A Bill of Divorcement (1932) Other movies recommended for you
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Plot: After spending fifteen years in an asylum, Hilary Fairfield escapes from the institution after regaining his sanity. He finds that things at home are different than when he left them. His wife has divorced him and is already planning her next marriage, and his daughter has grown up throughout the… Runtime: 70 min Release Date: 30 Sep 1932
Barrymore, Hepburn & Burke, Oh My! (by Ron Oliver)
A BILL OF DIVORCEMENT is only one of the problems to confront a man returning to his family after fifteen years in an insane asylum.Although this George Cukor-directed soap opera is chiefly remembered now for Katharine Hepburn's film debut, its other strengths should not be overlooked. The film was primarily crafted to be a showcase for the histrionic talents of John Barrymore and he certainly does not disappoint his audience. Charging his way through the range of emotions from giddy elation to utter despair, Barrymore, left profile firmly planted towards the camera, gives a wonderful <more>
master class in ham acting. This is in no way to disparage his performance -- he makes leaping a bit beyond the bounds terrifically entertaining.Hepburn is a sensation, of course, very fresh & unspoilt, giving real urgency to the plight of a headstrong girl who must make a wretched decision during a domestic upheaval. The viewer cannot help but think of the many decades to come in which she would continue to delight moviegoers. The trouble is that Kate's excellence makes it somewhat easy to forget the film's real female lead. In a rare serious role, Miss Billie Burke gives a splendid portrayal of a good woman torn between duty to a man she no longer loves and the possibility of joy with the man she now adores. In the scene where Barrymore forces her to make a commitment to him, Burke's body language painfully communicates the agony of her breaking heart.A fine supporting cast adds to the film's enjoyment: sensitive David Manners, one of the ablest young actors of the era, as Hepburn's loyal boyfriend; gentlemanly Paul Cavanagh as Burke's fiancé; waspish Elizabeth Patterson as Barrymore's strict sister; and elderly Henry Stephenson as the wise family doctor.Movie mavens will have to look fast to spot the excellent young English actor, Bramwell Fletcher, unbilled as the fellow at the Christmas party who opens the windows for the carolers.
Unlike some other reviewers here, I did not find the acting stagy or over-the-top melodramatic. Then again, most of the movies I watch are from the 20s and 30s, so I am used to this style of acting.I was surprised by this movie. It breaks your heart, then never lets up. There's no light comedy to offset the drama, and there's no happy ending.John Barrymore was amazing. My favorite performances of his have for a long time been Dr Jekyll 1920 and Svengali 1931 . I've seen many other films of his including Counsellor at Law which many people claim to be one of his best <more>
performances , but after seeing Bill of Divorcement tonight, I think this might be my most favorite performance. Sure, it was hammy, but that doesn't make it bad. Barrymore emoted his heart out, and my heart did literally ache each time he expressed his own agony and pain on screen. I was shocked to find myself in tears over his character's pain.Billie Burke was a wonderment as well. I know her best from her slightly comic roles, such as the supercilious wife in Dinner at Eight, or her various Mrs. Topper roles and, yes, of course Glinda the Good Witch . I didn't know she had it in her to do dramatic stuff, but she had me in tears as well on more than one occasion. She really made me feel the agony and conflict she was in, being in love with Paul Cavanagh and yet feeling pity and obligation to Barrymore.I found the writing and the direction to be superb. One particular scene was almost sublime in its pathos: Billie Burke sitting in a chair, John Barrymore on the floor with his arms wrapped around her, his head in her lap as he cries. He can't comprehend why she doesn't want him, he asks her didn't she vow to be with him through better and worse, through sickness and in health? He asked what he did that was wrong, other than to get sick? He reminds her of what a kind person she is, how he even noticed her once stepping around a "green crawling thing" so as to not harm the creature, and he wonders if she could show pity and compassion to the green crawling thing, then why couldn't she show the same kind of compassion to him? Three-hankie stuff for sure!
