Syliva Scarlett (1935)

Some Like It Odd

The sheer bizarreness of Syliva Scarlet is largely what keeps the film afloat. Watching it you certainly must question what everyone involved was thinking.

Sylvia “Sylvester” Scarlet (Hepburn) is supposedly French and can speak only a little English or so the movie claims despite the fact that she speaks perfect English throughout the entire film nor are the reasons why Sylvia must dress in drag really make much sense but I digress; I could go on listing the inconsistencies present in this film. It’s not hard to see why this film became a cult classic instead of falling into obscurity. Firstly there is Katharine Hepburn cross dressing, although with Hepburn’s masculine facial features the idea that anyone would mistake her for a man is more convincing than some other cross dressing movies. This makes the movie full of homosexual undertones; most prominently in the scene in which a woman played by Dennie Moore clearly expresses an attraction towards Sylvia, unaware she is a woman in drag; commenting that her skin is as smooth as a girl’s and kisses her after drawing a Ronald Coleman moustache on her. Make of that what you will.

On top of that Cary Grant sprouts a cockney accent. Along with Hepburn and her father played by Edmund Gwenn they make for an enjoyable trio of not very good con artists who don’t adhere to the philosophy Syliva proposes at one point in the film, “Why don’t we all get jobs and go to work”. I’m not sure if I can even distinguish the film’s moments of humor between intentionally and unintentionally funny. Either way, the whole thing is ridiculous, funny stuff.  Infact I could have given this film a higher score but I felt the romance dominated second half slowed the film’s pace; I guess you could say the film started to drag (bad dum tiss). Sylvia Scarlett is one of those films which has to be seen to be believed. The first film of the Kate and Cary quadrilogy can be classified as many things but “forgettable” isn’t one of them.

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