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
Plays your heart strings in a masterful glissando.
That this brilliant story originated on stage is obvious. The stage requires personas of epic and electric beauty. Philadelphia Story boasts three of the brightest stars that ever burned to occupy these personas, which they do with miraculous luminance.
The play, of course, was written for Hepburn by Phillip Barry, and after over 400 performances on Broadway she cleverly bought the film rights right out from under the noses of Hollywood moguls who fancied themselves smarter than Dear Kate. This came at a time when Hepburn was tops on the list of stars who had been labeled box office poison by producers.
The dynamics between the stars are legendary. Finer actors never lived, and these are the performances of a lifetime for each of them. Stewart is funny, smoldering, passionate and moving and he has moments, many of them, of stunning brilliance in each of those emotions. Grant is his typical stilted and elegant self, funny, gracious, urbane and, yes, beautiful. And then there is Hepburn. She is breathtaking to look at, and she plays your heart strings in a masterful glissando plucking at every emotion as she moves effortlessly across her entire unmatched range.
The supporting cast is worthy of the surplus of talent that surrounds them, and offer a few unforgettable moments of their own. And the presence of George Cukor, the greatest director of women in history, and the best director of Hepburn as well, coaxes every brilliant word of the script to its full potential.
You must not miss this treasure simply because it is from another era. It depicts that era with insight and irreverence that expose it, and the rarified world of old Philadelphia Money (yes, with a capital "M") like few films of its time, or any time, could. Every time I watch this movie, and the frequency would embarrass me if I were honest about it, I love it more.
Watch it. Study it. Assimilate every second of it and your understanding and appreciation of cinema will be enriched for it. And you'll have a great time doing it!
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