- by Zoë
Tracy Lord throws out her
husband C.K. Dexter Haven soon after they get married. Tracy plans to marry
again, but Dexter arrives at her home the day before the wedding with a
writer (Mike Connor) and photographer (Liz Imbrie) from "Spy"
magazine. He is determined to spoil the wedding.
- by Donna Moore
The film opens with Tracy Lord throwing C. K. Dexter Haven
out of the house, breaking one of his golf clubs over her knee in the process. He responds
by putting his hand on her face and pushing her over. This is a superb opening scene and
if you don't want to keep watching after that I'd be surprised! Two years later, it is the
eve of Tracy's wedding to George Kittredge, a self made man and wannabe politician.
Enter ex-husband Dexter who agrees to help Sidney Kidd,
editor of Spy Magazine, introduce two reporters into the high society wedding. Kidd has
otherwise threatened to expose Tracy's father's dalliance with an exotic dancer. The two
reporters are Macaulay Connor (Mike), a writer who thinks the upper class are all
worthless; and Liz Imbrie the photographer, who is in love with Mike.
Tracy has apparently divorced Dexter because of his
drinking. "I thought it was for life but the nice judge gave me a full pardon",
she says in one of their fiery exchanges. However, throughout the film we are shown Tracy
as a very aloof and cold person. Dexter says that she is generous to a fault, "except
to other people's faults" and it emerges that this failing is the real reason for the
That night Tracy, who usually never drinks, starts on the
champagne as if it were going out of fashion. Mike, who has also had too much to drink,
ends up going for a swim with Tracy at which point the alcohol really hits her. He carries
her back to the house where they are met by Dexter and George in the early hours of the
morning. Needless to say, George immediately thinks the worst. So does Tracy the next
morning when she wakes with an enormous hangover and no memory of the previous night's
However, Mike eventually reveals to George that the affair
consisted only of "two kisses and a rather light swim". "Why, was I so
unattractive?" bridles Tracy. Tracy decides not to marry George, because he has
assumed that she has had an affair with Mike. The Wedding March starts as the groom exits
stage left. What happens next? Well, let's just say, there's still a happy ending!
This film is a joy to watch, the dialogue is magic,
especially between Dexter and Tracy. The acting is spot on, Cary excels as the suave,
debonair and unruffled Dexter, Hepburn is perfect as the ice goddess who melts into a
human being and Jimmy Stewart's drunk is hilarious.
Oh my, I wish I was Tracy Lord as Cary tells her "Red,
Film Review - November 27, 1940
- by "Herb"
- submitted by Barry Martin
Determined to be faithful until it hurts, Metro virtually
transplanted the stage of the Shubert theatre (N.Y.) to the Coast,
turned a camera on 'The Philadelphia Story' and let go.
Result - up to a certain point - is a slick picture. At the
point itself, which covers roughly reels four to six inclusive,
there's a bog of abstractions. Gait, however, is soon
recaptured and the film romps home a winner.
It's definitely not a celluloid
adventure for wee lads and lassies and no doubt some of the
faithful waters-out for other people's souls are going to have a
word about that. Even the famed swimming pool episode, which
caused some tsk-tsking and brow-hiking on Broadway, has been
boldly reproduced in Donald Ogden Stewart's screenplay of Philip
Barry's legit hit. So has Uncle Willie's wolfy habit of
pinching pretty young ladies' derrieres.
All of which, in addition to a generous
taste of socialite quaffing to excess and talk of virtue, easy and
uneasy, makes 'The Philadelphia Story' a picture every suburban
mamma and poppa must see - after Junior and little Elsie Dinsmore
are tucked away. Producer Joe Mankiewicz has tossed in the
works to turn out as sophisticated a picture as Mr. and Mrs.
Know-what-it's-all-about are likely to see.
The smarties are going to relish
'Philadelphia Story' a lot more than the two-bit trade; they're
going to get a boot out of catching on to such subtleties as
photog Ruth Hussey's crack to reporter Jimmy Stewart after he's
been neatly put in his place by Cary Grant: 'Here's a
handkerchief. There's spit in your eye and it shows.'
A number of such are, no doubt, going to pass 'em by.
