The Philadelphia Story

1940

The Philadelphia Story

Critics Consensus

Offering a wonderfully witty script, spotless direction from George Cukor, and typically excellent lead performances, The Philadelphia Story is an unqualified classic.

100%

TOMATOMETER

Total Count: 58

93%

Audience Score

User Ratings: 47,096
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Movie Info

Set among the upper class in 1930s Philadelphia, this irreverent classic romantic comedy features radiant performances by three legendary stars. On the eve of her marriage to an uninteresting man, a headstrong socialite jousts verbally with her charming ex-husband, drinks too much champagne, and flirts outrageously with a handsome reporter.

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Cast

Cary Grant
as C.K. Dexter Haven
James Stewart
as Macauley Connor
John Howard
as Kittredge
Roland Young
as Uncle Willie
Mary Nash
as Margaret
Henry Daniell
as Sidney Kidd
Rex Evans
as Thomas
Hilda Plowright
as Librarian
Lita Chevret
as Manicurist
Lee Phelps
as Bartender
Claude King
as Willie's Butler
Robert de Bruce
as Dr. Parsons
Dorothy Fay
as Mainliner
Helene Whitney
as Mainliner
Hillary Brooke
as Mainliner
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News & Interviews for The Philadelphia Story

Critic Reviews for The Philadelphia Story

All Critics (58) | Top Critics (12)

  • Miss Hepburn, as a comedienne, is perhaps a greater star than she ever was at any prior cinema period, as a serious actress. This comes near being her champion achievement.

    Apr 22, 2019 | Full Review…
  • This frothy theatre adaptation dates from the period when Hollywood had pretty much perfected the art of the romantic comedy.

    Feb 17, 2015 | Rating: 4/5 | Full Review…

    Wendy Ide

    Times (UK)
    Top Critic
  • Still a sparkling delight.

    Feb 13, 2015 | Rating: 4/5 | Full Review…
  • Utterly beguiling, funny and romantic ...

    Feb 12, 2015 | Rating: 5/5 | Full Review…
  • The film is a Hepburn triumph, and moviegoers who resent the theatre's habit of requisitioning their stars may feel that Miss Hepburn's time on the stage has not been spent in vain and that she simply prepared herself for this achievement.

    Dec 16, 2013 | Full Review…
  • In short, The Philadelphia Story lifts the daily drudge into a charming never-never land, with complete footnotes excusing its existence. And besides, it's a good, entertaining show.

    Apr 23, 2009 | Full Review…
    TIME Magazine
    Top Critic

Audience Reviews for The Philadelphia Story

  • Mar 06, 2018
    What a delightful movie this is - loaded with star power, clever dialog, and a script that keeps us guessing. The first scene, where Cary Grant is shown leaving his wife Katharine Hepburn with no words spoken, sets the tone. As Hepburn plans to remarry, Grant seeks to get revenge on her by sneaking a reporter (Jimmy Stewart) and photographer (Ruth Hussey) into her home on the wedding weekend. Stewart is brilliant in the role from beginning to end. He's upset over being there in the first place, as he's a serious writer who has been asked to write a trashy tabloid story, and he's not a big fan of the well-to-do either. The scene early on where he examines the silver, thinking he's alone, and is confronted by the butler, is hilarious. Later he dials up another room within the home at random and says "This is the bridal suite, would you send up a couple of caviar sandwiches and a bottle of beer?" When asked who he is, he then says "This is the voice of Doom calling. Your days are numbered 'til the seventh son of the seventh son," before hanging up. He has other comic scenes early on, including asking the librarian "Dost thou have a washroom?" after sensing her formality. I just loved how the film wrong foots us, as we expect it to go in a direction of these two being undercover spies with all sorts of similar antics throughout the weekend. Instead, Hepburn immediately sees through the ruse, and proceeds to hilariously torture the pair with questions of her own. Along the way an uncle will be assigned the identity of the father, only to have the father show up unexpectedly himself. Hepburn's much younger little sister (Virginia Weidler) is part of the fun, at one point going up to the piano with a gleam in her eye, and busting out a raucous tune: "Lydia, oh Lydia, say have you met Lydia? Oh Lydia, the tattooed lady. She has eyes that folks adore so, and a torso even more so..." Throughout all this madcap chaos, the script is fast-paced and clever. For example, in response to her mother asking if there's no privacy anymore, Hepburn quips, "Only in bed, mother, and not always there." I also loved it when she referred to the poet Li Bai at one point: "There was a Chinese poet who was drowned while trying to kiss the moon in the river. He was drunk....but he wrote beautiful poetry." More importantly, there are observations on character and love. The father (John Halliday) tries to explain an older man's attraction to a younger woman, and even though he seems like a rake, there's something to what he says. The film takes a serious turn when he and Grant both say some devastating things to Hepburn about her insensitivity, and the hurt in her reaction shows her acting prowess. With all of that said, I think it was really Jimmy Stewart who really made this movie special with two wonderful scenes. The first is where he's drunk and goes over to Grant's place, which is an absolute classic. The scene was unrehearsed, what we see was the first take, and it includes a couple of improvisations - Stewart hiccupping, and Grant quipping "Excuse me." The look in Stewart's eyes really make us feel that he's drunk, and that we're getting a glimpse at two friends (the actors themselves) having fun. In fact, the way Stewart looks at people throughout the movie - the butler, the librarian, Grant, and Hepburn - is just fantastic, and still makes me smile thinking about it. The second amazing scene is when he and Hepburn (who's also drunk) realize they're in love. "A magnificence that comes out of your eyes, in your voice, in the way you stand there, in the way you walk. You're lit from within, Tracy. You've got fires banked down in you, hearth-fires and holocausts," he says. She answers, "I don't seem to you made of bronze?", a reference to one of the cruel things that's been said to her, and he responds, "No, you're made out of flesh and blood. That's the blank, unholy surprise of it. You're the golden girl, Tracy. Full of life and warmth and delight...". When he kisses her, she emits a beautiful "golly," and later, before they dash off across the lawn, she says "put me in your pocket, Mike." It's a wonderful, romantic scene. Oh, and I should say, the lines they say to each other earlier in the evening - "Hello you... You look fine", "I feel fine" are just lovely too. It's for that reason that I have to say, I was a bit disappointed in Hepburn's choice at the end. The evening before she does say "The time to make up your mind about people is never", and it is in the spirit of a reconciliation which grows, but just doesn't feel right. Aside from her feeling the blame for her ex-husband's alcoholism (the nerve of her not understanding him better!), the real passion and chemistry is with Stewart. With that said though, it's a delightful movie, and the story behind its making and Katharine Hepburn's resurrection is a real testament to her intelligence.
    Antonius B Super Reviewer
  • May 04, 2014
    A witty romantic comedy with a refined, intelligent dialogue and sharp performances, especially Hepburn and Stewart, although I feel reluctant to accept the sexist way that it correlates a woman's strong character with her being a prig, as if humbling and taming were the same.
    Carlos M Super Reviewer
  • Feb 04, 2014
    A truly great film. Grant, Hepburn and Stewart are fantastic and it visually is laid out marvelously by George Cukor. No wonder this has been attempted on stage so many times. The original inspires.
    John B Super Reviewer
  • Dec 06, 2013
    Mid-Twentieth Century misogyny aside, its often quite hilarious and always enjoyable. Perhaps not the masterpiece it is hailed as, but I'll watch Jimmy Stewart, Carey Grant and Katherine Hepburn be witty and run around like buffoons any day.
    Alec B Super Reviewer

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