Woman of the Year appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.37:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. This became a top-notch presentation for an older movie.
Sharpness worked well, as instances of softness remained virtually nil. The image offered fine clarity and accuracy from start to finish. I saw no jagged edges or moiré effects, and edge haloes failed to mar the presentation.
Print flaws never became a factor, as the movie looked clean and fresh. Blacks became deep and dark, while shadows looked smooth and well-delineated. Across the board, the image excelled.
I felt the LPCM monaural soundtrack of Woman seemed fine for its age. Speech offered nice clarity, with lines that appeared acceptably concise and crisp.
Music showed limited range but still boasted appropriate reproduction, and effects followed suit. A chatty movie, those elements didn’t have a lot to do, but they came across with more than acceptable accuracy. All of this added up to a soundtrack that held up well after 75 years.
How did the Blu-ray compare to the original DVD release? Audio seemed fuller and warmer, while visuals offered radical improvements, as the Blu-ray was substantially tighter, cleaner and better defined. The DVD was a mess, so the Blu-ray became a major step up in quality.
The DVD included almost no extras, but the Blu-ray offers a good selection, and these start with 1984’s George Stevens: A Filmmaker’s Journey. It runs one hour, 51 minutes, 30 seconds and includes comments from filmmakers Warren Beatty, Antonio Vellani, Fred Zinneman, Frank Capra, Reuben Mamoulian, Alan J. Pakula, Hal Roach and John Huston, RKO executive producer Pandro Berman, ex-wife Yvonne Stevens, choreographer Hermes Pan, author Irwin Shaw, screenwriters Jack Sher and Ivan Moffat, and actors Katharine Hepburn, Ginger Rogers, Fred Astaire, Douglas Fairbanks, Jr., Cary Grant, Joel McCrea, Millie Perkins, and Max Von Sydow. We also get some archival remarks from Stevens himself.
We learn how Stevens got his first high-profile directorial gig with 1935’s Alice Adams. From there, we go back in time to hear of his childhood interest in photography/film and how he came to movies. After that, we head back to the 1930s and follow Stevens’ career as he rises in Hollywood., shoots during World War II, and resumes his successful filmmaking career, all with an emphasis on a few specific projects, though we get some detours such as Stevens’ actions during the “Red Scare” of the 1950s.
On the negative side, “Journey” comes with way too many film clips. These don’t add a ton to the experience, and they fill an awful lot of the documentary; I’d rather hear more about Stevens’ life and work than see these unending snippets.
Even with those, though, “Journey” becomes a pretty good program. It covers the director’s life in a fairly sober manner, without the excess of goopy praise that often dominates shows like this; sure, we hear a lot of positives about Stevens, but these lack the kiss-butt feel we usually discover. The inclusion of so many Hollywood legends helps, too, as they give us nice stories and thoughts. I’d like a tighter version with fewer film clips, but “Journey” still works well as it is.
A new chat, we find an Interview with George Stevens Jr. that lasts six minutes, 13 seconds. The director’s son discusses aspects of his dad’s career, with a minor emphasis on Woman.
Stevens has a way of speaking about his father that leaves the impression of insight but doesn’t actually reveal much. That trend continues here, so Stevens tells us little of real merit.
From 1967, an audio-only Interview with George Stevens fills 16 minutes, 54 seconds. The director examines working with Hepburn and Tracy as well as aspects of the production. Stevens emphasizes run-ins he encountered with the studio and gives us the opposite of his son’s chat: a frank, enlightening set of thoughts.
Another new piece, we find a 14-minute, 23-second Interview with Film Historian Marilyn Ann Moss. She talks about George Stevens’ career before and after Woman as well as aspects of the production. Moss offers a nice array of notes, especially when she relates how test screenings of Woman led to an alternate ending.
The next two programs focus on the lead actors. Katharine Hepburn: Woman of the Century goes for 20 minutes, eight seconds and includes thoughts from author/journalist Claudia Roth Pierpont. She discusses Hepburn’s cinematic career until 1942 along with notes and interpretation of Woman. Like Moss, Pierpont reveals a strong collection of insights and makes this another useful program.
From 1986, The Spencer Tracy Legacy lasts one hour, 26 minutes, 34 seconds and offers material with Hepburn, daughter Susie Tracy, filmmakers Stanley Kramer, Joseph Mankiewicz, Garson Kanin and John Sturges, LA Times arts editor Charles Champlin, and actors Burt Reynolds, Elizabeth Taylor, Frank Sinatra, Richard Widmark, Joanne Woodward, Joan Bennett, Robert Wagner, Sidney Poitier, Mickey Rooney, Angela Lansbury, and Lee Marvin.
“Legacy” offers a fairly standard career overview, though not one that touches on Tracy’s private life much. It throws out a smattering of notes in that realm but mainly concentrates on Tracy’s acting career.
In that vein, “Legacy” does okay for itself, but it rarely offers a lot of insight. While it includes a terrific roster of participants – especially given Hepburn’s high level of involvement – they tend toward praise for Tracy.
Throw in a whole lot of film clips and “Legacy” becomes a serviceable show at best. The finale in which Hepburn reads the emotional letter she wrote to Tracy after his death becomes a strong point, though.
In addition to the film’s trailer, we find a booklet. It presents credits, photos and an essay from critic Stephanie Zacharek. As usual, the booklet finishes the package well.
As the first movie to pair Katharine Hepburn with Spencer Tracy, 1942’s Woman of the Year boasts a special place in cinema history. Unfortunately, it seems lackluster as a film, for it fails to create interesting characters or entertaining situations. The Blu-ray boasts excellent visuals as well as good audio and supplements. The actors occasionally give the film a little life but in the end, it disappoints.
To rate this film visit the DVD Review of WOMAN OF THE YEAR