It's Katharine Hepburn's picture
just as it was her show, but with as fetching a lineup of thesp
talent as is to be found, she's got to fight every clever line of
dialog all the way to hold her lead. Pushing hard is little
Virginia Weidler, the kid sister, who has a twinkly an eye with a
fast quip as a blinker light. Ruth Hussey is another from
whom director George Cukor has milked maximum results to get a
neat blend of sympathy-winning softness under a python-tongued
smart-aleckness. As for Cary Grant, James Stewart and Roland
Young there's little be be said that past reputation hasn't
established. John Howard, John Halliday and Mary Nash, in
lesser roles, more than adequately fill in what Barry must have
dreamt of when he wrote the play.
For Miss Hepburn this is something
of a screen comeback. Whether it means she has reestablished
herself in pictures is something that can't be said from this
viewing for she doesn't play in 'The Philadelphia Story'; she is
'The Philadelphia Story.' The perfect conception of all
flighty but characterful Main Line socialite gals rolled into one,
the story without her is almost inconceivable. Just the
right amount of beauty, just the right amount of disarray in
wearing clothes, just the right amount of culture in her voice -
it's no one but Hepburn.
Story is localed in the very social
and comparatively new (for Philly, 1860) Main Line sector in the
suburbs of Quakertown. Miss Hepburn, divorced from Grant, a
bit of rather useless uppercrust like herself, is about to marry a
stuffed-bosom man of the people, John Howard. Grant, to keep
Henry Daniell, publisher of the mags Dime and Spy (Time and Life,
get it?) from running a scandalous piece about Miss Hepburn's
father, Halliday, agrees to get a reporter and photog into the
Hepburn household preceding and during the wedding. Stewart
and Miss Hussey are assigned and Grant, whose position as
ex-husband is rather unique in the mansion, manages to get them in
under a pretext.
Everyone, nevertheless, knows why
Stewart and Miss Hussey are there and the repartee is swift.
Night before the wedding, everyone gets well steeped in champagne
and a number of things happen. Among them Miss Hepburn and
Stewart raise an infatuation and somewhere around 5 a.m. go
swimming in the family pool. They come back to meet fiancée
Howard, who will scarcely believe it was just a dunk they were
after and the marriage is washed up, leading to a hilarious
When the acid tongues are turned on
at beginning and end of the film it's a laugh-provoker from way
down. When the discussion gets deep and serious, however, on
the extent of Miss Hepburn's stone-like character, the verbiage is
necessarily highly abstract and the film slows to a toddle.
Discussion of Miss Hepburn's virginity despite her marriage to
Grant should season the talk somewhat, but it doesn't.
Picture is dressed like only Metro
can do it. Sets will get no squawks from Philadelphians,
catching not only the appearance, but the spirit of the Main Line
in sufficient quantity to make a native homesick. Franz
Waxman has provided a sparse score nicely filling the gaps to
sharpen the dialog.
Film will play a few dates in
December, but will be held for general release until Jan. 10, as
the agreement with the Theatre Guild, which produced the legiter,
forbids distribution before then. That's to prevent conflict
with the show, which is on the road again after a summer layoff
during which Miss Hepburn worked in the picture. Play
uncorked in New York March 28, 1939, and ran until March 30,
NEW YORK TIMES Film Review -
December 27, 1940
- by Bosley Crowther
- submitted by Barry Martin
All those folks who wrote Santa
Claus asking him to send them a sleek new custom-built comedy with
fast lines and the very finest in Hollywood fittings got their
wish just one day late with the opening of "The Philadelphia
Story" yesterday at the Music Hall. For this present, which
really comes via Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, has just about everything
that a blue-chip comedy should have - a witty, romantic script
derived by Donald Ogden Stewart out of Philip Barry's successful
play; the flavor of high-society elegance, in which the patrons
invariably luxuriate, and a splendid cast of performers headed by
Katharine Hepburn, James Stewart and Cary Grant. If it doesn't
play out this year and well along into next they should turn the
Music Hall into a shooting gallery.
It has been a long time since
Hollywood has spent itself so extravagantly, and to such
entertaining effect, upon a straight upper-crust fable, an
unblushing apologia for plutocracy. Money and talent are mostly
going these days into elaborate outdoor epics and rugged
individualist films. It is like old times to see one about the
trials and tribulations of the rich, and to have Miss Hepburn
back, after a two-year recess, as another spoiled and willful
daughter of America's unofficial peerage, comporting herself
easily amid swimming pools, stables and the usual appurtenances of
a huge estate.
