Time to delve into the classic 1940 comedy, The Philadelphia Story, starring Cary Grant, Katharine Hepburn and James Stewart!
As Miss Tracy Lord (Katharine Hepburn) prepares to marry her second husband, George Kittredge (John Howard), her first husband, C. K. Dexter Haven (Cary Grant) arrives with a writer, Macaulay “Mike” Connor (James Stewart), and a photographer, Elizabeth Imbrie (Ruth Hussey), from SPY magazine, who are supposed to write about her wedding. As the wedding gets closer, Tracy begins to feel conflicted, with George essentially putting her on a pedestal, while Dexter and her estranged father remind her that even she has faults, and shouldn’t be so harsh with her criticisms of others.
This movie is famous for essentially being Katharine Hepburn’s big comeback movie. Apparently, partway through the thirties, she had been labeled “box office poison.” I’m not sure what film exactly caused this, although it seems like I read that maybe it was the failure of the 1935 movie Sylvia Scarlett (incidentally, also the first of the four movies in which she would be paired with Cary Grant). After a few years of mixed to dismal results, she went back to Broadway, and got a role in the play The Philadelphia Story, which was able to showcase her abilities. Howard Hughes bought the film rights and gave them to her, which allowed her the choice of director and cast (not to mention the ability to star in the movie).
I’ll admit, I’m currently coming off my second time viewing this movie (and the first in nearly a decade), but my opinion has improved over time (and seeing it restored on a recent Blu-ray release helps a little, too). The first time I saw it, I didn’t particularly care for the movie, especially since I had seen the musical remake High Society for a few years already (and enjoyed that movie very much), so being a non-musical film version was, at that time, a strike against it. The opening scene itself, as we see Dexter and Tracy separating (with him knocking her down), was also a point against it. In the time since, I’ve seen another reviewer suggesting that maybe it would work better after having seen a few of their previous screwball films together. When I first saw this movie, I don’t think I had seen much, if any, movies from either of them, but now, years later, I have seen quite a few (including two of the previous three movies they had made together). It’s still a little rough, but I can see a little more humor in it (although not as much as audiences of the time, who may have wanted to see Katharine Hepburn knocked on her keister just due to her perceived personality, which audiences didn’t like at the time).
I know I have a lot to say on this, but this is a wonderful movie, and a bona fide classic. I do very heartily recommend it to anybody interested. This movie is available on Blu-ray and DVD from Criterion Collection.
Film Length: 1 hour, 52 minutes
My Rating: 9/10
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