Christopher Strong


1h 17m 1933
Christopher Strong

Brief Synopsis

An aviatrix's affair with a married man could cost her her career.

Photos & Videos

Film Details

Also Known As
The Great Desire, The White Moth
Genre
Romance
Drama
Adaptation
Classic Hollywood
Release Date
Mar 31, 1933
Premiere Information
New York opening: week of 9 Mar 1933
Production Company
RKO Radio Pictures, Inc.
Distribution Company
RKO Radio Pictures, Inc.
Country
United States
Screenplay Information
Based on the novel Christopher Strong: A Romance by Gilbert Frankau (New York, 1932).

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 17m
Sound
Mono (RCA Photophone System)
Color
Black and White
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
1.37 : 1
Film Length
9 reels

Synopsis

Determined to win her socialite aunt Carrie Valentin's latest "treasure hunt" challenge, young Monica Strong and her married boyfriend, Harry Rawlinson, set out to find and bring back a truly faithful husband and a woman over twenty who has never had a love affair. While Harry returns to the party with Lady Cynthia Darrington, an aviatrix with whom he had collided on a country highway, Monica fetches her father, Sir Christopher Strong, a respected London politician and model husband. After the party, Monica and Harry become good friends with Cynthia, who also grows close to Christopher. In spite of his love for his wife Elaine, Christopher is drawn romantically toward the single-minded Cynthia, and she, to him. Although she senses her husband's growing passion, Elaine, who has forbidden Monica from seeing Harry, accepts Cynthia's presence at their summer villa in Cannes.

During her visit, Cynthia and Christopher take a midnight boat ride and confess their love for each other. At the end of the ride, the couple, whom Elaine sees kissing through her bedroom window, vows to end their relationship and separates. Soon after, however, Monica shows up at Cynthia's apartment, determined to kill herself because Harry, who has divorced his wife, refuses to marry her because of a one-night affair she had in Cannes. After preventing Monica's suicide, Cynthia leaves England for New York to participate in a dangerous around-the-world flying competition. Although she wins the gruelling contest, Cynthia longs for Christopher and is ecstatic when he shows at her New York hotel. There they consumate their love, and Cynthia agrees to give up flying and devote herself to Christopher. Eventually, however, Cynthia's affair is discovered and denounced by Monica, who is now married to Harry and is pregnant, grows restless and is about to accept a high-attitude flying challenge when she learns that she, too, is pregnant. Faced with destroying Christopher's marriage and career, Cynthia chooses to remain silent about her pregnancy and, while breaking the altitude record, throws off her oxygen mask and crashes to her death.

Film Details

Also Known As
The Great Desire, The White Moth
Genre
Romance
Drama
Adaptation
Classic Hollywood
Release Date
Mar 31, 1933
Premiere Information
New York opening: week of 9 Mar 1933
Production Company
RKO Radio Pictures, Inc.
Distribution Company
RKO Radio Pictures, Inc.
Country
United States
Screenplay Information
Based on the novel Christopher Strong: A Romance by Gilbert Frankau (New York, 1932).

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 17m
Sound
Mono (RCA Photophone System)
Color
Black and White
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
1.37 : 1
Film Length
9 reels

Articles

Christopher Strong


Katharine Hepburn had made a dazzling film debut as John Barrymore's daughter in A Bill of Divorcement (1932). There had never been anyone like her before in movies, and critics and audiences didn't quite know what to make of her angular looks and aristocratic speech, her confident and somewhat mannered acting. She was odd, but she was also strikingly original. Autocratic producer David Selznick personally disliked Hepburn. He was annoyed by her independence and constant challenging of his authority, but he knew a star when he saw one, and he wasted no time in signing her to a long-term contract at RKO. For Hepburn's second film and first starring role, Selznick had chosen Three Came Unarmed, the story of a girl raised in the jungle who comes to civilization. But that project fell through, and instead, Hepburn starred in Christopher Strong (1933).

