Sylvia Scarlett

  • Film
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A small and intriguingly bizarre gem, its picaresque story once again revealing Cukor’s abiding interest in the joys and pains, deceptions and truths associated with the art of acting. The performer here is young Sylvia (Hepburn), forced to dress as a boy when her embezzler father (Gwenn) returns to England from France in dire straits. The pair fall in with troublesome landladies, a touring theatrical company, a roguish con-man (Grant), and a romantic painter (Aherne); and the film comes to centre on the way Hepburn’s life of pretence affects not only her own emotional development but those around her. Just as the sexual nuances of her various encounters remain ambiguous, so the film seems unable to decide whether to opt for comedy, romantic adventure, or tragedy; Gwenn, for example, gradually loses his sanity, a darkening backdrop to the scenes of light, breezy banter between the leads. Odd, then, but entirely civilised and engaging, and Hepburn was rarely more radiant or moving.

Release details

Duration: 90 mins

Cast and crew

Director: George Cukor
Screenwriter: Gladys Unger, John Collier, Mortimer Offner
Cast: Katharine Hepburn
Cary Grant
Edmund Gwenn
Brian Aherne
Dennie Moore
Natalie Paley
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