like the earlier titles in the series.

The MAISIE series is certainly a lot better-known than the SCATTERWOOD BAINES series.

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The MAISIE series is certainly a lot better-known than the SCATTERGOOD BAINES series.

Perhaps some of it has to do with the films not being in the Turner Library..? If the series aired on TCM, it would probably find new fans and might be a bit better known by today's audiences. The Dr. Christian series with Jean Hersholt never turn up on cable TV either.

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Perhaps some of it has to do with the films not being in the Turner Library..? If the series aired on TCM, it would probably find new fans and might be a bit better known by today's audiences. The Dr. Christian series with Jean Hersholt never turn up on cable TV either.

What are some other comparable well-known series? TORCHY BLANE?

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What are some other comparable well-known series? TORCHY BLANE?

Comparable to Maisie? Yes, I think TORCHY BLANE is a good comparison. But Warners had several different actresses play Torchy. MGM kept Ann Sothern in the Maisie series the whole time and never recast the part (or remade the films) after she left the studio.

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 Or another technique would be to not have any reference to the title or title character; unsuspecting patrons might stumble upon it without knowing it was an entry in a psrticuoar series they might avoid otherwise.

Yes, I remember that being done with some of the later Boston **** and Lone Wolf films.  

 

Lydecker

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Interestingly, MGM did attempt another series similar to THE THIN MAN films (every studio in Hollywood had copied that formula, mostly as 'one-off' films), of which Ann Sothern was a part. However, despite strong reviews for the principal players, they changed from film to film. 

The "Fast" series was pretty much of a mess.  Perhaps if MGM had been consistent with the couple it might have been more successful.  On the other hand, rare book dealers in any iteration are not nearly as much fun as Nick & Nora.

 

Lydecker 

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Interestingly, MGM did attempt another series similar to THE THIN MAN films (every studio in Hollywood had copied that formula, mostly as 'one-off' films), of which Ann Sothern was a part. However, despite strong reviews for the principal players, they changed from film to film. The first of these, FAST COMPANY (1938), starred Melvyn Douglas and Florence Rice; the second, FAST AND LOOSE, had Robert Montgomery and Rosalind Russell; and the third (and last), FAST AND FURIOUS (1939), featured Ann Sothern and Franchot Tone. The series, which the studio had initiated due to exhibitors' clamoring for more Thin Man films (which were not coming out often enough, mainly due to William Powell's health issues), was then discontinued.

 

Yes, that is interesting.    I think if one wishes to keep a series going and doing well at the box office some of the stars,  as well as a supporting player or two, have to be in subsequent films.    Just having 'fast' in the title doesn't cut it.

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Yes, that is interesting.    I think if one wishes to keep a series going and doing well at the box office some of the stars,  as well as a supporting player or two, have to be in subsequent films.    Just having 'fast' in the title doesn't cut it.

The demand from exhibitors sort of led to a glut of these movies. It wasn't only MGM, but other studios were jumping on the bandwagon as well, making their own similarly-themed series. For example, Columbia paired Melvyn Douglas and Joan Blondell for three films of this ilk during the late 30s.

 

Some of these were quite good; others barely passable. But the formula did become repetitive.

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Good point(s), Arturo. I think this is what happened with the Scattergood Baines series at RKO with Guy Kibbee in the main role. The final entry was renamed CINDERELLA SWINGS IT, which doesn't sound anything like the earlier titles in the series.

 

This sounds like an interesting series for me to pursue just because Guy Kibbee is in them, even if they weren't highly lauded by critics.  An initial search just now turned up almost no leads, but that is where I was 4 or 5 years ago with several other items, and then TCM happened to air them.

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This sounds like an interesting series for me to pursue just because Guy Kibbee is in them, even if they weren't highly lauded by critics.  An initial search just now turned up almost no leads, but that is where I was 4 or 5 years ago with several other items, and then TCM happened to air them.

Maybe you'll find pirated copies recorded from the old AMC, if SCATTERGOOD BAINES ever aired on AMC (not sure). Seriously doubt whoever owns the copyright is working on restoring and releasing them, but you never know.

 

There is another series from around the same period (late 30s/early 40s) that starred James Gleason, his wife Lucile and their son Russell-- called THE HIGGINS FAMILY. I've been curious about those, too. They were made at Republic and possibly a lot tougher to track down.

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Maybe you'll find pirated copies recorded from the old AMC, if SCATTERGOOD BAINES ever aired on AMC (not sure). Seriously doubt whoever owns the copyright is working on restoring and releasing them, but you never know.

 

There is another series from around the same period (late 30s/early 40s) that starred James Gleason, his wife Lucile and their son Russell-- called THE HIGGINS FAMILY. I've been curious about those, too. They were made at Republic and possibly a lot tougher to track down.

 

I see that TCM hasn't aired any of them since 2003.  The production company was Pyramid Productions, it was distributed by RKO.  So it may not have been part of one of the packages Turner purchased back in the 80s or more recently.

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I see that TCM hasn't aired any of them since 2003.  The production company was Pyramid Productions, it was distributed by RKO.  So it may not have been part of one of the packages Turner purchased back in the 80s or more recently.

I'm sure they have aired up with maisie recently. she's flyin' a corny helicopter.

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