Christopher Strong, played by Colin Clive, is a middle-aged nobleman and politician, happily married with a grown daughter. Hepburn is Lady Cynthia Darrington, a dedicated aviatrix so consumed by flying that she has no time for romance. The two fall in love, and their affair threatens Strong's marriage and career. To direct, Selznick chose one of Hollywood's few women directors, Dorothy Arzner. Playwright Zoe Akins was selected to adapt Gilbert Frankau's novel. Most people thought that the character of Cynthia was based on Amelia Earhart, but Arzner said she was based on British aviatrix Amy Johnson, the first woman to fly solo from England to Australia. (In the novel, the character was actually a race car driver.) Actual newsreel footage of parades and famous flights added veracity to the film version of Christopher Strong.

The combination of three strong-willed women did not always proceed smoothly. In fact, Arzner at one point threatened to quit the film unless Hepburn stopped interfering with her direction. Arzner stayed, and publicly, she and Hepburn expressed mutual respect, if no great warmth. In her autobiography, Hepburn says that Arzner "was very good....She wore pants. So did I. We had a good time working together." In the film, Cynthia's mannish wardrobe was similar to Arzner's. For Zoe Akins, Hepburn had little use. She found Akins pretentious and nouveau riche, and thought her script for Christopher Strong was not very good. Nevertheless, one of Akins' plays would be the basis for Hepburn's next film, Morning Glory (1933), which would win her the first of four Best Actress Oscars.

Colin Clive, who played the title character, is best known for playing the doctor in Frankenstein (1931). Most critics thought Clive was stodgy in Christopher Strong, and had no chemistry with the vibrant young Hepburn, that he was unlikely to inspire the kind of passion the script suggested. About Hepburn's performance, the critics were as divided as they had been about A Bill of Divorcement. She was so unlike any conventional ingenue that they couldn't agree whether she was beautiful or gawky, brilliant or artificial. But more and more, they were coming to the same conclusion as the New York American's Regina Crewe: "that troubled, masque-like face, the high, strident, raucous rasping voice, the straight, broad-shouldered boyish figure -- perhaps they may grate upon you, but they compel attention, and they fascinate an audience. She is a distinct, definite, positive personality -- the first since Garbo." Whatever the shortcomings of Christopher Strong, it still proved conclusively that Katharine Hepburn could carry a film. And the role helped develop the strong, independent feminist screen image that reflected Hepburn's own.

Producer: David O. Selznick, Pandro S. Berman
Director: Dorothy Arzner
Screenplay: Zoe Akins, based on the novel by Gilbert Frankau
Editor: Arthur Roberts
Cinematography: Bert Glennon
Costume Design: Howard Greer
Art Direction: Van Nest Polglase
Music: Max Steiner
Cast: Katharine Hepburn (Cynthia Darrington), Colin Clive (Christopher Strong), Billie Burke (Elaine), Helen Chandler (Monica), Ralph Forbes (Harry Rawlinson), Jack LaRue (Carlo).
BW-78m. Closed captioning.

