VHS / DVD
RKO Radio Pictures
Produced: July 1932-
Premiere: September 30, 1932
Feeling himself well, shellshock victim Hillary Fairfield, whose streak of latent insanity was brought out by the strain of the World War, escapes from an asylum. He returns home on the very day his wife Margaret, who has since divorced him, plans to remarry.
Mordaunt Hall - New York Times - October 3, 1932
"Miss Hepburn’s portrayal is exceptionally fine. As Sydney, before her father's arrival on the scene she is looking forward to becoming the bride of Kit Pumphrey, but as soon as she discovers that there is a strain of insanity in her fathers family she jilts Kit and encourages her mother to marry Meredith, explaining to Margaret that she will stay by her father. Miss Hepburn's characterization is one of the finest seen on the screen and the producers have been wise in not minimizing the importance of her part because Mr. Barrymore is the star of the film."
William Boehnel - New York World-Telegram - 1932
"Katharine Hepburn, who makes her screen debut here and who was last seen in New York on stage in A Warrior's Husband, gives a beautiful performance as the luckless daughter."
Richard Watts Jr. - New York Herald Tribune - 1932
"Mr. Barrymore, showing surprising restraint when you remember that he is a Barrymore playing a madman, is splendid as the escaped father, providing one of his finest cinema characterizations. Miss Billie Burke is youthful, radiant and moving in the brief role of the wife. The most effective portrayal of the film, however, is provided by Miss Katharine Hepburn, who is both beautiful and distinguished as the daughter, and seems definitely established for an important cinema career."
The New Yorker - 1932
"I liked the acting throughout; it's all very temperate and reasonable. Katharine Hepburn suggests the proper intensity without any undue trumpetings and alarums, and, with her general appearance of half Botticelli page and half bobbed-hair bandit, might well be the daughter of one of the old English families."
Alexander Bakshy – The Nation
"The film is intelligent, moving and capably acted."
The Times - London
"Miss Hepburn has a harsh, granting voice and there is a lot for her to learn, but she acts with sincerity and intelligence, and when she and Mr. Barrymore are alone together a dim reflection of the play's quality shines through the screen."
Thornton Delehanty - New York Post - 1932
"She (Hepburn) has dignity and an instinct for underplaying an emotion which are valuable as they are, in a film actress, novel. In her ability and good looks, Miss Hepburn has the making of a star. All she need is a little more familiarity with the microphone, some worthy roles and a firm determination not to let her producers exploit her as a second Garbo, second Joan Crawford, or second anything."
Photoplay - 1932
"This picture makes history, not since Greta Garbo first lashed before screen audiences has anything happened like this Katharine Hepburn."
Tom Milne - Time Out
"Skilfully canned version of Clemence Dane’s terribly dated problem play about a shellshocked WWI veteran (possibly suffering from hereditary insanity) who returns from the asylum after 15 years to find his wife planning divorce and his daughter a stranger. Full of strangled sentiments and easy options, with a rather too carefully studied performance by Barrymore. But fascinating to see Hepburn raw-boned talent already at work for her first film, and Cukor already responding to it."
What Kate had to say
What fellow actors, the director and friends had to say
"Not the least of her gifts is intelligence. In A Bill of Divorcement she was most uncertain of screen technique. But she let no one know it. She watched herself carefully, felt her way cautiously and with that picture emerged as a top-rank film star, apparently in one easy lesson....but it was hard work for her."