“Keeper of the Flame” Reunites Tracy and Hepburn for a Controversial Drama

It was January of 1943 that the moviegoing first had the opportunity to see Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn team up for the second time onscreen in Keeper of the Flame. Based on the novel by I.A.R. Wylie, the movie stars Tracy as journalist Stephen O’Malley, who is writing a biography about Richard Forrest — a patrician war hero who died in a car accident. After receiving somewhat unenthusiastic cooperation from the valiant man’s widow, he discovers some secrets that could taint the supposedly great man’s legacy…and forever impact the lives of all who knew him.

Due to the film’s big reveal — which I dare not reveal here in the interest of keeping you spoiler free — it was meant with some controversy by those who felt it was pushing forward a political agenda. But even with the sturm und drang that surrounded the film, audiences of the time still flocked to the picture. Nevertheless it is largely considered by film scholars to be the least notable collaboration between Tracy, Hepburn and their frequent director, George Cukor.

With Keeper of the Flame now available from the Warner Archive Collection, the picture’s tale of intrigue is likely to find new fans as well as stir up old debate — further proving its status as a unforgettable effort starring two legends in full possession of their artistic gifts.