Sylvia Scarlett (1935)

Sylvia ScarlettSylvia Scarlett Poster
Directed by George Cukor
Radio Pictures

First viewing


Michael Fane: [speaking to Sylvia dressed as a boy] “I say, uh! I know what it is that gives me a queer feeling when I look at you. There’s something in you to be painted.”

This box-office bomb has everything going for it but a coherent script.  Sylvia Scarlett (Katharine Hepburn) has lost her mother and her father (Edmund Gwenn) is an embezzler.  They flee France for England, Sylvia disguised as a boy for reasons that are pretty unconvincing.  On the crossing, they meet Cockney con artist Monkley (Cary Grant).  After Sylvia/Sylvester repeatedly foils every scam the men try to work in London, the trio hooks up with a singer and decides to work as a traveling theater company touring seaside towns.  Sylvia becomes enamoured of artist Michael (Brian Aherne) and reveals her gender but Michael is in love with an unfaithful Russian.  After more comedy and drama, everybody pairs off satisfactorily.

Sylvia Scarlett 1

This never grabbed me.  The dialogue is pretty fey and the story is all over the place.  Grant’s Cockney accent is fairly bad but he does a good job as a rogue and it’s interesting to see him not as the love interest for a change.  Everybody else tries mightily to overcome their material with varied success.  With the cast and personnel it should have been a classic.  Too bad.



2 thoughts on “Sylvia Scarlett (1935)

  1. I was very disappointed in this film……to be frank, I thought it was pretty bad. Hepburn did have a few bumps in her career and this is one of them. Not many redeeming qualities here.

  2. I read that Cukor and Hepburn went to the producer and offered to make a film for free after the premiere for this was a disaster. He said don’t bother!

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