Harold S. Buquet’s WITHOUT LOVE (1945) is without doubt one of Katharine Hepburn’s most underrated films. She plays a Jamie Rowan, a scientist’s daughter who rents out part of her Washington DC home to a Pat Jamieson (Spencer Tracy), a scientist who cannot find anywhere to live and work due to the housing shortage of WWII DC. Jamie has given up on love because she tragically lost her first husband, and cannot envision loving anybody else. Pat refuses to have any romance in his life because he has been jilted by the girl he was crazy about. So, the obvious conclusion for this mismatched pair is to enter into a loveless marriage and work together as colleagues on the scientific innovations that will win the war. Well, if you’ve EVER seen a Hepburn/Tracy movie in your life, you can imagine the laughs these two have before yielding to the inevitable and falling hook, line, and sinker for each other!
“You don’t want love in your life, I don’t want it in mine. But our reasons are as different as the sun is from the moon. You don’t want it because you’ve had all the worst of it. I don’t want it because I’ve had all the best.” (Jamie)
As philosophical as this all sounds, the movie is actually rather light, and full of laughs. Hepburn is as good here as she is in some of her more popular comedies, like BRINGING UP BABY (1938), THE PHILADELPHIA STORY (1940), or ADAM’S RIB (1949). If you haven’t seen it already, WITHOUT LOVE is definitely one to add to your collection. Here are my top ten favorite things about the movie.
As is typical with Hepburn/Tracy films, the two are able to present a rich story about a platonic relationship, which could be a success if it weren’t for their natural chemistry. The democratic nature of their discourse enables the representative of each gender equal clout in the narrative of the story. Every Hepburn/Tracy film is in part biographical – their film relationships almost always portray an engendered equality, a partnership of minds, a synchronisation of thought. One only has to look at the names of the characters in WITHOUT LOVE (1945) to identify the near-androgyny of their relationship – both Jamie and Pat could be male or female names.
Katharine Hepburn starred in the broadway version of WITHOUT LOVE before making the movie. The play was written by her old friend Phillip Barry, who had also written HOLIDAY (1938) and THE PHILADELPHIA STORY (1940). The play was written for the screen by Donald Ogden Stewart, who also wrote screenplays for a number of other Hepburn movies, including HOLIDAY, THE PHILADELPHIA STORY, KEEPER OF THE FLAME (1942), and SUMMERTIME (1955). The script for WITHOUT LOVE is terribly witty, bringing out the best in both the principal actors.
Only Katharine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy could make this scheme credible. I love their quickfire off each other – her breathless enthusiasm and his pragmatic, yet slightly flustered reactions to her harebrained ideas – classic!
Jamie: “I wondered if maybe you’d like to marry me. Would the idea interest you?”
Hepburn gives one of her most nuanced performances in WITHOUT LOVE. She is in turn a society snob, a prude, an intellectual, a mourning widow, a devoted daughter, a flirt, a business partner, and a good friend. She plays each side of her character with a subtle sincerity that is lacking from some of her more popular comedies. Her performance as Jamie is both nuanced and credible, playing very well off Spencer Tracy’s usual frankness.
Hepburn the Scientist
It’s always cool to see women in movies participating in traditionally male-dominated fields. Having been raised by a scientist father and gone to college, she is able to be of real help to Pat in his work. She’s also hilarious.
Skip to 3:00 for the funny part, where Jamie discovers Pat is in her bed. I LMAO and ROFL every time I see Hepburn tumble backwards out of bed. So. Darned. Funny.
*Sorry, this clip has been removed from YouTube sine I wrote this post – watch the movie for the scene in which KH finds ST in her bed, so she subsequently does a backwards somersault out of bed and makes a funny noise. (31-1-15)
Dizzy the dog
Dizzy might be the cutest movie dog I’ve ever seen. He seems so unlike Spencer Tracy, who owned several bigger dogs in his lifetime. When he passed away, Hepburn adopted his dog Lobo.
Katharine Hepburn had worked once before with “The Queen of the B-Movies,” in STAGE DOOR (1937). Much later, Lucille Ball remembered being in awe of her costar throughout filming. As was usual of the characters Ball was playing at this time in her career, Kitty Trimble is a smart-mouthed, street-savvy agent, who dates Jamie’s cousin Quentin (Keenan Wynn) and generally serves as a comedic foil. Kitty and Quentin’s romance serves as a contrast to Jamie and Pat’s less traditional relationship.
Ed Wynn’s son is a pip in WITHOUT LOVE. He plays Jamie’s drunk of a cousin and Kitty’s wayward boyfriend. He is very funny.
Quentin: No, no, no. No, a home is where the heart is, and a man’s best friend is his mother. But not tonight, my friend. Not tonight, because you don’t know my mother.
Quentin: Jaimie? She writes. She writes horseback.
The ending (SPOILER ALERT!)
Are these two not THE MOST ADORABLE!?
There’s still time to sign up for The Great Katharine Hepburn Blogathon, May 10-12! A lot of people have already added their blogs to the roster of participatnts, competing for a chance at three great Katharine Hepburn PRIZES!