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Cary Grant, Katharine Hepburn, James Stewart, Ruth Hussey, John Howard, Roland Young, John Halliday, Virginia Weidler, Mary Nash, Henry Daniell, Hillary Brooke. Talky but brilliant adaptation of Philip Barry's hit Broadway comedy about society girl who yearns for down-to-earth romance; Grant is her ex-husband, Stewart a fast-talking reporter who falls in love with her. Entire cast is excellent, but Stewart really shines in his offbeat, Academy Award winning role. Donald Ogden Stewart's script also earned an Oscar. Later musicalized as HIGH SOCIETY.
Reviewed 6.1.19 Perhaps the best of the 'comedy of remarriage' genre. Crazy to think that as late as the 1940's, American movies were not permitted to depict extramarital affairs. My how times have changed. It's also noteworthy that Katherine Hepburn's character being aggressively pushed in the face to the ground by her husband is actually a comedic point of reference. Yikes. Those "that's how it was then" observances aside, The Philadelphia Story is a thoroughly pleasant viewing experience.
Jimmy Stewart's only Oscar-winning performance is a hoot, displaying a range of emotion from disdain to goofy, but in a likable manner all his own. After a successful Broadway run in the same role, Hepburn is sharp as Tracy Lord, a wealthy socialite that learns love isn't about being worshipped, it's about opening up. As her wedding day approaches, pesky Mike Connor (Stewart) and Ruth Hussey (wonderful as Liz Imbrie) track her every move for an unwelcome tabloid spread. And C.K. Dexter Haven (Grant) finds joy in stirring the emotional pot.
It's at once old-fashioned but also feels fresh, given Donald Ogden Stewart's Academy Award winning script. A mash-up of romantic comedy tropes of the past, with a dash of what they would become in the future. Both staid and playful, in an envelope-pushing way for the time period. For those that like to connect the creative dots of film history, The Philadelphia Story is on the line.
This is my favorite movie of all time! CK Dexter haaaaven
A pretty bizzare story when we look at it through today's lens but some great performances by some legends of the time.
A film you remember as a classic. An attempt was made to re-make this movie in the 1950s, but they wisely renamed it knowing it would never compare favorably to the original.
One of the things I love most about the Criterion Collection is how it provides the means and reasonable excuse to take a respite from the blockbusters that dominate popular culture. Their commitment to providing the discerning cinephile with examples of the most illuminating and enjoyable examples of cinema as a creative means of artistic expression. From the classic film presentation of the genic embodied by the works of William Shakespeare to the definitive gangster movies of the forties and creature flicks of the fifties, the Criterion Collection has continually stood out as a place to enjoy the creativity of the best auteurs whoever peered through a lens. Frequently. When I receive a new member of the illustrious list for review, it is a film I may not have seen for many years if ever at all. Most recently this was the case with 'The Philadelphia Story.' Released in 1940 by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM), it was a part of Hollywood's contribution to the war effort. Film at that time played he invaluable service of helping to keep morale up, and people hopeful. Typically, this was done in one of two ways. Dramas, mysteries, and thrillers reinforced the jingoistic confidence that our morally right cause will prevail. The popular alternative was to offer a distraction from rationing, battles occupying headlines on every newspaper and radio broadcast. This movie possesses a timeless quality that is derived from superior writing, exemplary direction, and performances from a cast of iconic performers. It will be of interest to fans of that most popular of date movies, the romantic comedy. Aficionados of the rom-com are certain to be fascinated by comparing a rom-com with modern stars, for example, Katherine Heigl and an actress from the golden age of Hollywood, Katharine Hepburn. Among the most obvious differences is that Ms. Hepburn was accomplished in a broad variety of genres. She is just one member of an amazing actor, each one worthy of their A-List status.
