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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An earlier and underappreciated cross-dressing comedy
For a long time "Sylvia Scarlett" was considered a failure, and the big joke was that Katharine Hepburn looked better disguised as a boy in this 1936 film than she did as herself. But we are talking Hepburn starring oppostie Cary Grant, the same pair that made "Bringing Up Baby," "Holiday," and "The Philadelphia Story." We are also talking director George Cukor who...
Published on 31 Aug. 2003 by Lawrance Bernabo

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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars A curio piece in more ways than one.
Sylvia Scarlett is directed by George Cukor and is adapted from the Compton Mackenzie novel called The Early Life And Adventures Of Sylvia Scarlett. It stars Katharine Hepburn, Cary Grant, Edmund Gwenn & Brian Aherne. Plot finds Hepburn as Sylvia, who after her father (Gwenn) is discovered as being an embezzler, is forced to flee France for England; with Sylvia disguised...
Published on 23 Jan. 2011 by Spike Owen


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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars A curio piece in more ways than one., 23 Jan. 2011
By 
Spike Owen "John Rouse Merriott Chard" (Birmingham, England.) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: Sylvia Scarlett [DVD] (DVD)
Sylvia Scarlett is directed by George Cukor and is adapted from the Compton Mackenzie novel called The Early Life And Adventures Of Sylvia Scarlett. It stars Katharine Hepburn, Cary Grant, Edmund Gwenn & Brian Aherne. Plot finds Hepburn as Sylvia, who after her father (Gwenn) is discovered as being an embezzler, is forced to flee France for England; with Sylvia disguised as a boy so as to avert suspicion. On the channel ferry they meet Jimmy Monkley (Grant) who isn't shy of the odd con game himself. It could be a match made in grifter heaven?

Baffling and divisive, Sylvia Scarlett is certainly a film that will never be forgotten. The two most notable things about it are that firstly it's considered one of the most unsuccessful movies of the 1930s, whilst secondly it was the first pairing of super stars Hepburn & Grant. Who from here would go on to make three further, and better, movies: Bringing Up Baby (1938), Holiday (1938) & The Philadelphia Story (1940).

Sylvia Scarlett puzzles in what it wants to be, it constantly shifts in tone to the point where one doesn't know what mood is needed to be in so as to enjoy it. Certainly if you needed a pick up it has moments of levity, but then it's also capable of dragging you down. It's also often absurd, and not in a screwball entertaining way either. While come the last half hour it's almost in the realms of fantasy and just a little hard to understand. The cast are fine, and by all accounts it was a real happy shoot (according to Cukor one of the best he worked on), but the bonkers narrative makes it something of an annoying watch.

