Christopher Strong

Christopher Strong

Directed by Dorothy Arzner
Tommy Atkins (assistant)
Produced by David O. Selznick
Screenplay by Zoë Akins
Based on Christopher Strong (novel)
by Gilbert Frankau
Starring Katharine Hepburn
Colin Clive
Music by Roy Webb
Cinematography Bert Glennon
Edited by Arthur Roberts
Distributed by RKO Radio Pictures (US)
Release dates
  • March 31, 1933 (1933-03-31) (US)
  • June 29, 1933 (1933-06-29) (UK[1])
Running time
78 min.
Country United States
Language English
Budget $284,000 (estimated)

Christopher Strong (aka The Great Desire and The White Moth) is a 1933 American Pre-Code film, produced by RKO and directed by Dorothy Arzner. The film starred Colin Clive and Katharine Hepburn (in her second screen role). The film is a tale of illicit love among the English aristocracy. The screenplay by Zoë Akins was adapted from the 1932 novel by Gilbert Frankau.


Lobby card for Christopher Strong

During a scavenger hunt, Lady Cynthia Darrington (Katharine Hepburn) is paired with an unlikely match. Lady Cynthia, a strong-spirited aviator, is over the age of 21 but has never had a lover nor an affair because she is too devoted to her work. In the game, she falls in love, however, with Sir Christopher Strong (Colin Clive), a member of parliament. She has an affair with him after her prize-winning around-the world flight, much to the distress of his wife, Lady Elaine (Billie Burke) and their daughter, Monica (Helen Chandler).

Christopher Strong is not the only indiscreet person in the family. Monica had previously had an affair with the married Harry Rawlinson (Ralph Forbes). While waiting for him to divorce his wife and marry her, she runs off for a brief affair with an Italian Romeo, Carlo (Jack La Rue).

Six months after Monica and Harry marry, they announce her pregnancy to her elated grandparents-to-be. Lady Cynthia simultaneously learns that she is pregnant, and saves Sir Christopher's moral position and political career by committing suicide by pulling off her oxygen mask while setting an altitude record in her aircraft.



Originally under the working title of A Great Desire, the film was intended as a vehicle for Ann Harding and Leslie Howard. Director Dorothy Arzner and playwright Zoë Akins based the character of Cynthia on British aviator Amy Johnson. In the novel, Cynthia is a racing driver. Christopher Strong represented the first opportunity for Hepburn to begin developing her screen image as an independent modern woman. This was the only time in her film career that Hepburn played the "other woman".

One of the most notable scenes in the film had Hepburn's character dressed for a costume party in a stunning, form-fitting glittering silver moth costume designed by Walter Plunkett.[Note 1] As part of the impressive production values, the musical score was by noted composer Max Steiner.[2]

Christopher Strong utilized newsreel footage of takeoffs for the around-the world Dole Air Race and the ticker tape parade celebrating Charles Lindbergh's transatlantic flight.[2] Principal photography took place from December 21, 1932 to February 3, 1933.[3]


Christopher Strong earned a slim profit and positive film reviews.[4][5] In his review for The New York Times, film critic Mourdant Hall described Christopher Strong as a star vehicle for Katharine Hepburn, "... who attracted wide attention through her efficient performance in 'A Bill of Divorcement', is the leading light in a pictorial version of Gilbert Frankau's novel, 'Christopher Strong' ... In this her first stellar rôle, Miss Hepburn is far more fortunate than several other stage actresses have been in their initial Hollywood ventures, for aside from giving her excellent opportunities to display her talent, the story is engrossing, and, furthermore, she is supported by a highly capable cast ..."[6]

The film is recognized by American Film Institute in these lists:

In popular culture

An image of Hepburn in Christopher Strong wearing her aviator's flight suit was used for the poster advertising the Led Zeppelin North American Tour 1975.[8]



  1. Hollywood fashion and costume designer Howard Greer also had an uncredited role in costume-wardrobe.


  1. "First advertisement for Christopher Strong at the Plaza." The Times (Times Digital Archive), June 29, 1933.
  2. 1 2 Landazuri, Margarita. "Articles: 'Christopher Strong' (1933)." Turner Classic Movies. Retrieved: May 18, 2015.
  3. "Original print information: 'Christopher Strong' (1933)." Turner Classic Movies. Retrieved: May 18, 2015.
  4. Harrison March 25, 1933, p. 47.
  5. Variety film review, March 14, 1933, p. 14.
  6. Hall, Mourdant. "Movie review: 'Christopher Strong' (1933); Katharine Hepburn and Colin Clive in a film of a Gilbert Frankau novel." The New York Times, March 10, 1933.
  7. "AFI's 100 Years...100 Passions Nominees" (PDF). Retrieved 2016-08-18.
  8. Lewis and Pellett 1997, p. 103.


  • Harrison, P.S. Harrison's Reports 1932–1934. Studio City California: Players Press, 1987. ISBN 978-0-9136-1615-4.
  • Lewis, Dave and Simon Pallett. Led Zeppelin: The Concert File. London: Omnibus Press, 1997. ISBN 0-7119-5307-4.

External links

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