Spitfire


1h 28m 1934
Spitfire

Brief Synopsis

A backwoods faith healer falls for a married man from the big city.

Photos & Videos

Spitfire - Advertising Art
Spitfire - Publicity Stills

Film Details

Also Known As
Trigger
Genre
Comedy
Romance
Drama
Release Date
Mar 30, 1934
Premiere Information
New York opening: 8 Mar 1934
Production Company
RKO Radio Pictures, Inc.
Distribution Company
RKO Radio Pictures, Inc.
Country
United States
Location
Hemet, California, United States; San Gabriel, California, United States
Screenplay Information
Based on the play Trigger by Lula Vollmer (New York, 6 Dec 1927).

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 28m
Sound
Mono (RCA Sound System)
Color
Black and White
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
1.37 : 1
Film Length
9 reels

Synopsis

Trigger Hicks, a proud but poor and barely literate mountain girl, takes in wash but dreams of a finer, more romantic life for herself. She is indifferent to the criticisms of her superstitious neighbors, who mistake her intense religious faith and bad temper for signs of witchcraft. When the Construction Company arrives in the region to build a dam, Trigger attracts the amorous attention of John Stafford, the married assistant engineer, whose supervisor, George Fleetwood, disapproves of his deceptive romancing. Inspired by a pack of Bible cards that she has stolen from the local Sunday school, Trigger snatches a sickly, neglected baby from a neighbor's house and carries him to George's cabin, where she prays over him and nurses him back to health. John, hearing of the abduction, finds Trigger at George's cabin and continues his flirtation, not revealing to her his marriage. When John's wife appears, however, John is unmasked, and Trigger is heartbroken. Concerned for Trigger's safety, George convinces her to relinquish the child and return him to his now frantic parents. When the child falls ill again and eventually dies, an angry mob shows up at Trigger's shack and accuses her of witchcraft. Although George and John try to subdue and reason with the stone-throwing mob, Trigger is forced to agree to leave town. The next day, as she packs her few belongings, her faith in herself and in God and prayer shattered, George arrives at her shack to say goodbye. Touched by her simple devotion, George convinces Trigger not to give up her faith, and makes her promise to meet him at the shack a year from that day, come what may.

Photo Collections

Spitfire - Advertising Art
Here are a few pieces of advertising art prepared for Spitfire (1934), staring Katharine Hepburn. Unused as poster art, they probably appeared in specialty magazine ads.
Spitfire - Publicity Stills
Here are a few Publicity Stills from Spitfire (1934), featuring Katharine Hepburn, Ralph Bellamy, and Robert Young. Publicity stills were specially-posed photos, usually taken off the set, for purposes of publicity or reference for promotional artwork.

Film Details

Also Known As
Trigger
Genre
Comedy
Romance
Drama
Release Date
Mar 30, 1934
Premiere Information
New York opening: 8 Mar 1934
Production Company
RKO Radio Pictures, Inc.
Distribution Company
RKO Radio Pictures, Inc.
Country
United States
Location
Hemet, California, United States; San Gabriel, California, United States
Screenplay Information
Based on the play Trigger by Lula Vollmer (New York, 6 Dec 1927).

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 28m
Sound
Mono (RCA Sound System)
Color
Black and White
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
1.37 : 1
Film Length
9 reels

Articles

Spitfire


Late in the day on November 16, 1933, the last scene of Spitfire (1934) was not yet in the can. RKO producer Pandro Berman, on location in the southern California mountains, was in a tough spot. His star, Katharine Hepburn, was booked on an overnight flight to New York in order to begin work the next day on The Lake, a Broadway play. Under the terms of her contract, Hepburn was actually to have been released from Spitfire one day earlier, on November 15. But the shoot had gone over schedule, and Hepburn had already agreed to stay one extra night because RKO claimed she owed them an extra five hours and 45 minutes of work. It wasn't enough time, and now, on November 16, Hepburn refused to work any further. She told Berman, "You make other people live up to conditions you write into contracts. It's time you learned to do so, too."

