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Sylvia Scarlett

USA, English, 95 mins

  • Director: George Cukor
  • Writer: Compton MacKenzie; Gladys Unger
  • Producer: Pandro S. Berman

CGiii Comment

Hepburn does gender-bending and Grant plays nasty.

The story is so full of holes that there really was no need for a script.

Hepburn's acting is atrocious - actually, the whole thing is atrocious.

It flopped and quite rightly so - the legendary Cukor really was a hit and miss director - with more misses than he would care to admit.

Just because it is old...doesn't mean that it is any good - this is far from it.


Trailer...

The(ir) Blurb...

Escaping to England from a French embezzlement charge, widower Henry Scarlett is accompanied by daughter Sylvia who, to avoid detection, "disguises" herself as a boy, "Sylvester." They are joined by amiable con man Jimmy Monkley, then, after a brief career in crime, meet Maudie Tilt, a giddy, sexy Cockney housemaid who joins them in the new venture of entertaining at resort towns from a caravan. Through all this, amazingly no one recognizes that Sylvia is not a boy...until she meets handsome artist Michael Fane, and drama intrudes on the comedy.


Condemned by the Legion of Decency and a disappointment at the box office, Sylvia Scarlett was revived decades later and now enjoys a reputation as one of the highlights of Cukor’s impressive filmography. In a scheme to help her embezzling bookkeeper father escape Marseilles for London, young Sylvia (Katharine Hepburn) cuts her hair, dons a fedora, and changes her name to Sylvester. En route, they encounter a “gentleman adventurer” (Cary Grant, at his most louche) and together the trio starts grifting, though Sylvester proves too high-minded for the criminal life. Cukor’s sexuality sometimes found a subterranean expression in his pictures, and this is nowhere more apparent than in Sylvia Scarlett, a gender-bending picaresque tale in which the terms of erotic identification are constantly, cleverly evolving, for the cast and audience alike. “I know what it is,” one character memorably declares to Sylvester, “that gives me a qu**r feeling when I look at you.”

Cast & Characters

Katharine Hepburn as Sylvia Scarlett;
Cary Grant as Jimmy Monkley;
Brian Aherne as Michael Fane;
Edmund Gwenn as Henry Scarlett;
Robert Adair as Turnkey;
Bunny Beatty as Maid;
May Beatty as Older woman on Ship;
Daisy Belmore as Fat Woman on Beach

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