1932 (July 24, 2018)
RKO Radio Pictures (Kino Lorber Studio Classics)
- Film / program rating: A
- Video quality: A-
- Audio level: B
- Category of extras: D
David O. Selznick was one of Hollywood’s greatest producers in the 1930s and 1940s, most notably with the films Blown away by the wind and Rebecca, which won him the Oscar for best film. His other cinematic highlights include King Kong, A star is born, and the films of Alfred Hitchcock The Paradine case, Popular, and Bewitched. He’s also produced other lesser-known but equally wonderful films that have been released on Blu-ray today, thanks to Kino Lorber Studio Classics. Among their releases are Bird of Paradise, Intermezzo, A farewell to arms, and the classic 1932 pre-code, A divorce certificate.
With his career rooted in the theater, A divorce certificate is the basic story of a man who comes home after a long absence, only to find that it’s not like it was before. After spending 15 years in a mental institution, Hilary Fairfield (John Barrymore) returns with his wife Margaret (Billie Burke) and daughter Sidney (Katharine Hepburn) and begins her life anew. He finds out that Margaret has divorced and is now engaged to Gray Meredith (Paul Cavanagh), resulting in unpleasant situations. Margaret, who was ready to move on with her life, is now in conflict over whether to marry Gray or return with Hilary, who desperately wants her to return. Whatever decision she takes, it will have an impact on the lives of everyone around her.
George Cukor is doing a fantastic job making this amazing film. The acting is superb, with John Barrymore in great shape. Billie Burke also does a good job as Margaret, but her best roles and performances were yet to come in later films including Topper and The Wizard of Oz. Veteran British actor Henry Stephenson has a small but important role as Dr Alliot, delivering a formidable performance as well. Katharine Hepburn makes her screen debut while legendary composer Max Steiner provides an excellent musical score.
For an 86-year-old film that finally made its amateur video debut, A divorce certificate looks exceptional on Blu-ray. The film was scanned in 4K by Kino Lorber, which gives a dynamic appearance. The black levels are crisp, the grayscale is great, and everything looks smooth and sturdy. The faces and clothing of the characters are also very detailed. Film grain is present, with minimal print damage including some minor imperfections. Overall, it’s remarkable how good-looking it looks after sitting in the vaults for decades. In the audio department, English 2.0 DTS-HD is the only option for this version. Overall, the track is clear with strong dialogue, although some are a bit muddled in places, possibly due to the age of the film. There are no subtitles for this release, nor any extras other than trailers for several other releases of Kino Lorber Studio Classics (Young at heart, Intermezzo, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, and Since you’ve been Gone).
Pre-coded movies are always a lot of fun to watch and see what filmmakers might get away with before the rating systems change everything. A divorce certificate is no exception about it. It is a powerful movie with a very attractive transfer which helps to make it a great viewing experience. Highly recommended for classic movie fans and Katharine Hepburn completers!