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
Peerless cast, witty script gives this classic comedy of manners ageless appeal.
They say "the idle rich is the devil's playground." Well, never has the playground been more playful or fun than in "The Philadelphia Story." It's so gratifying to know that vintage movies like "The Philadelphia Story" will outlive us all. Playwright Phillip Barry certainly had an ear for sophisticated chatter and, along with "Bringing Up Baby" and "Holiday," he singlehandedly defined the term "screwball comedy" in the late 30s. And so it is fortunate for all of us that the screen adaptations of each of these classic Broadway plays are classics in their own right.
Katharine Hepburn, who starred with Cary Grant in all three of the aforementioned films, plays society prig Tracy Lord, a spoiled, temperamental rich girl who owns a will of iron and a heart to match. What she wants more than life itself is to experience true love like a down-to-earth REAL person, but is she capable of it? A stormy first marriage to C.K. Dexter Haven (Grant) has not taken the wind out of her sails, so she decides to make a go of it again. Announcing her forthcoming marriage to wealthy George Kittredge, a rather staid, uptight sort, it comes off more like a match made in gold than in heaven. However, the stubborn Tracy is convinced she is in love this time.
Around to disrupt the wedding plans is Tracy's former husband, who still has feelings for her and her family, her estranged scandal-ridden father, her young, precocious sister, and a posterior-pinching uncle. Also hovering around the Lord estate is tabloid reporter Liz Imbrie and her photographer Mike Connor, assigned to cover the impending nuptials and, of course, scout out any juicy gossip.
With a deft ensemble and crisp, intuitive direction (George Cukor), the dialogue blisters with furious fun (courtesy of Oscar-winning scripter Donald Ogden Stewart), with every character having his or her chance to bask in the limelight. Hepburn, who was considered "box-office poison" at the time, revitalized her Hollywood career with "The Philadelphia Story," smartly buying the film rights to ensure her starring role. Dripping with frilly-edged sarcasm, she makes full use of her clipped Bryn Mawr speech tones. But her ultimate triumph is that her 'ice queen' demeanor never alienates the viewer. We still root for Tracy to come down to earth, rejoin the human race and live out that fairy tale ending. Cary Grant is as smooth as silk pajamas as Tracy's first husband, raring and ready to pull her off that mighty pedestal she's placed herself so high on. Synonymous with elegance and style, I doubt there is another actor who can handle martini-dry banter the way he does. He is flawless -- in a class by himself.
The real revelation, however, is Jimmy Stewart as the smitten photographer who is only too willing to keep Tracy perched on that pedestal. Stewart, who won the Oscar, breaks from his usual "aw shucks" mode to show a surprising comic range. His midnight poolside soliloquy with Kate is wondrous and lingers long after the closing credits. Completing the romantic quadrangle is the wonderful Ruth Hussey, who inherits the wisecracking Eve Arden role, the good-natured trooper who always seems to come in second man-wise. Hussey takes the ball and runs with it, giving the ripest performance of the bunch.
Additional praise must be given to Mary Nash, as Tracy's flowery, meticulous mother; young tomboy Virginia Weidler, an adroit little scenestealer, for keeping up with the big folks and offering a wickedly smart-assed rendition of "Lydia, the Tattooed Lady"; John Howard for his dour, stuffy groom-to-be and good sportsmanship as the butt of many a joke; John Halliday, who manages a couple of razor-sharp scenes as Hepburn's reproaching father, and Roland Young, who played Cosmo Topper in the delightful "Topper" film series, for adding his typical brand of bemused merriment as lecherous Uncle Willy.
From the opening classic bit with Hepburn and Grant squaring off to the church altar denouement, "The Philadelphia Story" provides a wealth of entertainment. It's a rare, rich package even the Lord family can't buy!
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