14 May 2005 | Ron Oliver
Will a young actress manage to become a lasting stage star or is she destined to be but a MORNING GLORY which will fade with the rising sun?
A youthful Kate Hepburn is mesmerizing in one of her first starring roles at RKO. She plays an aspiring and highly idealistic actress from Franklin, Vermont who will suffer anything, in all innocence, to reach her goal of celebrity in the New York theatre. Hepburn instantly grabs the viewer's attention and sympathy, as she gabbles earnestly about the letter from Bernard Shaw she keeps under her pillow or her resolve to commit suicide on stage at the height of her fame. The viewer understands that she is one of Nature's fragile flowers and needs protection from life's cruelties. At the end of the film, in what should be her moment of triumph, we are left uneasily troubled over what will happen to her next.
Able support is given by a trio of fine male co-stars. Douglas Fairbanks Jr is the successful playwright who slowly comes to develop deep feelings for Hepburn. Adolphe Menjou plays the powerful and slightly caddish theatrical manager who takes advantage of Kate at a very vulnerable moment. Best of all, marvelous old Sir C. Aubrey Smith plays Kate's first New York friend, a gentlemanly English actor, reduced to performing small roles, who is bemused by Hepburn's zeal.
Mary Duncan scores as a selfish, manipulative stage star. Tyler Brooke, as an alcoholic author, and Richard Carle, as an important newspaper critic, have a couple of good scenes, especially when they get Kate drunk at Menjou's fancy party, thereby loosening her inhibitions and giving her the courage to very ably enact some lines by Hamlet & Juliet.
Early on, when Ms. Duncan compares Menjou & Fairbanks to 'Wheeler & Woolsey' she was referring to RKO's comedy team of Bert Wheeler and Robert Woolsey. Although from 1929 to 1937 they starred in a series of 22 often hilarious movies they are now, sadly, almost forgotten.