Katharine Hepburn & Bob Hope Rare 'The Iron Petticoat' Gets Premiere

Katharine Hepburn The Iron PetticoatKatharine Hepburn, Bob Hope: The Iron Petticoat TCM premiere

Starring Katharine Hepburn and Bob Hope, The Iron Petticoat became a movie rarity for decades, unavailable for viewing (at least in the United States) since 1966. But no more. The 1956 Anglo-American remake of the 1939 Ernst Lubitsch / Greta Garbo classic Ninotchka is now available on DVD/Blu-ray, and will have its Turner Classic Movies premiere today at 5 p.m. PT. (Image: Katharine Hepburn The Iron Petticoat.)

A box office disappointment at the time of its release, the Ralph Thomas-directed The Iron Petticoat was unenthusiastically received by critics. Discussing this personalized tale of capitalism vs. communism, The New York Herald Tribune's William K. Zissner, for one, derided it as “a comedy that has no humor,” adding that Katharine Hepburn and Bob Hope “go through the motions grimly, like children at dancing school, hoping it will all be over soon.”

Not helping matters were problems between Bob Hope and screenwriter Ben Hecht, who had his name removed from the credits. In fact, The Iron Petticoat was released without a screenplay credit. Additionally, there were stories of ego clashes between Bob Hope and Katharine Hepburn, with the latter eventually having some of her scenes cut from the final release print.

Anyhow, if only for historical reasons – any Katharine Hepburn movie must be watched at least once – it's great that The Iron Petticoat is finally once again available.

Ninotchka remakes and rip-offs

Also on TCM tonight are the other versions and variations of Ninotchka – in addition to the witty, sophisticated, and very funny original itself. Directed by Rouben Mamoulian, Silk Stockings was a musicalized remake that made the New York Times' top ten list. Comrade X, starring Hedy Lamarr, is basically a run-of-the-mill Ninotchka rip-off set in the U.S. The somewhat drab 1934 Kay Francis / Leslie Howard vehicle British Agent has nothing to do with Ninotchka, but it's probably listed because it revolves around a female Russian spy.

TCM schedule (PT):

  • 5:00 PM THE IRON PETTICOAT (1956). Dir.: Ralph Thomas. Cast: Bob Hope, Katharine Hepburn, Noelle Middleton, James Robertson Justice, Robert Helpmann.
  • 6:45 PM SILK STOCKINGS (1957). Dir.: Rouben Mamoulian. Cast: Fred Astaire, Cyd Charisse, Janis Paige, Peter Lorre, George Tobias, Jules Munshin.
  • 8:45 PM COMRADE X (1940). Dir.: King Vidor. Cast: Clark Gable, Hedy Lamarr, Oscar Homolka, Eve Arden, Sig Ruman.
  • 10:30 PM NINOTCHKA (1939). Dir.: Ernst Lubitsch. Cast: Greta Garbo, Melvyn Douglas, Ina Claire, Bela Lugosi, Sig Ruman, Felix Bressart.
  • 12:45 AM BRITISH AGENT (1934). Dir.: Michael Curtiz. Cast: Leslie Howard, Kay Francis, William Gargan, Philip Reed, J. Carrol Naish, Cesar Romero.

Katharine Hepburn The Iron Petticoat photo via TCM.

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