© www.carygrant.net


The Ultimate Cary Grant Pages - www.carygrant.net

"The Philadelphia Story"

Click here to purchase "The Philadelphia Story"Purchase 
"The Philadelphia Story"

Foto Gallery
Sound Gallery

Visit the 'Philadelphia Story' Foto Gallery

Character's Name: C. K. Dexter Haven
Release Date:  December 26, 1940
Director: George Cukor
Studio:  Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
Running Time: 111 minutes

Cast: Cary Grant (C.K. Dexter Haven), Katharine Hepburn (Tracy Lord), James Stewart (Macauley Connor), Ruth Hussey (Elizabeth Imbrie), John Howard (George Kittredge), Roland Young (Uncle Willie), John Halliday (Seth Lord), Mary Nash (Margaret Lord), Virginia Weidler (Dinah Lord), Henry Daniell (Sidney Kidd), Lionel Pape (Edward), Rex Evans (Thomas)

- by Zoë Shaw
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 divorce.

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 events.

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, you're beautiful".

VARIETY 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 finale.

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, 1940.  

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 - including us.

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
THE PHILADELPHIA 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 Philadelphia Story"

Click here to read Jenny's Crackpot Reviews at the Cary Grant Shrine

<< Back to Reviews |  Top of Page

© www.carygrant.net 1997-2013
web design by Debbie Dunlap - www.debbiedunlap.com