Monday, February 9, 2009

The Philadelphia Story (1940)

The Philadelphia Story
Director: George Cukor
USA 1940
112 min

A glorious screwball comedy containing three of the greatest movie stars: Katharine Hepburn, Cary Grant and James Stewart.
The story circles around high society Tracy Lord (Hepburn), who is soon to be re-married. But her ex-husband, C. K. Dexter Haven (Grant) wants to get even with his ex-bride and blackmails Tracy to open her unwilling arms to two reporters, Macaulay "Mike" Connor (Stewart) and Elizabeth Imbrie (Ruth Hussey), who will deliver the story of the year to Spy Magazine - Tracy Lord's wedding.
As the story goes along, people from Tracy's past and present meet and reveal uncomfortable sceletons in the closets, Tracy gets hold a truth or two about herself and starts doubting the rightness of her choices.

Scene: James Stewart is drunk and wants to have a little chat with Cary Grant in the middle of the night. (Stewart's hickups were improvised, look closely at Grant's reaction. He had trouble not to laugh, and they didn't re-shoot the scene.)

This film is one of my all-time favourites. The script is crystal clear intelligent, the dialogue quick and the actors are one with their characters. It is of no surprise to find out that the character Tracy Lord was written especially for Hepburn, and was based on her public image at that time.

Ruth Hussey in the role of Elizabeth Imbrie deserves to be mentioned. Her performance is unluckily outglanced by the three leading roles, but she is no less a sublime complement to the same. While the other three are chattering and out-witting each other, Imbrie stays one step behind and sarcasticly comments the charades.

Tracy Lord: Aren't you coming Liz?
Elizabeth Imbrie: Well, it seems I've got to commit suicide first.

Scene: A tender moment between Katharine Hepburn and James Stewart.

In June 2008 The Philadelphia Story rated #5 on the American Film Institute's of the 10 greatest films in the genre "Romantic Comedy".
James Stewart won an Oscar for Best Actor in a Leading Role, and the movie also brought home the statue for Best Writing, Screenplay (Donald Ogden Stewart). Nominated were Katharine Hepburn (Best Actress in a Leading Role), Ruth Hussey (Best Actress in a Supporting Role), George Cukor (Best Director) and Joseph L. Mankievicz (Best Picture).


C. K. Dexter Haven
: Orange juice, certainly.
Tracy Lord: Don't tell me you've forsaken your beloved whisky and whiskies.
C. K. Dexter Haven: No-no-no-no. I've just changed their colour, that's all. I'm going for the pale pastel shades now. There're more becoming of me. How about you, Mr. Connor? You drink, don't you - alcohol, I mean?
Macaulay Connor: Oh, a little.
C. K. Dexter Haven: [Amused] A little? And you a writer? Tsk, tsk, tsk. I thought all writers drank to excess and beat their wives. You know, at one time I think I secretly wanted to be a writer.
[He and Tracy exchange scornful looks]

Macaulay Connor
: This is the Bridal Suite. Would you send up a couple of caviar sandwiches and a bottle of beer?
Margaret Lord: What? Who is this?
Macaulay Connor: This is the Voice of Doom calling. Your days are numbered, to the seventh son of the seventh son.
Margaret Lord: Hello? Hello?
Tracy Lord: What's the matter?
Margaret Lord: One of the servants has been at the sherry again.

[The day after the night before.]
C. K. Dexter Haven: [looking for the "hair of the dog"] Do you s'pose, sir, speaking of eye-openers...?
Uncle Willie: Oh, that's the first sane remark I've heard today. C'malong, Dexter, I know a formula that's said to pop the pennies off the eyelids of dead Irishmen.

Tracy Lord: You haven't switched from liquor to dope, by any chance, have you Dexter?

Katharine Hepburn on set with director George Cukor.


Anonymous said...

It doesn't only feel like british, It feels like old british! The fact that you have seen alot of these movies is even starting to show in your writing.

I like it.

// BB.

Lolita said...

Big Brother:
Thank you ever so much!

The Divine Miss J said...

An amazing movie, I love Miss Hepburn in this role. She was great comedienne. I think you should do a pice on "Guess Who's Coming to Dinner", another Hepburn favorite of mine.

Keep up the good work with this blog sweetie. It helps me get through the day.

Tata Kitten

Lolita said...

The Divine Miss J:
I am deeply ashamed to tell you that I haven't yet seen that film! But I will, oh, I will.

I'm glad I can contribute to your good health!

//Your personal sex slave

C.K. Dexter Haven said...

Easily my favorite Cary Grant performance. I've never seen him so self-assured.

I'm still lamenting the fact that Jimmy Stewart didn't do more of these sophisticated roles. But we at least have this one to savor...

Lolita said...

C.K. Dexter Haven:
You could easily think that his character too was written with him in mind!

Well, I would also have been happy if he had done more of these roles rather than all those westerns, but we still have Harvey and It's a Wonderful Life!