The First Katharine Hepburn Film. (by happipuppi13)
Well,what can I say? I'm a late-blooming 2001 Hepburn fan! Except for Grace Quigley! I really like this movie and not just for Katharine Hepburn herself but for one of the rare glimpses one can make into a time long before their own. This being in the form of talented stage & screen actor John Barrymore. Drew Barrymore's Great Grandfather by the way! Some I've read elsewhere have called his performance "stagey" but I think he does an admirable job and is quite convincing. A lot of actors at that time might "overproject" a bit but he rarely does. <more>
Billie Burke surprised me in this because,like most folks,I'm used to her as "Glenda The Good Witch" in The Wizard of OZ. She really seems genuinely frightened and worried by her ex-husbands sudden appearance back into her life. Especially,since he does not know after he was committed,she had their marriage ended by the "Bill Of Divorcement" the old world way of saying it I assume. She has "new plans"...uh,oh!Katharine Hepburn,is about 24 or 25 here but may be playing a younger age. She is so fresh faced it's not surprising. She plays her part as what young person should be at the start,happy,silly.joyful,in love. After her father,whom she's never known turns up,she comes to discover she may not have as happy a future as she once thought. I wont give away why if you haven't seen it. The way she deals with this at the end is my reason for only giving 9 stars out of 10. Even though times were different back then,I dislike the decision she comes too. You'll have to watch it and see why unless it's been revealed here already. When I say "Send me the "Bill" every time,it means I check this out at the library when I feel like watching it again,along with her other films except 1 .Find it where you can on VHS and here's to hoping a DVD version isn't far off! END
A BILL OF DIVORCEMENT RKO, 1932 , directed by George Cukor, from the play by Clemence Dane, is a dramatic story about a shell shock victim of the World War coping with the lost years of his life separated from his family, and his homecoming on Christmas Day. Starring the legendary John Barrymore, the film is notable for the motion picture debut of Broadway actress, Katharine Hepburn, whose career has become legendary, as well as the sound debut of comedienne Billie Burke, better known at the time as Mrs. Florenz Ziegfeld, in a rare dramatic performance.The setting is England where the <more>
Fairchilds are hosting a Christmas Eve dinner party. Sydney Katharine Hepburn and Kit Humphreys David Manners are in love, plan to get married and live in Canada where they hope to become proud parents of lots of children. Her mother, Margaret Billie Burke , is engaged to Gray Meredith Paul Cavanaugh , a man of honor, whom she's going to marry on New Year's Day in spite of Aunt Hester's Elizabeth Patterson reminder that her brother, Hillary, a shell shock victim of the war having spent 15 years of his life institutionalized, is still very much her husband. The next morning, Christmas Day, Sydney is notified by telephone that her father has disappeared from the asylum and possibly on his way home. Upon his arrival, Hillary John Barrymore meets with a young girl whom he doesn't know Hillary: "Who are you?" Sydney: "I believe I'm your daughter." , and soon discovers something even more startling, that his wife, "Meg," through arrangements with Gray, has secretly divorced him with intentions on remarrying. The truth about insanity in the family is brought forth by Doctor Aliot Henry Stephenson of the asylum, leaving Sydney with a harsh decision whether to marry as planned or give up the man she loves with the possibility that her children might be afflicted as her father and other members of the family. As for Meg, who fears her husband, even though he's cured, she's told that to take Hillary back would be more out of pity than love, and an extreme sacrifice if she intends on abandoning all hope and happiness with Gray.Obviously a big success at the time, thanks to the fine direction by Cukor and his principle players, first time viewers might find A BILL OF DIVORCEMENT disappointing due to its age and "filmed stage play" premise. Naturally, with the exception of Hillary and/or Sydney playing the piano, there's no underscoring. Much of the story is set inside the Fairchild home with few instances where scene s shift out of doors. The cast is relatively small and dialog plentiful, but what's said is something to consider, especially when Doctor Alicot confronts Hillary by saying, "Face it man! One of you must suffer. Which is it to be? A healthy woman with her life before her or a man whose children ought never to have been born?" With mental illness as its subject matter, there's no harrowing scenes involving patients going berserk inside the institution. The film itself can be categorized as a "soap opera," but in reality it's a character study about family loyalty and sacrifice, and the bonding between two perfect strangers, the father and his daughter, both having a lot in common, each being musically inclined and outspoken individuals. To view it this way is to understand the circumstances involved and the outcome during its 69 minutes of screen time.Remade in 1940 retitled NEVER TO LOVE to avoid confusion whenever shown on television , and starring Maureen O'Hara, Adolphe Menjou, Fay Bainter and Patric Knowles in the Hepburn, Barrymore, Burke and Manners roles, it's not exactly a scene for scene replay, but the theme remains the same while not quite as powerful as the original. Menjou's big scene as he goes on his knees begging "Meg" to take him back, comes off more naturally than Barrymore with his theatrical method of overacting, but overall, an agreeable story.Director George Cukor obviously loved Miss Hepburn, giving her the opening shot as she comes down the stairs to dance with her fiancé. David Manners, an underrated actor best remembered as the romantic hero in several Universal horror DRACULA, THE MUMMY, THE BLACK CAT, etc. , gives a sensitive performance as the suitor fearing of possibly losing the one woman he loves Hepburn , unless she reconsiders.