The Lord family has held a prominent position in Philadelphia society for as far back as that illustrious lineage extended. The eldest daughter Tracy (Katharine Hepburn)), had been married to wealthy yacht designer, C.K. Dexter Haven (Cary Grant). Although he was on par socially, the marriage encountered irreconcilable differences and the couple divorced. Younger members of the audience are admonished to keep in mind that at that time divorce was infrequent and had serious, negative social stigma associated. The extreme action was undertaken as C.K. was unable to maintain the exacting standards of conduct demanded by the Lord family. He had a penchant for a drink which was exacerbated by the family's constant pressure to quit. After permitting a suitable couple of years to pass Tracy was engaged to George Kittredge (John Howard). A match was technically suitable as George did come from an affluent family, but it was tainted but the social faux pas of being nouveau riche and being popular among the common throng. True wealth, derived from money inherited through generations, never lowered themselves to associate with the lower caste. The need to be explicated stated wasn't necessary, but the audience would understand that a divorced woman would be unsuitable for the most desirable young men topping the social register. Still, George's popularity with the people was certain to turn the nuptials into a media circus.
'Entertainment news' and paparazzi are now a new contrivance, they have existed for as long as one group of people were held in higher esteem and bestowed with elevated social status. If this story were told today, the next player in the tale would be held by TMZ or 'E! News'. In the forties, the primary source of innuendo, rumors, blind headlines, and gossip were the Hollywood fan magazines. The commitment to journalistic integrity and the veracity of their sources were secondary to obtaining the scoop and increasing distribution. The dubious representative of the fourth estate in this story is a gossip magazine Spy. Its publisher, Sidney Kidd (Henry Daniell), is anxious beat out the competition by securing the location and other details of the pending nuptials. To this end, he assigns reporter Macaulay "Mike" Connor (James Stewart) and photographer Liz Imbrie (Ruth Hussey). The requisite twist that drives the confusion of the genre, the secret identity reveal, mistaking one individual for another, to a contrived plot to purposely deceive. The chosen plot contrivance utilized here is the unknown job. When a character is engaged in a job or career that potentially compromises the core relationship.
As George is from new money, he was still in need of a job, if not for the essentials of life than for something to occupy the endless hours of prosperous tedium. He had been working for Spy in South America and is to introduce Mike and Liz into the venue. Many movie genres have undergone some changes in the defining criteria, but the venerable romantic comedy has endured largely unaltered. The fundamental formula is bringing the couple together, induce the same relationship threatening stressor or deception and pull them back together. This movie initially premiered over seventy-five years ago. The romcoms enjoyed when this audience's grand or even great grandparents were dating. Terms such as iconic are tossed about, but not many categories of the film were so well defined three-quarters of a century ago. The plot concocted by George is to introduce Mike and Liz as friends of Tracy's brother Junius, who is a U.S. diplomat in Argentina. Tracy expresses her refusal to be complicit. George threatens to release a salacious story exposing her father, Seth's (John Halliday), affair with a dancer. His cheating, while not publicly known, had been the cause of Tracy's parents sleeping in different bedrooms.In the current proliferation of divorce much of the stigma has been ameliorated, but in the forties, u=it was admitting to an intrinsic failure often perceived as a character flaw. For the social elite, it was certain to diminish the family ranking considerably. What is fascinating, from the vantage point of a new millennium, is to examine how its possible to present so many identical tropes, circumstances, and archetypes with the context of such dissimilar societal norms and moral restrictions. Arguably a case can be made the romantic comedy is firmly based on the inherent facets of human nature that it can resist the vagaries of changes in social structure over long periods of time. Tracy relents allowing the reporter and photographer to remain.
Right on cue, the audience is pulled into cinematic geometry as the sides of the mandatory romantic triangle is formed. Tracy discovers a book of short stories written by Mike finder herself enamored by him. On the night before the ceremony Tracy gets drunk, only the second time she has been in a state of inebriation. The diminished self-control resulted in a midnight swim with Mike. A modern romcom, even one with a mild rating of PG-13, would inevitably be highly suggestive of some inappropriate state of undress. This is one aspect of movies that have suffered from the greater contextual freedom. With the strict Hayes Code of 1930 in full effect, even the hint of such impropriety was unthinkable. The filmmaker had to be cleaver in getting adult themes across to the audience while eschewing any hint of adult content. The director of the perennial classic was George Cukor, the master of movie romance in its multitude of forms. Besides the comedic format Mr. Cukor made his mark in the romantic drama, 'A Star is Born (1954) and the musical, 'My Fair Lady (1964). He received five Academy Award nominations over the course of his career winning Best Director for 'My Fair Lady.' The romantic comedy may currently be considered on a lower tier than other movies, but a film like this provide proof of their lasting contribution to the art form.