"How much do you want to finish the scene?" asked Berman.

"Ten thousand dollars," was Hepburn's reply. Even though she was already being paid $50,000 for the four-week shoot, the studio had little choice but to give in. Hepburn later said of this incident, "I wanted to show them that if I set a definite date, I meant to keep it, but they didn't. Time means a lot to me."

November 16, 1933, was auspicious for Hepburn for another reason, too. It was the release date for her previous film, Little Women, a great critical and commercial success. As a follow-up to the sophisticated Little Women and Morning Glory (1933), the picture for which she would soon receive her first Academy Award, Spitfire was an unusual choice. Hepburn's part was that of a backwoods girl named Trigger Hicks. Barely literate, proud and hot-tempered, Trigger's devout belief in faith healing creates consternation in her fellow villagers, who view her belief as witchcraft.

In fact, the part was originally meant for Dorothy Jordan, but Hepburn wanted to try something against type. She played the role with tomboyish vigor and got mixed reviews, with The New Yorker declaring, "The picture would suggest that Katharine Hepburn is condemned to elegance, doomed to be a lady for the rest of her natural life, and that her artistry does not extend to the interpretation of the primitive or the uncouth." Years later, in her autobiography Me, Hepburn herself was more blunt, devoting just two sentences to Spitfire and Trigger Hicks: "Was a Southern sort of mountain spirit. Shame on you, Kathy."

Spitfire died at box office and marked the beginning of a string of duds which would lead in a few years to Hepburn being labeled "box-office poison." Seen now, it's a fascinating example of a star playing against type because it demonstrates both the strengths and weaknesses of the star's persona. Also in the cast are Robert Young (on loan from MGM), comedian Bob Burns (who had himself billed as "High Ghere") and Ralph Bellamy, who does a little better here than in the countless other films in which he loses the girl to the star. Here, he gets her - in a way!

Producer: Pandro S. Berman, Merian C. Cooper
Director: John Cromwell
Screenplay: Jane Murfin, Lula Vollmer
Cinematography: Edward Cronjager
Film Editing: William Morgan
Art Direction: Carroll Clark, Van Nest Polglase
Music: Bernhard Kaun
Cast: Katharine Hepburn (Trigger Hicks), Robert Young (John Stafford), Ralph Bellamy (George Fleetwood), Martha Sleeper (Eleanor Stafford), Louis Mason (Bill Grayson), Sara Haden (Etta Dawson).
BW-87m. Closed Captioning.

