A BILL OF DIVORCEMENT. RKO, 1932. John Barrymore, Billie Burke, David Manners, Katharine Hepburn. Director: George Cukor.

   Been wanting to see this one for years. It’s a bit stagey — more in the construction than in the filming — but quite nice. Hepburn is competent in her film debut, and maybe shows a glimmer of the overwhelming talent that made her career, but basically, there’s not much to separate her in this performance from say, Elissa Landi, Margaret Sullavan, or any other near- greats. David Manners, fresh from Dracula and The Mummy, manages to look not too far out of his depth, and Billie Burke is her usual fun self.

   But the picture really belongs to John Barrymore, in a showy part as a recoverir1g Mental Patient who thinks he can pick up tl1e pieces of his long-dead marriage. Though he overacts a bit now and then, he’s quite moving at times. The curtain line is very effective and surprising as well.

   So is the on-screen affection shown between Hepburn and Barrymore, considering that this film was the basis of yet another Hollywood anecdote: During production, Barrymore allegedly Put The Make on Ms. Hepburn in decidedly unsubtle fashion.

   Class act that she was, she pointedly spurned him and did not mention the incident again, till the end of filming when she is alleged to have said, “I shall never do another scene with you,” To which John replied, “I wasn’t aware you ever had.”

— Reprinted from Shropshire Sleuth #71, May 1995.