Christopher Strong and Dash Through the Clouds

Christopher Strong
Katharine Hepburn's first starring role, as world-champion aviatrix Cynthia Darrington (a character modeled at least in part after Amelia Earhart) was directed by Dorothy Arzner, then the only woman film director in Hollywood. Colin Clive plays the title role, the man with whom Lady Darrington is in love. Gerard Peary noted at the time (1933), “Hepburn demonstrates with the certitude of an Isadora Duncan that a woman's true happiness comes through intense, front-seat participation in an exciting profession. In Christopher Strong it is flying planes, breaking world records competing and winning in the world of men. Conversely, the same happiness can be squandered away, the talented woman's life wasted, if she should misdirect this energy toward some egocentric man, such as Christopher Strong's titular hero, actually non-hero” (in Cinema). But the film's feminist statement, as Peary only implies, goes pretty far beyond the “fulfilled” professional woman to the question of female heroics. What Martyn Auty (Monthly Film Bulletin) points out about Mulvey and Wollen's Amy might apply as well to this fiction film, in which love conquers flying, “...Amy as a philovat (thrill-seeker)...(posed a threat) to a social order that could only accommodate her as an unusually ambitious ‘girl' making a once-in-a-lifetime trip, rather than as a key figure in a sisterhood of aviatrices (reaching back to Catherine Wright, who funded Orville and Wilbur, and including Amelia Earhart). Amy's story was told as it happened on newsreel and ‘immortalised' soon after.... In this way...the story was ‘fixed,' the thrill was gone....” (J.B.)

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