Sylvia Scarlett is one of the six DVDs in the Katharine Hepburn 100th Anniversary Collection. The story goes that after the movie was made director George Cukor and its star told the RKO studio boss they would make another movie for free and were turned down. Perhaps this is because there are already two different stories in Sylvia Scarlett. Print quality wise this one looks pretty good with few dust specs and so on though part of one scene looks a bit out of focus.
Sylvia Scarlett is also seen as the movie that launched Cary Grant (Jimmy Monkley) and the first time Hepburn worked with Grant (other films include Bring Up Baby and The Philadelphia Story). Edmund Gwenn, Miracle on 34th Street, plays Hepburn's father and does what he can with the part.
Sylvia Scarlett quickly sets up its original premise. Brit Henry Scarlett stole money from the French company he works for to pay for his gambling and escapes the law by going to England with his daughter Sylvia (Katharine Hepburn). Supposedly so they will not be recognized while escaping Sylvia cuts her hair and poses as a man, Sylvester Scarlett. The scene where the viewer finally sees what Hepburn looks like as a guy is pretty funny. On the ship to England they meet Jimmy Monkley (Cary Grant) a ne'er-do-well scam artist and end up going along with him in some schemes.
A third of the way into Sylvia Scarlett, one of the six DVDs in the Katharine Hepburn 100th Anniversary box set, the gang drops the scams, have one of their marks tag along and decides to become a caravan of artists, The Pink Pierrots. There they meet Michael Fane (Brian Aherne) a character Sylvia gets the hots for. It is as if Cukor decided to do another movie a third of the way through. This is unfortunate as none of the cast is very good as an entertainer and Aherne pretty flat. This is also where the movie becomes a romantic drama instead of the comedy it first tried to be. It then becomes something else again.
Part of the reason Sylvia Scarlett does not quite work is also Hepburn herself. She is supposedly half Brit but slips in and out of the accent. Her first performance as a scam artist, a poor French boy left penniless in London, and her drunk bit in the next scene are about as convincing as the rest of her performance. To her credit, the movie itself does not quite know who her character is. Cary Grant is, however, pretty good in the usual Cary Grant like character of Jimmy Monkley.
Special features included on the Sylvia Scarlett DVD, include the Traveltalk Los Angeles: Wonder City of the West, and the fun MGM Happy Harmonies cartoon Alias St. Nick by Harman-Ising. The idea of including a documentary and a cartoon, repeated on other DVDs in the Katharine Hepburn 100th Anniversary Collection is really neat as the viewer can get the whole old time movie watching experience.
Review of Without Love, also in the Katharine Hepburn 100th Anniversary Collection.