It has fans, but in spite of Grant being my favourite actor, I'll never be one of them. 4/10
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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An earlier and underappreciated cross-dressing comedy, 31 Aug. 2003
By 
Lawrance Bernabo (The Zenith City, Duluth, Minnesota) - See all my reviews
(HALL OF FAME REVIEWER)    (VINE VOICE)   
For a long time "Sylvia Scarlett" was considered a failure, and the big joke was that Katharine Hepburn looked better disguised as a boy in this 1936 film than she did as herself. But we are talking Hepburn starring oppostie Cary Grant, the same pair that made "Bringing Up Baby," "Holiday," and "The Philadelphia Story." We are also talking director George Cukor who directed the last two films on that list with this pair as well. Today the judgment is that "Sylvia Scarlett" is a film that was ahead of its time, which makes sense when you considered how long it took American to decide that Katharine Hepburn was the quintessential modern independent woman.
Henry Scarlett (Edmund Gwenn) commits a bit of larceny and is forced to flee France with his daughter Sylvia (Hepburn) masquerading as a boy. Along the way they meet up with Jimmy Monkley (Grant), a cockney ne'er-do-well. In London they start doing some creative swindling, hooking up with a Maudie Tilt (Dennie Moore), a daffy servant girl who becomes Henry's wife. Meanwhile, Slyvia becomes enamored with handsome young artist Michael Fane (Brian Aherne), who, of course, thinks she is a boy. But when Michael starts to fall for Lily (Natalie Paley), Sylvia has to become a woman again to get the man she loves (pretend for the sake of argument that she is going to end up with the guy who gets third billing in the movie).
"Sylvia Scarlett" is based on the 1918 Comptom MacKenzie novel "The Early Life and Adventures of Sylvia Scarlett," but this ends up being Cukor's film and a charming story about vagabond thieves. Hepburn's androgyny does not strike contemporary audiences as being all that odd while Grant is playing the character closest to his own younger days of any in his entire career and stealing all the scenes. Gwenn and Moore are delightful as the less than suitable parental figures for the gang. Certainly compared to other cross-dressing comedies that have been made over the years, "Sylvia Scarlett" actually ends up being relatively realistic. Note: Natalie Paley was actually a Russian princess, the daughter of the Russian Grand Duke Paul, who was an uncle of the late Czar Nicholas, which would make her a cousin of the tragic Anastasia).
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4.0 out of 5 stars Curious, somewhat entertaining... Its definitely not Bringing Up Baby!, 1 Jan. 2012
By 
Kuma "kuma" (Reading, Berkshire United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Sylvia Scarlett [DVD] (DVD)
A film must be truly bad when its stars and director offer to make another movie for free if the studio buries it. You can certainly understand why when the hammy acting, the truly awful cockney music hall accents and the somewhat incoherent plot give the film a touch of the turkey about it. But it holds together in a curious way, being somewhat entertaining. Obviously, with such stars as Grant-Hepburn in the leads things can't be too bad, and they bluntly attack their lines with such chutzpah that you can't help feel some affection for how they try to shake up the stale script, even if the somewhat bizarre accents make you wonder if they have ever made it as far east as London (and of course it is a mystery why the French-raised Sylvia speaks in such a thick East London accent)!
I picked this one up filling in the gaps I had missed from Danny Peary's "Cult Movies" and he points out two ideas which make this film interesting. Firstly, the film is a constant stream of acts, pretences and make believes - Sylvia pretends to be a boy, Munkly pretends to be an honest man reporting Sylvia's father to customs to smuggle his own booty in, Sylvia acts as a penniless French boy to scam racegoers, they convine a maid that they are stage scouts with Sylvia's father dressing up as the lord of the house following which they buy a travelling theatre caravan - everything in the film is one big act after another! If you watch it again knowing that you can plug into the theatrical conventions that don't normally slip across into filmic conventions - things like the way the characters speak out loud to be heard at the back of the auditorium, the exaggerated gestures, the idea of a girl playing the male lead etc. The other thing he points out is how the film covertly presents issues of gender and sexuality that is unusual for that period - certainly not in a blatant or sexual way, probably not in an intentional one - as a boy Sylvia gets kissed by a girl, invited to bed with a man and has a man confess to being curiously attracted to him/her, not particularly something you expect in a 1930s film!
Its not a classic film and it is somewhat let down by its plot and script, particularly at times seeming to fall into a lull or lose its way a little, but it does entertain.
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2.0 out of 5 stars Hepburn is Great and that's about it, 14 Jan. 2013
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This review is from: Sylvia Scarlett [DVD] (DVD)
Kathrine Hepburn and her father live in France but have to leave when her father looses a load of his clients money gambling. Hepburn's savings see's her father escape to England but he only accepts her passage too when she insists she go disguised as his son.

In London they join up with a trickster cockney Cary Grant (the accents not great but I've heard a lot worse) and they try to pull a series of scams. Hepburn oscillating moral compass sees them go straightish and they move to Cornwall as group of singing performers.

This film has an amusing premise but fails to take advantage of it unlike "Some Like It Hot"; there's no real laugh out loud moments; not even with the reveal. There's just a feeling of light fun.

Unlike the Million Pound Note with the same lightness, fun (but stronger laughs) and charm this film bursts its bubble of charm about halfway though by introducing some irritating characters and going rather melodramatic from which the film fails to recover.

Other than some, I assume accidental, amusing moment - Grants dancing, some lines that can be read a few ways - the reason to watch the film is Kathrine Hepburn who performs well as both a man and women but I'm not sure that's even enough to warrant recommending it.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A couple well paired, 25 Jun. 2010
By 
Mr. T. HARWOOD "LInda Harwood" (Kent, England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Sylvia Scarlett [DVD] (DVD)
Hadn't seen this film before but as a number one fan of both the actors it was a must have. The chemistry between them as always makes good watching.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Is it a boy or a girl, 19 Sept. 2013
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This review is from: Sylvia Scarlett [DVD] (DVD)
A very old film, must have caused a few raised eyebrow when it came out.
It is helped by Kathrine Hepburn been such a slim actress, and looks like
a very much like a boy. Until she opens her mouth. I just wonder if in those
days, if people had heard the rumours about both Hepburn and Grant
sexuality. These days there would not have the same reaction. An odd
film but interesting
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4.0 out of 5 stars Grant Cockney ??, 28 Mar. 2015
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This review is from: Sylvia Scarlett [DVD] (DVD)
Very melodramatic, Cary Grant has an odd Dick Van Dyke accent, but entertaining.
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1 of 9 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars awfull- would even put 0 star, 18 Feb. 2009
Personally, I found this movie awful.

True the androgyny is extremely real, and Hepburn looks awkwardly like a man in this movie. But, if you are in a mood to watch a typical Hepburn/Grant comedy, you will be extremely disappointed. It is not a screwball comedy, at all.
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Sylvia Scarlett [DVD]
Sylvia Scarlett [DVD] by George Cukor (DVD - 2007)
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