Filmsite Movie Review
Morning Glory (1933)
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Background

Morning Glory (1933) is the story of a naive and pretentious aspiring actress. It starred Katharine Hepburn in only her third film. This RKO film, directed by Lowell Sherman and adapted from a stage play by Zoe Akins, is notable since it helped to launch the actress' successful career, and provided her with the first (of four) Best Actress Oscars - the film's only nomination.

Many critics have noted that Hepburn should have won an Oscar for her first screen appearance in A Bill of Divorcement (1932) a year earlier.

This film is in the tradition of other backstage dramas (such as Gregory La Cava's Stage Door (1937)) and tales of unknown actresses rising to stardom (such as William Wellman's A Star is Born (1937)).

The Story

Fresh-faced and luminous Ada Love/"Eva Lovelace" (Katharine Hepburn) is an inexperienced, small town community theatre actress from a New England (Vermont) country town who comes to New York stagestruck, bringing with her a letter from George Bernard Shaw, and ambitious dreams of becoming a Broadway theatrical star. She states: "I have something very wonderful in me, you'll see."

She makes new friends quickly including kindly veteran stage actor Robert Harley Hedges (C. Aubrey Smith), who befriends her. When she first meets him, she explains her name:

I hope you're going to tell me your name. I want you for my first friend in New York. Mine's Eva Lovelace. It's partly made up and partly real. It was Ada Love. Love's my family name. I added the 'lace.' Do you like it, or would you prefer something shorter? A shorter name would be more convenient on a sign. Still, 'Eva Lovelace in Camille,' for instance, or 'Eva Lovelace in Romeo and Juliet' sounds very distinguished, doesn't it?

At a cocktail party held by a successful but troubled and temperamental star Rita Vernon (Mary Duncan), Eva becomes drunk on champagne, and performs two Shakespearean soliloquies for the party guests with slurred speech. She stuns the guests with her portrayal of the balcony scene from Romeo and Juliet.

Ambitious young playwright Joseph Sheridan (Douglas Fairbanks, Jr.) arranges for her to be the understudy for Rita in a new show that he has written. On opening night, Rita demands more money from the slimy producer Louis Easton (Adolphe Menjou) just before the curtain goes up, but Easton resists and fires her. Eva takes Rita's place, performing brilliantly. Backstage following her triumphant performance, she is warned about instant success going to her head by Hedges, like a "morning glory" which blooms beautifully, but then quickly withers and dies.

Every year, in every theater, some young person makes a hit. Sometimes it's a big hit, cometimes a little one. It's a distinct success, but how many of them keep their heads? How many of them work? Youth comes to the fore. Youth has its hour of glory. But too often it's only a morning glory - a flower that fades before the sun is very high.

Embracing her maid (Theresa Harria), who at one time was a 'morning glory' star, Eva declares to everyone that she doesn't care if she is a morning glory, speaking defiantly:

Nellie, they've all been trying to frighten me. They've been trying to frighten me into being sensible, but they can't do it. Not now. Not yet. They've got to let me be as foolish as I want to be. I-I want to ride through the crowd. I want to- I want to go buy me a mink coat. And I'll buy you a beautiful present. And Mr. Hedges! I'll buy Mr. Hedges a little house. And it'll have rooms full of white orchids. And they've got to tell me that I'm much more wonderful than anyone else because, Nellie - Nellie, I'm not afraid. I'm not afraid of being just a morning glory. I'm not afraid. I'm not afraid. I'm not afraid. Why should I be afraid? I'm not afraid.