Quality Street
Director: George Stevens. Cast: Katharine Hepburn, Franchot Tone, Fay Bainter, Joan Fontaine, Bonita Granville. Screenplay: Mortimer Offner & Allan Scott (based on the play by J.M. Barrie).

Quality Street is not a picture you are likely to remember. In fact, if you can recapture any of this trifle after three or four days, that's something of a triumph; many biographies and filmographies of Katharine Hepburn, the film's star, often omit this movie entirely. The picture is certainly fun, though, the sort of mistaken-identity romantic farce that studios in the 30s could (and often did) make with their eyes closed.

In fact, what's interesting about Quality Street is the very aspect of its obvious but pleasurable mediocrity, the clearness with which the whole thing broadcasts itself as an interim project for almost everyone involved. Hepburn—having recently confused the public (and ired studio accountants) with 1936's waayy ahead of its time cross-dressing caper Sylvia Scarlett—was seeking to rebuild momentum by filming this project and Stage Door, another popular play, both in 1937. Her comic work here, including the drab/dazzling dual role and a great deal of running around, is a fizzy lead-in to the truly bravura, gonzo turn she contributed to 1938's Bringing Up Baby. Franchot Tone, meanwhile, shows up as a standard-issue Dashing Soldier, in a bald plan of light, easy-on-the-eyes exposure after his typecasting role as a swashbuckler in 1935's Mutiny on the Bounty.

Joan Fontaine and Fay Bainter, both of whom won Oscars within the following four years, are also on hand with characteristically quiet, appealing performances—lots of beatific gazing from these two—but like everyone else, they seem to be saving their energy for their future projects. The original play Quality Street was written by Peter Pan scribe J.M. Barrie, and the work has all the traits we traditionally associate with Never Never Land: amusing, unambitious, impossible to remember precisely, but a good time had by all. Grade: B–

Academy Award Nominations:
Best Original Score: Roy Webb

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