Wednesday, June 16, 2010

It's always the cover-up

This afternoon's TCM movie is Keeper of the Flame, airing at 6:00 PM ET.

Spencer Tracy stars as Steven O'Malley, a journalist who is given the job of writing an obituary for a prominent American hero who just died in a car accident. In true Citizen Kane fashion, O'Malley wants to find out more about this great hero and what made him tick, so he goes to meet the man's widow, Christine Forrest (Katharine Hepburn). What O'Malley finds surprises him. Christine seems to be mourning much less than most women whose husbands just dies would be, and the people around her, notably Mr. Forrest's personal secretary Clive (Richard Whorf), seem rather irritated by O'Malley's snooping.

Clive is right to be worried. What he knows is that Forrest, despite having done some heroic deeds earlier in his life, also had a dark side in that he had some secrets that would best not be revealed, lest they tarnish the reputation and memory of Forrest. Christine apparently knew of these secrets, too, and that might just be why she's not that emotional over her husband's death. Still, O'Malley's presence is a threat to her as well as Clive....

Keeper of the Flame is interesting in that it's much darker than anythine else Tracy and Hepburn made together. Sure, they did drama, such as Guess Who's Coming to Dinner, but even that ends up a hopeful note. As for the performances, Tracy is as good as ever as the man who believed in Forrest's ideals, only to find out the real truth about the man. Hepburn frankly doesn't do much here, but then, I've never been that big a fan of her work. The supporting cast is its usual competent self, but that's to be expected by anything MGM was putting out in the 1940s.

Ultimately, if I wanted to recommend the Tracy/Hepburn films to people new to them, I'd pick something else first, such as Adam's Rib or Desk Set: the two actors worked better off of each other when they were doing comedy. But that's not to say Keeper of the Flame isn't worth watching. You don't just have to be a fan of Tracy and/or Hepburn to enjoy this one. Surprisingly, it doesn't seem to have been released to DVD yet.

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