For that is what she is - and does
- in the Messrs. Stewart's and Barry's pleasant dissertation upon
a largely inconsequential subject, that subject being the
redemption of a rather priggish and disagreeable miss. The writers
have solemnly made her out as a frigid and demanding sort of
person - one of "a special class of American females; the
married maidens" - who has divorced her first husband and is
preparing to take unto herself another simply because she doesn't
understand her own psyche. But an amusing complication, whereby an
ink-smeared journalist and a girl photographer turn up to
"cover" her wedding for a "snoop" magazine
leads to a strange exposure of her basic hypocrisy, and she
remarries the proper man to the proper effect.
Truthfully, the psychology of the
story is a specious as a spiel, and, for all the talk about the
little lady being "a sort of high priestess to a virgin
goddess," etc., she is and remains at the end of what most
folks would call a plain snob. But the way Miss Hepburn plays her,
with the wry things she is given to say, she is an altogether
charming character to meet cinematically. Some one was rudely
charging a few years ago that Miss Hepburn was "box-office
poison." If she is, a lot of people don't read labels -
But she isn't the only one who
gives a brilliant performance in this film. James Stewart, as the
acid word-slinger, matches her poke for gibe all the way and
incidentally contributes one of the most cozy drunk scenes with
Miss Hepburn we've ever seen. Cary Grant, too, is warmly congenial
as the cast-off but undefeated mate, and Ruth Hussey, Virginia
Weidler, Roland Young and Mary Nash add much to the merriment.
Provided you have a little patience
for the lavishly rich, which these folk are, you should have great
fun at "The Philadelphia Story." For Metro and Director
George Cukor have graciously made it apparent, in the words of a
character, that one of "the prettiest sights in this pretty
world is the privileged classes enjoying their privileges."
And so, in this instance, will you, too.
- by Kathy Fox
STORY is a sophisticated comedy/love story, which was released on January
17, 1941, at Radio City Music Hall, which happens to be 25 years prior to my
older son, Woody's, birthday in 1966. The criteria for movies must
have been different earlier, since this picture was nominated for best
picture of 1940, but was released in 1941. It was beaten out by
REBECCA which won the Oscar for best picture that year. This is Cary
Grant's 38th film and his fourth and final with Ms. Hepburn. The
director, George Cukor, directed Cary in SYLVIA SCARLETT in 1936, and
HOLIDAY in 1938, both also co-starring Ms. Hepburn. It was understood
that if Cary made THE PHILADELPHIA STORY, that he would get top billing over
Katharine, and she agreed. The role of Tracy Lord was tailor-made for
Ms. Hepburn because she had played the character on Broadway and she owned
the rights to the movie, and Ms. Hepburn was able to choose her co-stars.
Shooting began in July of 1940 and took eight weeks to finish. Mr.
Grant donated his after-tax dollars to The British War Relief Fund.
Mr. Grant plays C. K. Dexter Haven, who is divorced from Tracy Lord Haven
(Katharine Hepburn.) Dex comes back to visit his former wife, on the
weekend of her marriage to George Kittredge, played by John Howard.
Dex has come to the wedding with newspaperman, Macauley Connor (James
Stewart), and photographer Elizabeth Imbrie (Ruth Hussey), who are from SPY
MAGAZINE. It is gossip that Tracy's father is having an affair with a
Russian dancer and unless the magazine is allowed to cover the wedding, the
paper plans to expose Mr. Lord's affair. Tracy is also a very spoiled
individual and through a series of mishaps discovers that she is really
still in love with her first husband, Dex. Tracy gets drunk one
evening and her fiancée, George, suspects she has been unfaithful with
Macauley Connor. However, nothing really happened, and the couple
decides to "call it a day." Now, Tracy and Dex can be
remarried, but not before Macauley proposes to her first to save her from
embarrassment. She accepts her mistake, explains to the wedding guests
with the help of Dex, and in a twist, she and Dexter are married.
After this film was made and it was so successful, Katharine Hepburn was no
longer labeled, "box-office poison," and this sent her on her way
to resume her very successful career, which lasted over six decades.
As always, this is good role for Grant, and as we begin to see his screen
persona emerge, we can now know that he is destined to become a super-star.
Click here to read
Susanna's review of "The
Click here to read Jenny's Crackpot
Reviews at the Cary Grant Shrine
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