Not just a vehicle for Hepburn, Billie Burke nearly steals the show. If you are a fan of this actress, you'll be pleased with this one. Still in her 40's, she is a believably a woman torn by her desire to start a new life with a new love, but saddled by her responsibilty to her daughter's father. By the way, she was billed above Katherine Hepburn and right below Barrymore
Shell-shock.... (by MarieGabrielle)
Worth seeing for Katharine Hepburn. The film starts out in a provincially normal household, a mansion complete with servants, and aging auntie sister of the patient and a suitor Canvanagh for Hepburn.The story is rather basic, Barrymore wishes to return after his long hospitalization. Of course, life has not stopped except for him. A tragic story in any sense, and well portrayed here, if not a bit melodramatic. Billie Burke delivers a dated and frilly performance as a woman re-marrying. For 1932 the topic of psychological disorders being addressed at all is to be commended.My mother had <more>
always loved Barrymore, and he does have the obsessive qualities which would categorize a man who has been traumatized. Billie Burke as the rejecting wife who now wants to re-marry. The topic of mental illness and post traumatic stress is still rarely covered in any semblance of realism, so this film is noteworthy on this issue alone. 8/10.
It is obvious from the moment that Katharine Hepburn walks towards the stairwell towards her English family home that motion pictures have found an amazing new find. And when she first encounters John Barrymore and says, "I think I am your daughter", there is no doubt about it. While the idea of Hepburn playing a young British lady might seem bizarre, she truly pulls it off. Barrymore, having spent many years in a mental institution apparently for shell shock , has arrived home just as his ex-wife Billie Burke is preparing to marry another man. He has no idea that during the time <more>
of his stay, Burke divorced him because he seemed to have no chance of recovery. Now, Hepburn learns from psychiatrist Henry Stephenson that she may have inherited the potential of having a mental illness, or that her offspring might have it as well. She is engaged to handsome but dull David Manners and must make a decision of what to do. Burke, too, has doubts about what the right thing to do is, and Barrymore's over protective sister Elizabeth Patterson isn't any help.With the exception of Manners, the entire cast is excellent. You really feel the pain and guilt everyone surrounding Barrymore feels, particularly Hepburn and Burke. Known mostly for his sometimes hammy performances and flamboyant personal life, Barrymore gives a wonderful theatrical performance that works in this case because of the nature of the character he plays. Even Patterson's meddlesome aunt has understandable motivation, which makes her really likable rather than a pain in the neck if played incorrectly.Nobody will ever confuse Burke's sympathetic wife and mother with her most famous role as Glinda in "The Wizard of Oz" or her later feather-brained matrons. When given a serious role, Burke could deliver a very touching performance and keep the helium like sounds she had in lighter parts out of it. Hepburn's voice, too, is not the imitatable one she had in "Morning Glory" or "Stage Door" especially every time she had to utter the simple word "really" or the shaky matronly voice of "The Lion in Winter" or "On Golden Pond". She is almost Garbo-like in her looks and demeanor, American royalty on celluloid. No wonder America had a love affair with her on screen for over 60 years!