The Iron Petticoat (1956)


A Russian female pilot (Katharine Hepburn, Bringing Up Baby) defects to the West because she is tired of gender inequality in the Soviet army. An American officer (Bob Hope, The Paleface) stationed in England is assigned to convince the Soviet pilot that capitalism is indeed better for women, but is it really?

Reaction & Thoughts:

After I watched The Iron Petticoat I had this nagging feeling that I had seen it all before. Something was very familiar about the storyline. It finally hit me — Ninotchka (1939)! This is essentially the popular 1939 movie reworked to reflect Cold War angst and social attitudes that existed in 1950s.

Directed by Ralph Thomas (Deadlier Than the Male) from a script credited to Ben Hencht (Notorious), The Iron Petticoat works as neither a romantic comedy nor a political satire. Everything that made Ninotchka, and its musical remake Silk Stockings, so much fun is completely absent from this truly awful British production.

Katharine Hepburn is one of my favorite actors and being an obsessive-compulsive completist, I was eager to watch this comedy, one of the few Hepburn films that I hadn’t seen yet. Wow! What a disappointment.

Hepburn is one of the few actors that can do comedy and drama equally well. That’s why I was surprised that she’s terrible in a part that doesn’t require much effort. This is clearly her all-time worst performance — the indomitable Kate finally met her Waterloo!

Bob Hope is in his element and he does his silly routine well enough. But Hepburn and Hope don’t have any chemistry — the actors seem to be operating at different frequencies. The supporting is fine, though: Noelle Middleton (Happy Ever After) plays Connie, and James Robertson Justice (The Guns of Navarone) plays Col. Sklarnoff. Celebrated ballet dancer Robert Helpmann (The Red Shoes) plays Ivan Kropotkin.

Conclusions & Final Thoughts:

The Iron Petticoat is rarely shown on TV. I just happened to catch it on TCM (Turner Classic Movies). If you are curious enough, keep an eye on the network’s schedule. But I warn you, don’t expect anything resembling a good movie. Mostly for fans Hepburn and/or Hope. Color, 94 minutes, Not Rated.

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