The Desk Set

Made in 1936, this relatively unknown, surprisingly contemporary drama, set in the Victorian era, casts Hepburn as a radical young women's liberationist whose rebellion extends from her personal life to her job as editor of a women's magazine. In her crusade against conventional Victorian behavior, she has a love affair with Van Heflin, gives birth to an illegitimate child, and still refuses the protective male hand of ardent suitor Herbert Marshall.
Molly Haskell writes about the fate of A Woman Rebels (and of Hepburn after making it): “Generally - and typically - the only films that allowed dignity to working women were those based on historical figures, real-life women, the singularity (and therefore non-applicability) of whose achievement would not make them a threat to men. Or to other women.... Yet, despite the safety of the nineteenth-century milieu, Katharine Hepburn's feminist in A Woman Rebels was too threatening. The film flopped and ushered in her period of ‘box office poison'” (in “From Reverence to Rape”). (JB)

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