A young man falls in love with a girl from a rich family. His unorthodox plan to go on holiday for the early years of his life is met with skepticism by everyone except for his fiancée's eccentric sister and long suffering brother.
Philadelphia socialites Tracy Lord and C.K. Dexter Haven married impulsively, with their marriage and subsequent divorce being equally passionate. They broke up when Dexter's drinking became excessive, it a mechanism to cope with Tracy's unforgiving manner to the imperfect, imperfections which Dexter admits he readily has. Two years after their break-up, Tracy is about to remarry, the ceremony to take place at the Lord mansion. Tracy's bridegroom is nouveau riche businessman and aspiring politician George Kittredge, who is otherwise a rather ordinary man and who idolizes Tracy. The day before the wedding, three unexpected guests show up at the Lord mansion: Macaulay Connor (Mike to his friends), Elizabeth Imbrie - the two who are friends of Tracy's absent brother, Junior - and Dexter himself. Dexter, an employee of the tabloid Spy magazine, made a deal with its publisher and editor Sidney Kidd to get a story on Tracy's wedding - the wedding of the year - in return for Kidd not ... Written by
After Katharine Hepburn was one of a group of stars dictated "box office poison" by the ruling moguls of Hollywood she went east and scored a complete triumph on stage with The Philadelphia Story. But our Kate was the shrewd one, she had the foresight to buy the film rights from author Philip Barry and peddle them to the studio that would guarantee her repeating her stage role and giving her creative control.
On stage she had co-starred with Joseph Cotten, Van Heflin, and Shirley Booth all of whom became movie names later on, but meant nothing to Hollywood in 1940. She had the choice of leading men and cast in their places, Cary Grant, James Stewart and Ruth Hussey.
This was Grant's fourth and final appearance on screen with Hepburn. It's a typical Cary Grant part, witty and urbane, with a touch of the rogue in him. He's Hepburn's ex-husband, still very much in love with his ex-wife, but she's marrying stuffed shirt John Howard.
Reporter James Stewart and photographer Ruth Hussey are covering Hepburn's wedding for Spy Magazine, the National Enquirer of the day. Through a little judicious blackmail they're invited to this premier society wedding, but both feel out of place and used.
After The Philadelphia Story, Katharine Hepburn was a movie name the rest of her long life. Even with an occasional clinker no one ever questioned her about being box office poison.
James Stewart won the Best Actor Oscar in probably the most romantic he was ever on the screen. A lot felt it was a consolation Oscar for not winning it for Mr. Smith Goes to Washington in 1939. Stewart himself proclaimed to all who'd listen that he voted for good friend Henry Fonda in the Academy Sweepstakes for The Grapes of Wrath. I've always felt that when Stewart talked about those hearth fires banked down low to Hepburn, he was really talking about himself. He's a cynical fellow at first and his romantic side comes as a surprise to him more than even the audience.
The Philadelphia Story has become such a classic that even the musical remake High Society doesn't try to copy it, it just presents a softer musical alternative. But I'd kind of liked to have seen Hepburn do this with her original cast as well. Oscars were in the future for Van Heflin and Shirley Booth and Joseph Cotten the following year made his debut in the biggest film of all.
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