Woman of the Year

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Woman of the Year
Woman of the Year (1942 poster - Style C).jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byGeorge Stevens
Screenplay byRing Lardner Jr.
and Michael Kanin
Produced byJoseph L. Mankiewicz
StarringSpencer Tracy
Katharine Hepburn
CinematographyJoseph Ruttenberg
Edited byFrank Sullivan
Music byFranz Waxman
Distributed byLoew's Inc.
Release date
  • February 19, 1942 (1942-02-19)
Running time
114 minutes
CountryUnited States
Box office$2,708,000 (initial release)[1]

Woman of the Year is a 1942 American romantic comedy-drama film directed by George Stevens and starring Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn. The film was written by Ring Lardner Jr. and Michael Kanin (with uncredited work on the rewritten ending by John Lee Mahin), and produced by Joseph L. Mankiewicz.

The film's plot is about the relationship between Tess Harding—an international affairs correspondent, chosen "Woman of the Year"—and Sam Craig—a sportswriter—who meet, marry, and encounter problems as a result of her unflinching commitment to her work.

In 1999, this film was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant".


Katharine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy in Woman of the Year

Tess Harding (Katharine Hepburn) and Sam Craig (Spencer Tracy) are journalists for the fictional New York Chronicle. Tess, the daughter of a former ambassador, is a highly educated, well-travelled political affairs columnist who speaks several languages fluently. Sam is a knowledgeable and well-informed sports writer. Their difficulties are presented as stemming from differences of class, experience and temperament, as well as from gender.

After Tess suggests on the radio that baseball be abolished for the duration of the war, Sam leaps to the sport's defense. Their editor summons them to his office: He will not stand for an intramural feud at his paper. Their attraction is mutual and instantaneous. Sam invites Tess to a baseball game at Yankee Stadium. She is unfamiliar with the rules of the sport—and Sam has some difficulty explaining them. Tess invites Sam to her apartment later that night. What he thought would be a date is actually a cocktail party where all the guests are discussing the world situation in foreign languages. He leaves. She sends him champagne to apologize and asks him to take her to the airport so he can kiss her goodbye. On the drive back to town, Sam hits it off with Ellen Whitcomb (Fay Bainter) the world-famous feminist aunt who raised Tess. She tells him to “marry the girl.”

Sam always wanted to do it up right, but their wedding at a justice of the peace in South Carolina—arranged by Gerald, Tess's ultra-competent secretary (Dan Tobin) to fit her schedule and that of her illustrious Senator father (Minor Watson)—is a whirlwind. Their wedding night is disrupted by the arrival of a Yugoslavian statesman, escaped from the Nazis, and the crowd that follows.

Conflicts large and small arise over Tess's priorities and Sam's place in her life, beginning with where they should live (her apartment). She solves problems by flirting instead of listening. The crisis comes when Tess adopts a Greek refugee child, Chris (George Kezas), without consulting Sam. When she mentions a child, he believes she is pregnant, and he is very angry when he learns the truth, for Chris's sake as well as their own. Their argument is interrupted by the news that Tess has been named "America's Outstanding Woman of the Year".

Tess plans to leave Chris by himself while they go to the award gala; Sam refuses to leave the boy alone. He says she can tell everyone he had more important plans. Tess asks scornfully if anyone would believe that. While Tess is at her gala, Sam returns the overjoyed child -- thrilled to see his friends again -- to the orphanage and walks out. Tess returns home with half-a-dozen photographers and discovers that Sam and Chris and their belongings are all gone. She attempts to reclaim Chris, but he refuses, preferring to stay with his friends.

The next day, Tess receives a telegram from her father, telling them to come to his home in Connecticut. Sam declines. Tess protests that their marriage was perfect. He replies, “It was neither—perfect or a marriage.” Tess arrives to learn that her aunt and her father are to be married that night, after 15 years of unspoken love. The ceremony has all the grace that was lacking when the Craigs married. Listening to the minister's words, Tess is moved to tears. She drives through the night and arrives at Sam's new Riverside apartment with the milkman. She starts to prepare breakfast. Eventually awakened by her noisy incompetence in the kitchen, Sam watches her surreptitiously. She tells him that this time she listened to the words, and proclaims her intention of being nothing more than his wife. She continues her efforts, bursting into tears amid exploding waffles, flying toast and an erupting percolator.

Sam tells her that he is disappointed in her for the first time, faulting her for going to extremes. He does not want “Tess Harding” or "just Mrs. Sam Craig," How about "Tess Harding Craig"? Tess happily agrees. Gerald appears: Tess has a ship to launch. Sam takes Gerald outside, we hear the champagne bottle smashing and something tumbles down the backstairs. Sam returns smiling, saying, “I've just launched Gerald.” They embrace.




