Quality Street (1937)

Genres - Comedy, Comedy Drama  |   Sub-Genres - Romantic Comedy  |   Release Date - Mar 26, 1937 (USA)  |   Run Time - 84 min.  |   Countries - United States   |   MPAA Rating - NR
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Quality Street is drawn from a play by J.M. Barrie, for whom lightness and whimsicality are bywords. Playing Barrie can be a difficult task, especially if, unlike his Peter Pan, the material is not set in a make-believe world. Finding the right balance between reality and artifice takes quite a bit of doing, and is even more difficult to achieve onscreen than on-stage. This adaptation takes a much too direct approach, starting with the casting of the no-nonsense Katharine Hepburn in a role that requires an actress whose strength is more subtly presented. Hepburn isn't bad, but she tries too hard in places and seems a little at sea in others. That she often succeeds in spite of this is tribute to her considerable talent and skill, and there are quite a few moments where she pulls great laughs from the viewer, almost by sheer force of will. Even if not ideally cast, she is fascinating and fun to watch. Franchot Tone is a bit bland, though he looks quite good and is certainly believable. Fay Bainter and Joan Fontaine are similarly wan, but satisfactory. Much better is the physical production, with sets, costumes and photography that are a joy. If Quality falls a little short of the mark overall, it's still a very pleasant diversion.