Early Hollywood movies (re)claimed for feminist film history sometimes require complex analysis to explain their relevance, but this teaming of Arzner and Hepburn is absolutely central to an understanding of women's place within classical Hollywood. Hepburn plays pioneer aviatrix Cynthia Darrington, courted by Christopher Strong (though why the title should bear his name and not hers is a mystery). She plays him along but independently pursues her career, telling Strong 'Don't ever stop me doing what I want', only to fall into typical Hollywood compromise and find herself pregnant by her (married) lover in the last reel. Suicide is offered as the only way out, but even in her dying moments (a high-altitude record-breaking flight) she rebels against society's required sacrifice and tries to replace her oxygen mask. Fascinating precisely for the vacillation of its central (female) character, and for the way in which aviation (itself a uniquely 20th century activity virtually closed to women) is used as a metaphor for film-making and women's attempts to gain a foothold in that male-dominated territory.
Cast and crew
Katharine Hepburn Colin Clive Billie Burke Helen Chandler Ralph Forbes Irene Browne Jack LaRue