The outline for the film was developed by Garson Kanin, a close friend of Hepburn's. Hepburn then passed the outline to Joseph L. Mankiewicz at MGM, and said the price was $250,000 – half for her, half for the script.[2] He liked it and agreed to produce the movie.[3] Kanin was fighting in the war at the time, so the script was written by his brother, Michael Kanin, and mutual friend Ring Lardner Jr. Hepburn contributed significantly to the script – reading it, suggesting cuts and word changes, and generally providing helpful enthusiasm for the project.[4] As a part of the deal, Hepburn had the option of selecting her co-star and director (Tracy and Stevens).


Woman of the Year was the first of nine films Hepburn and Tracy made together. They met for the first time on the shoot. In the 1993 documentary Katharine Hepburn: All About Me, Hepburn herself says she was wearing high heels at the first meeting with Tracy and producer Joseph L. Mankiewicz, and said "I'm afraid I'm a bit tall for you, Mr. Tracy". Mankiewicz then responded, "Don't worry, Kate, he'll cut you down to size." It was during the filming of Woman of the Year that Hepburn and Tracy became romantically involved – a relationship that lasted until Tracy's death in 1967.[5]


The film was originally shot with a different ending, but it proved unpopular at test screenings. The decision was made to change it, and the final fifteen minutes of the film were re-written and shot. The original ending of the film saw Sam go missing (after he had left the child at the orphanage) while he was meant to be writing an article about an upcoming boxing match. Tess decides to take over for him, and visits the gym to learn about the fight. Sam is found in a language school trying to learn French and Spanish, to "be important", and is shocked when he sees the article. He goes to the fight where he meets Tess. She insists that she did it to be a "good wife," and says she will change and do everything expected of her. He says that he doesn't want either extreme; he just wants her to be "Tess Harding Craig" (the same as in the released ending.)[6]

Ring Lardner Jr. describes in Archive of America Television oral history interviews (2000) that changes made to the ending of the film were against the wishes of Katharine Hepburn, and were implemented while both screenwriters were on vacation in New York. The changes were instigated by Louis B. Mayer, producer Joseph L. Mankiewicz and director George Stevens, with the actual new ending being written by John Lee Mahin (who was uncredited). In an interview, Lardner indicated that these parties all believed that Tess Harding "had to get her comeuppance for being too strong in a man's world, so they wrote a scene where she tried to fix breakfast ... and gets everything wrong." Lardner and Kanin were given some room to rewrite the new ending on returning from New York, and in the same interview Lardner recalls "some of the worst lines we rewrote, but we couldn't fix it, we couldn't change it fundamentally".[7]


Alternate theatrical release poster

Box office[edit]

The film earned $1,935,000 in the US and Canada and $773,000 elsewhere during its initial release, making MGM a profit of $753,000.[1][8]

Awards and honors[edit]

At the 15th Academy Awards, Michael Kanin and Ring Lardner Jr. won the award for Best Original Screenplay, and Katharine Hepburn was nominated for Best Actress.

American Film Institute included the film in the 2000 list AFI's 100 Years...100 Laughs (#90)[9] and in 2002, in AFI's 100 Years...100 Passions (#74).[10]

A 1976 remake of the film, made for television and starring Joseph Bologna and Renee Taylor was broadcast on CBS.

In 1981, the movie was adapted into a successful Broadway musical of the same name, starring Lauren Bacall (who won a Tony Award for her work).



  1. ^ a b c "The Eddie Mannix Ledger". Los Angeles: Margaret Herrick Library, Center for Motion Picture Study{{inconsistent citations}} Cite journal requires |journal= (help)CS1 maint: postscript (link).
  2. ^ Hepburn, Katharine (1991). Me: Stories of My Life. New York: Knopf. p. 400. ISBN 0-679-40051-6.
  3. ^ Hepburn (1991), p. 243.
  4. ^ Kanin, Garson (1971). Tracy and Hepburn: An Intimate Memoir. New York: Viking. p. 81. ISBN 0-670-72293-6.
  5. ^ "Film listing". www.afi.com. Retrieved 2019-05-05.
  6. ^ "Interview with Ring Lardner, Jr" (PDF). On Writing. The Writers Guild of America, East, Inc. 7. August 1997. Retrieved September 5, 2011.
  7. ^ Archive of American Television - EMMY TVLEGENDS Ring Lardner interview 2000
  8. ^ "101 Pix Gross in Millions" Variety 6 Jan 1943 p 58
  9. ^ "AFI's 100 Years...100 Laughs" (PDF). American Film Institute. 2000. Retrieved August 21, 2016.
  10. ^ "AFI's 100 Years...100 Passions" (PDF). American Film Institute. 2002. Retrieved August 21, 2016.

External links[edit]