Sunday, December 2, 2012

Movie Review: The Philadelphia Story

The Philadelphia Story, MGM, 1940
Cary Grant, Katharine Hepburn, James Stewart
(^^This is me impersonating Remington Steele.)

Publicity-shy socialite Tracy Lord (Katharine Hepburn) is just a few days away from beginning her second marriage. Desperate for a story on the wedding, a celebrity gossip magazine editor contacts Tracy's first husband, C. K. Dexter Haven (Cary Grant) to try to gain access to the Lord household. Dexter shows up with a reporter, Macaulay Connor (James Stewart), who blackmails his way into being able to do a piece on Tracy's wedding. Mayhem and madness ensue, fueled by too much Champagne and too little rational thought. Eventually even the future of Tracy's marriage is in jeopardy.

The first half to three-quarters of The Philadelphia Story are incredibly screwball and I didn't much enjoy it. Hepburn and Grant engage in faster and furiouser verbal sparring, but they don't present much of the superbly witty repartee from similar movies of the period, such as His Girl Friday, starring Grant and Rosalind Russell. But as the plot progresses and Tracy begins to examine for the first time the way she chose to live her life, the movie develops into a bit of a commentary on the nature of love and honor. One particularly excellent scene occurs when a hungover Tracy is debating on marriage with her first husband on the morning of her wedding to her second husband. Unfortunately, just as the characters begin to develop, the movie ends.

One of the points made in The Philadelphia Story is that partners in a marriage must lay aside the idea their spouse will always be the ideal spouse if the marriage is to work over the long term. Tracy had impossibly high standards for Dexter, Dexter took up drinking because he couldn't live up to those standards, and Tracy filed for divorce because Dexter's drinking just proved that he was unworthy of her. Their reactions to one another made their situation worse because neither addressed the problems with their underlying expectations.

1 comment:

  1. This is one of my favorite movies! I'm glad you warmed up to it by the end. :) The movie was redone as a musical in the '60s with Grace Kelly, Bing Crosby and Frank Sinatra (Louis Armstrong also makes an appearance). It's a lot of fun too, and the songs are very catchy!