by Margarita Landazuri
Christopher Strong

Christopher Strong

Katharine Hepburn had made a dazzling film debut as John Barrymore's daughter in A Bill of Divorcement (1932). There had never been anyone like her before in movies, and critics and audiences didn't quite know what to make of her angular looks and aristocratic speech, her confident and somewhat mannered acting. She was odd, but she was also strikingly original. Autocratic producer David Selznick personally disliked Hepburn. He was annoyed by her independence and constant challenging of his authority, but he knew a star when he saw one, and he wasted no time in signing her to a long-term contract at RKO. For Hepburn's second film and first starring role, Selznick had chosen Three Came Unarmed, the story of a girl raised in the jungle who comes to civilization. But that project fell through, and instead, Hepburn starred in Christopher Strong (1933). Christopher Strong, played by Colin Clive, is a middle-aged nobleman and politician, happily married with a grown daughter. Hepburn is Lady Cynthia Darrington, a dedicated aviatrix so consumed by flying that she has no time for romance. The two fall in love, and their affair threatens Strong's marriage and career. To direct, Selznick chose one of Hollywood's few women directors, Dorothy Arzner. Playwright Zoe Akins was selected to adapt Gilbert Frankau's novel. Most people thought that the character of Cynthia was based on Amelia Earhart, but Arzner said she was based on British aviatrix Amy Johnson, the first woman to fly solo from England to Australia. (In the novel, the character was actually a race car driver.) Actual newsreel footage of parades and famous flights added veracity to the film version of Christopher Strong. The combination of three strong-willed women did not always proceed smoothly. In fact, Arzner at one point threatened to quit the film unless Hepburn stopped interfering with her direction. Arzner stayed, and publicly, she and Hepburn expressed mutual respect, if no great warmth. In her autobiography, Hepburn says that Arzner "was very good....She wore pants. So did I. We had a good time working together." In the film, Cynthia's mannish wardrobe was similar to Arzner's. For Zoe Akins, Hepburn had little use. She found Akins pretentious and nouveau riche, and thought her script for Christopher Strong was not very good. Nevertheless, one of Akins' plays would be the basis for Hepburn's next film, Morning Glory (1933), which would win her the first of four Best Actress Oscars. Colin Clive, who played the title character, is best known for playing the doctor in Frankenstein (1931). Most critics thought Clive was stodgy in Christopher Strong, and had no chemistry with the vibrant young Hepburn, that he was unlikely to inspire the kind of passion the script suggested. About Hepburn's performance, the critics were as divided as they had been about A Bill of Divorcement. She was so unlike any conventional ingenue that they couldn't agree whether she was beautiful or gawky, brilliant or artificial. But more and more, they were coming to the same conclusion as the New York American's Regina Crewe: "that troubled, masque-like face, the high, strident, raucous rasping voice, the straight, broad-shouldered boyish figure -- perhaps they may grate upon you, but they compel attention, and they fascinate an audience. She is a distinct, definite, positive personality -- the first since Garbo." Whatever the shortcomings of Christopher Strong, it still proved conclusively that Katharine Hepburn could carry a film. And the role helped develop the strong, independent feminist screen image that reflected Hepburn's own. Producer: David O. Selznick, Pandro S. Berman Director: Dorothy Arzner Screenplay: Zoe Akins, based on the novel by Gilbert Frankau Editor: Arthur Roberts Cinematography: Bert Glennon Costume Design: Howard Greer Art Direction: Van Nest Polglase Music: Max Steiner Cast: Katharine Hepburn (Cynthia Darrington), Colin Clive (Christopher Strong), Billie Burke (Elaine), Helen Chandler (Monica), Ralph Forbes (Harry Rawlinson), Jack LaRue (Carlo). BW-78m. Closed captioning. by Margarita Landazuri

Quotes

I wouldn't have loved you if you'd been a usual man. And you wouldn't have loved me if I'd been a woman who didn't take this kind of thing seriously.
- Lady Cynthia Darrington

Trivia

Newsreel footage of parades and famous flights were used in the movie.

Notes

The working titles of this film were The Great Desire and The White Moth. In a modern interview, director Dorothy Arzner states that Gilbert Frankau's novel was based not on the life of Amelia Earhart, as most critics believe, but on an English novel that chronicled the life of aviatrix Amy Lowell. "Lady Cynthia" was Katharine Hepburn's first starring role and the first part she played after her very successful screen debut in RKO's 1932 production Bill of Divorcement . According to Film Daily, newsreel footage of parades and famous air flights were included in the film. A November 1932 Film Daily news item announced that Ann Harding was to star in the picture. Studio production files indicate that shooting fell thirteen days behind schedule due to bad weather and illness on Hepburn's part.
       Modern sources add the following information about the production: Selznick decided to cast Hepburn in the role of Cynthia after another proposed film, Three Came Unarmed, which was to star Hepburn and Joel McCrea, ran into script difficulties and was shelved. In the modern interview, Arzner claims that after Harding lost the part due to "contractural difficulties," Arzner campaigned for Hepburn. Later, however, Arzner went to Selznick and threatened to quit the film if Hepburn continued to challenge her directorial choices. Modern sources add to the cast Margaret Lindsay (Girl at party) and Pat Somerset (Bobby), and to the crew Howard Greer (Costumes) and Mel Berns (Makeup).

Miscellaneous Notes

Released in United States 1933

Released in United States June 2, 1990

Released in United States 1933

Released in United States June 2, 1990 (Shown at New York International Festival of Lesbian and Gay Film (Women Direct Series) in New York City June 2, 1990.)

Shown at New York International Festival of Lesbian and Gay Film (Women Direct Series) in New York City June 2, 1990.