A Courtroom Courtship: Love Among the Ruins (1975)

            Katharine Hepburn and Laurence Olivier in a romantic period drama directed by George Cukor - sounds like a dream come true, right? Well, maybe if it was made in 1945. Here we are 30 years later, and while both actors are still undeniable stars, a lot of their talent gets lost in a muddled script and a strange plot. It's rare that I review a movie I didn't genuinely enjoy, but I found myself disagreeing with the glowing reviews of Love Among the Ruins

             The movie begins in a rainstorm, as a wig-clad lawyer races from the courtroom to his office. He's late, but thankfully his client is later, and he spends the first ten minutes of the movie rushing around and shouting in preparation. This is our introduction to Sir Arthur Granville-Jones (Laurence Olivier), apparently the best lawyer in the business, but also the most erratic. It's clear the client he's waiting for is no ordinary person (unless it's Sir Arthur's normal routine to scream at his assistant words that I couldn't even catch at 0.5 speed. I tried).

            The client finally enters, and voila! It's Katharine Hepburn, aka Jessica Medlicott. She's a quick wit like all of the Great Kate's characters, and an aging theater actress. Maybe that explains her overdramatic acting? Anyhow, Sir Arthur is beside himself and can't even put a sentence together, so Jessica explains her case before the audience goes insane. Her husband died a few years before, leaving her his fortune, and she lived quietly until a "moment of weakness" when she accepted a much younger man's marriage proposal. She recovered her sanity, broke off the engagement, and now the man - Alfred Pratt - is suing her for breach of promise and £50,000.
            Once we've heard Jessica's story, we're treated to another ten minutes of Sir Arthur's insane behavior, which can now be described as pining. He is obsessed with the fact that he knew Jessica for three days back when she was a young actress in Toronto, Canada. Jessica has no memory of this, which devastates Sir Arthur so much that he tells just about everyone he runs into.  He's jealous of Alfred Pratt, so Jessica assures him that it wasn't love (just a "moment of weakness!"), and of her husband, who somehow had years with her when Sir Arthur only had three days!

            They go to court, and it seems to be going well for Alfred Pratt. He spins a tale of intense devotion to Jessica and his heartbreak when he was cruelly jilted. Alfred spends his time of the witness stand convincing the jury that age is really just a number, but we can see all his passionate speeches are really lines he's reading. Gasp - Alfred Pratt, a swindler?! 

            Sir Arthur takes Jessica to a German restaurant where he has somehow arranged for the exact music, food, and wine from the three days they spent together in Toronto. She is (understandably) confused and refuses to partake in the nostalgia, because she still doesn't remember anything about Sir Arthur's magic life-changing three days. Disappointed, he implores Jessica to come to court the next day dressed in an old-lady bonnet, because her grande dame attire is only helping Alfred's case. But since when has any of Katharine Hepburn's characters ever done what a man told her to do?

            In her atrocity of historical costuming (1911 who?) Jessica takes the stand, denouncing everything and playing the veteran-of-the-stage part to perfection. In short, it's everything Sir Arthur told her not to do and more. She makes such a fuss about Sir Arthur asking for her age that security drags her out of the courtroom in a cloud of feathers. Meanwhile, Sir Arthur falls asleep in court and has a bizarre hallucination of several Jessicas reciting theater monologues. Is it all over for the case? Nope! Jessica's performance has worked! The jury votes in her favor and she wins the suit and the £50,000. How? ...Beats me.

            After the verdict, Sir Arthur finds Jessica. They discuss what happened, and - plot twist! - Jessica remembers those three days in Toronto that make up Sir Arthur's entire will to live. He's ecstatic, and they reenact the exact conversation they had back then, which makes you think maybe she'd been faking memory loss this whole time. In which case, she should have just admitted it and spared us two hours of Sir Arthur's suffering. But either way, they've found it - love among the metaphorical ruins.

            I'll watch Katharine Hepburn in anything, but even she couldn't save whatever this movie was trying to be. Was it a love story? Then how come the entire romance was born out of a sudden reversal of amnesia? Was it a courtroom drama? Then why on earth was Sir Arthur's whole defense based on his long-lost three days of love with the defendant? Watch it for yourself and maybe you'll be able to tell me. Love Among the Ruins won seven Primetime Emmys and is generally highly regarded, so it's possible I'm in the minority of non-enjoyers. But hey - not every movie's for everyone. If any part of my highly sarcastic review sparked your interest, give it a try! Like always, thanks for reading, and check out the other reviews in the Classic Movie Blog Association's lovely blogathon!


  1. This one doesn't sound quite like my cup of tea, although I would like to check it out to see if I agree with you. I wonder if it won so many awards simply because voters were in awe of these highly respected and beloved stars. I will look for it! Thank you for participating in the blogathon, Maeve!

    1. Yes, I'm sure that's part of the reason! Thank you for reading and for such a fun blogathon!

  2. Love the humor here, especially "atrocity of historical costuming." I think I'll miss this one.

  3. Oh gosh, I remember how excited the television world was when this was aired. Two of the biggest stars ever on television. It might not have been the greatest made for television movie, but just watching those 2 was truly a privilege.


Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

A Costume Analysis of Singin' in the Rain (1952)

Aah! A Shriek in the Night (1933)