bullet New 4K digital restoration, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack
bullet Audio commentary from 2005 featuring film scholar Jeanine Basinger
bullet New introduction to actor Katharine Hepburn s role in the development of the film by documentarians David Heeley and Joan Kramer
bullet In Search of Tracy Lord, a new documentary about the origin of the character and her social milieu
bullet Two full episodes of The Dick Cavett Show from 1973, featuring rare interviews with Hepburn, plus an excerpt of a 1978 interview from that show with director George Cukor
bullet Lux Radio Theatre adaptation of the film from 1943, featuring an introduction by filmmaker Cecil B. DeMille
bullet Restoration demonstration
bullet An essay by critic Farran Smith Nehme
The Philadelphia Story Review
The Philadelphia Story is a brilliant rom com. It's smart, funny, emotional, romantic and so much more. Much of this comes from its brilliant screenplay (its Oscar win was well deserved) and the actors who make it come to life. The story is a creative twist on classic tropes (for example, rather than a love triangle it has an odd love polygon, featuring three potential suitors competing for Katharine Hepburn's Tracy Lord and a sub-triangle surrounding James Stewart's Macaulay Connors), the dialogue is clever and witty, and the humor works extremely well. It is a wild, fast-paced joyride of a film, but it manages to never get the audience lost along the way, even through multiple faked identities and misunderstandings among the characters.
Much of the credit for the success of The Philadelphia Story goes to the actors. Its central figures are played Katharine Hepburn, James Stewart, and Cary Grant, all undeniable titans of filmmaking. The manic pacing of the film presents a challenge to these actors, as they need to be over the top to meet the demands of the script, but going too far makes the film hokey and unbelieveable. Luckily, the film delivers on the promise of its billing, with each of the three leads delivering a stellar performance. The film is also stocked with scene stealing supporting players such as Ruth Hussey, Roland Young, and Virginia Weidler, each one adding to the merits of an already excellent film.
The Philadelphia Story fits into a number of subgenres. While it is most associated the remarriage subgenre, in which a divorced couple rediscovers love, much to the chagrin of their current romantic partners (ex. His Girl Friday), but it also fits into the wedding subgenre in which one of the romantic leads is about to get married to another person and the other lead has to break up the wedding (ex. The Wedding Singer, Made of Honor), and the journalism subgenre, in which one of the romantic leads is tasked with writing a story about the other and in doing so falls in love (ex. It Happened One Night, 27 Dresses). Ultimately, this subgenre transcendence reflects one of the more fascinating traits of The Philadelphia Story: it is a conglomeration of a number of classic rom com themes. It explores the relationship between social class and romance, definitions of manhood and masculinity, the validity of marriage, and female sexual agency, to name a few. Dealing with so many issues often could dilute each of them; however, the confused and manic nature of the film makes this compounded exploration of issues successful. The hectic pace implies that all of these anxieties coming up at once is in itself an anxiety unto itself.
To the extent that The Philadelphia Story doesn't get the attention it deserves, it can only be attributed to the fact that it is often overshadowed by its central player's other output. Each of the three leads was incredibly successful both before and after The Philadelphia Story, collectively appearing in films such on the level of Bringing up Baby, His Girl Friday, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, It's a Wonderful Life, Vertigo, North by Northwest, and Guess Who's Coming to Dinner, to only name films from the top of my head. However, The Philadelphia Story is a phenomenal achievement and not one to be missed.
With three of the most iconic stars of their time, The Philadelphia Story manages to be sweet, but quite funny in marriage.
A memorable mashup of talented 1940s Hollywood A-listers in front of the same camera, this pulls through with its classic love triangle and witty humor.
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.