Friday, July 10, 2009

The Philadelphia Story (1940)

My first Katherine Hepburn (And James Stewart) movie and it's a star-studden affair with a crackling script.

Katherine Hepburn is Tracy Lord, a Philadelphia socialite who called off her marriage with C.K. Dexter Haven (Cary Grant) two years ago and is about to marry the fairly boring George Kittredge (John Howard). However, her wedding is disrupted when Dexter returns, bringing with him two "friends" of Tracy's brother, who are in fact a writer, Macaulay "Mike" Connor (Stewart), and photographer, Elizabeth Imbrie (Ruth Hussey) from Spy magazine, trying to get the scoop on Tracy's wedding. Will she go through with the wedding? If so, who will she end up marrying?

The performances in this film are all fantastic. Hepburn is brilliant as the perfection obsessed socialite who slowly begins to climb down from her ivory tower. She gives Tracy a strength that also reflects some insecurities and fears being held deep inside her that slowly become more and more apparant as the film goes on.

Cary Grant is also in fine form as well. Before the film was made, Grant was given the choice between the two male leads, instead doing with the less showy role of Dexter, and Thank God he did. In the Screwball Kingdom, Grant is king, able to fire off dialogue like a true master, making his verbal sparring with Hepburn crackle with wit and a few dashes of venom.

James Stewart is good as well, playing his character with a bit if intellectual snobbery that allows for Tracy to have someone to relate to. Where Tracy is very critical on anyone who cannot meet her demands for perfection, Mike is a bit if a jaded snob when it comes to the upper class and as the film goes on, we see their views and ideas changing. Stewart actually won the Oscar for this film (though it is generally considered undeserved and that it was a make-up for his loss the previous year). While he isn't given a whole lot to do for the first part of the film, he becomes one of the most entertaining aspects of the film once his character gets drunk halfway through the movie.

Ruth Hussey also deserves mention for her performance as Elizabeth. She's able to see right through everything going on as well as see Mike falling in love with Tracy, but she finds comfort that Tracy is supposed to be married to someone else, thinking it will leave Mike for her. She also gets some of the best lines in the film, standing on the sidelines and offering her imput every so often.

As previously mentioned, the film crackles with wit, and there's a lot of great wordplay and dialogue between all of the characters. It also creates a love triangle that could work on all sides of it, both couples involved make sense and could work.

If I didn't already make it obvious, this is a wonderful film that deserves to be seen.

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