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The Iron Petticoat

The Iron Petticoat movie poster, starring Bob Hope and Katherine HepburnThe Iron Petticoat (1956) starring Bob Hope, Katherine Hepburn — €“ a Cold War comedy that’s short on the comedy

Synopsis of The Iron Petticoat

Set in the midst of the Cold War, Soviet pilot Vinka Kovelenko (Katherine Hepburn) defects to the West, despite her devotion to Communism, due to having been overlooked for a promotion due to her being a female.   American Air Force Major Chuck Lockwood (Bob Hope) is tasked with bringing her to embrace Capitalism.   Despite being engaged to an English heiress, Lockwood and Kovelenko begin falling in love, being in the middle of the conflict between East and West.

Review of The Iron Petticoat

It’s not that The Iron Petticoat is a terrible movie — €”but it’s not a dreadfully good one, either.   The premise is silly — €”a Soviet aviatrix who defects from the Communist USSR, because she was passed over for a promotion by a sexist superior? That Bob Hope would turn his back on a beautiful, rich English heiress in order to fall for the Soviet who has all the appeal of a cactus that’s been dipped in lemon juice?

Beyond that, there is no on-screen chemistry between the two stars, the various conflicts (the USSR trying to kidnap her back, put her on trial, and kill her, among others) seem artificial, with no real sense of danger.   I watched it recently on TCM, and I enjoyed it, but I doubt that I would have paid money to see it.

I rate The Iron Petticoat one and a half stars out of five.

Editorial review of The Iron Petticoat (1956) starring Bob Hope, Katherine Hepburn, courtesy of Amazon.com

The Iron Petticoat has been out of circulation for so long that it’s difficult to determine whether it is a long-lost classic or the unmitigated disaster many have claimed it to be. Essentially a rehash of Ninotchka, the film stars Bob Hope as Chuck Lockwood, an American military officer assigned to — €œde-Communize — € defecting Russian aviator Vinka Kovelonko (Katharine Hepburn). Meanwhile, Vinka tries to win Chuck over to the glories of the People’s Republic. The film remains on a fairly subtle comic level until its unecessarily slapsticky finale, which, in to paraphrase one reviewer, caused many film fans to completely — €œgive up Hope. — € Those who’ve seen The Iron Petticoat are astounded at how well Bob Hope and Katharine Hepburn worked together, especially since it has been well documented that the two stars were decidedly not close chums off screen. The film sparked a now-famous war of words between Hope and scriptwriter Ben Hecht, both of whom took out long, rambling trade-paper ads to lambaste each other for — €œruining — € the project.

Funny movie quotes from The Iron Petticoat

Vinka Kovelenko (Katherine Hepburn): I lost my temper!
Colonel Tarbell: At the communists?
Vinka Kovelenko (Katherine Hepburn): No, at the male sex!


Vinka Kovelenko (Katherine Hepburn): A good Communist has no subconscious!
Colonel Tarbell: That may very well be what’s wrong with them!


Colonel Tarbell: What do you think of her?
Major Chuck Lockwood (Bob Hope): Well, women in uniform bother me. I don’t know whether to kiss em’ or salute em’!


Colonel Tarbell: It doesn’t hurt to tantalize em’.
Major Chuck Lockwood (Bob Hope): Tantalize an heiress? That’s like not opening your parachute!


Major Chuck Lockwood (Bob Hope): [holding out a bottle of whiskey] I tried to get vodka, but they were out.
Vinka Kovelenko (Katherine Hepburn): Yes, I heard you Americans were on short rations.


Vinka Kovelenko (Katherine Hepburn): I should think they would send a taller man.
Major Chuck Lockwood (Bob Hope): [looks down] Well, maybe I’ll grow on you!
Vinka Kovelenko (Katherine Hepburn): You have an odd face.
Major Chuck Lockwood (Bob Hope): It came with the body. It’s a set!


Bartender: What’s your strategy, Captain?
Major Chuck Lockwood (Bob Hope): Right now, I’m torn between suicide and desertion!


[Chuck tells Vinka how he plans to talk Colonel Tarbell into letting Vinka go to London]
Vinka Kovelenko (Katherine Hepburn): Do you think the Colonel would be fooled by such a ridiculous statement?
Major Chuck Lockwood (Bob Hope): If he’ll eat Army food, he’ll swallow anything!


Vinka Kovelenko (Katherine Hepburn): It’s too dangerous!
Major Chuck Lockwood (Bob Hope): Marriage?
Vinka Kovelenko (Katherine Hepburn): Moscow! We’re going to live in Indianapolis, Indiana!