By Jeremy Arnold
Spitfire

Spitfire

Late in the day on November 16, 1933, the last scene of Spitfire (1934) was not yet in the can. RKO producer Pandro Berman, on location in the southern California mountains, was in a tough spot. His star, Katharine Hepburn, was booked on an overnight flight to New York in order to begin work the next day on The Lake, a Broadway play. Under the terms of her contract, Hepburn was actually to have been released from Spitfire one day earlier, on November 15. But the shoot had gone over schedule, and Hepburn had already agreed to stay one extra night because RKO claimed she owed them an extra five hours and 45 minutes of work. It wasn't enough time, and now, on November 16, Hepburn refused to work any further. She told Berman, "You make other people live up to conditions you write into contracts. It's time you learned to do so, too." "How much do you want to finish the scene?" asked Berman. "Ten thousand dollars," was Hepburn's reply. Even though she was already being paid $50,000 for the four-week shoot, the studio had little choice but to give in. Hepburn later said of this incident, "I wanted to show them that if I set a definite date, I meant to keep it, but they didn't. Time means a lot to me." November 16, 1933, was auspicious for Hepburn for another reason, too. It was the release date for her previous film, Little Women, a great critical and commercial success. As a follow-up to the sophisticated Little Women and Morning Glory (1933), the picture for which she would soon receive her first Academy Award, Spitfire was an unusual choice. Hepburn's part was that of a backwoods girl named Trigger Hicks. Barely literate, proud and hot-tempered, Trigger's devout belief in faith healing creates consternation in her fellow villagers, who view her belief as witchcraft. In fact, the part was originally meant for Dorothy Jordan, but Hepburn wanted to try something against type. She played the role with tomboyish vigor and got mixed reviews, with The New Yorker declaring, "The picture would suggest that Katharine Hepburn is condemned to elegance, doomed to be a lady for the rest of her natural life, and that her artistry does not extend to the interpretation of the primitive or the uncouth." Years later, in her autobiography Me, Hepburn herself was more blunt, devoting just two sentences to Spitfire and Trigger Hicks: "Was a Southern sort of mountain spirit. Shame on you, Kathy." Spitfire died at box office and marked the beginning of a string of duds which would lead in a few years to Hepburn being labeled "box-office poison." Seen now, it's a fascinating example of a star playing against type because it demonstrates both the strengths and weaknesses of the star's persona. Also in the cast are Robert Young (on loan from MGM), comedian Bob Burns (who had himself billed as "High Ghere") and Ralph Bellamy, who does a little better here than in the countless other films in which he loses the girl to the star. Here, he gets her - in a way! Producer: Pandro S. Berman, Merian C. Cooper Director: John Cromwell Screenplay: Jane Murfin, Lula Vollmer Cinematography: Edward Cronjager Film Editing: William Morgan Art Direction: Carroll Clark, Van Nest Polglase Music: Bernhard Kaun Cast: Katharine Hepburn (Trigger Hicks), Robert Young (John Stafford), Ralph Bellamy (George Fleetwood), Martha Sleeper (Eleanor Stafford), Louis Mason (Bill Grayson), Sara Haden (Etta Dawson). BW-87m. Closed Captioning. By Jeremy Arnold

Quotes

You trust me, don't you?
- John Stafford
Don't trust no man farther than a shotgun can hit.
- Trigger Hicks
Oh, you never loved a man, then, did you?
- John Stafford
Sure, I've loved a heap of 'em. The more I love 'em, the less I trust 'em.
- Trigger Hicks

Trivia

Notes

The working title of this film was Trigger. RKO borrowed Robert Young from M-G-M for the production. According to a September 1933 Film Daily news item, RKO purchased Lula Vollmer's play as a vehicle for Dorothy Jordan, not Katharine Hepburn. October 1933 Film Daily news items announced that George Brent and Joel McCrea were to be Hepburn's co-stars and had accompanied the cast and crew on location in Hemet, CA. These actors did not appear in the film, however. Film Daily lists Helene Barclay as a cast member, but she was subsequently replaced by Martha Sleeper in the role of Eleanor Stafford. Location shooting was done in Hemet, CA, in the San Jacinto Mountains near the Mexican border and at the San Gabriel Dam in San Gabriel, CA, according to news items and RKO production files. Modern sources add the following information about the production: Hepburn agreed to play the part of "Trigger" on condition that she be allowed to return to Broadway and take the lead in a stage production of The Lake. Although Hepburn's contract stipulated that she would be allowed to leave for New York on November 16, 1933, four weeks after the start of production, by the evening of November 15, 1933, two scenes, including the last, remained to be shot. Hepburn agreed to postpone her morning flight and work the five hours and forty-five minutes that RKO claimed she owed. At the end of the next afternoon, however, director John Cromwell expressed dissatisfaction with the two scenes, and Hepburn refused to re-shoot them, reminding producer Pandro Berman of the terms of her contract. Desperate to finish, Berman asked Hepburn how much the studio would have to pay her to complete the scenes, and Hepburn, whose salary for the production was $50,000, demanded and received an additional $10,000.

Miscellaneous Notes

Released in United States 1934

Released in United States on Video March 27, 1991

Released in United States 1934

Released in United States on Video March 27, 1991