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Hepburn's Ferocious Comeback.
nycritic17 April 2005
Warning: Spoilers
A movie custom-made to fit the personality of an arrogant but headstrong movie star, a play with dialog that sizzles with so much ferocity that it threatens to leap out the confines of its own frame, performances that could not have and have not have been excelled ever since, THE PHILADELPHIA STORY is one of the best screwball comedies ever made and the third to pair her with Cary Grant with whom she worked so completely well. Hepburn had asked that Tracy and Gable be her leading men but looking at this film, for all the chemistry that Tracy and Hepburn ever had and all the talent Gable had for acting in comedic farce, I can't imagine either of them playing any of the two leading males that are after Tracy Lord's love. That Grant plays C. K. Dexter "Dex" Haven so perfectly well, and his opening scene with Hepburn is the stuff of movie history, only rectifies that. That Stewart embodies the essence of MaCauley Connors as if he were in fact the character just proves how strong an actor he was, and one who didn't have to resort to extreme emoting to make his point. That the three make for the most memorable romantic triangle in film history is probably an understatement.

Of course the story is old. Of course the character motivations are dated. THE PHILADELPHIA STORY belongs perpetually in its own time, the late 1930s (when it was written and performed on stage), when sensibilities towards the rich were much different than they are today. The whole bit of the society princess being humbled to become a better person is really a thinly disguised fable that tells the story of how Hepburn, who had made such a powerful debut in film with her appearance in A BILL OF DIVORCEMENT, quickly established a personality so abrasive (she wouldn't do interviews or cheesecake, it is rare to find a Hepburn picture from the 30s where she is dolled up) that it translated into box-office bomb after bomb and by 1938 she was all but washed up. Tracy Lord's return to humankind is really the story of Hepburn's return to the world of acting even if she retained her abrasiveness to her last days. And of course, who better suited for this role than Hepburn herself, who had done the role on stage and by the time Hollywood came (reluctantly) calling -- they wanted Norma Shearer, who in my opinion could have carried it off but differently -- knew the part in and out (and owned the rights to the play in a shrewd move). We can't imagine anyone else playing this role, which is why when the inevitable musical remake was made in 1956 with Grace Kelly in the lead, it misfires, and no amount of Cole Porter could save it even if it was a commercial success.

But regardless being dated, maybe too talky for some, what a movie. To see the utter craziness of the plot which backfires at least twice and creates a sense of really not knowing what will happen next (even when we know on a certain level Hepburn and Grant will wind up in each other's arms) is the stuff romantic comedy is made of. Oscar nominated in almost every major category, it won two -- Best Actor, Best Adapted Screenplay -- but over the years it's grown beyond statuettes and remains as one of the greatest films of the 20th Century.
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Dictating her own comeback
bkoganbing12 November 2005
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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Three legends in their prime
FlickJunkie-220 May 2001
This is a delightful romantic comedy about the life and loves of a high society girl. Tracy Lord (Katharine Hepburn) is about to be married to George Kittredge (John Howard), a self made man who elevated himself from the lower class. The wedding is supposed to be a private affair, but Tracy's ex-husband C.K. Dexter Haven (Cary Grant) blackmails her into letting two reporters, Macaulay Conner and Elizabeth Imbrie (James Stewart and Ruth Hussey) cover the event. What ensues is a screwball courtship for the heart of Tracy as everyone falls in love with her at once.

Director David Cukor (`Little Women', `My Fair Lady') provides a fast paced comedy with rapid-fire repartee and fosters a bubbly chemistry between the cast members, which brims with laughs. Cukor received one of his five Oscar nominations for this film and it was well deserved.

Katharine Hepburn is marvelous as the blueblood bride to be. She is a well-grounded girl who is not beyond putting on airs for show. She is simultaneously sassy and dreamy and her comic timing is superb earning her one of twelve nominations for best actress. Despite a star's billing, Cary Grant plays a supporting role as the sarcastic Dexter Haven. With his deadpan delivery, he provides the perfect foil to Hepburn and Stewart.

Even with the luminous cast, Jimmy Stewart steals the show with a comedic tour de force. His inebriated scene with Cary Grant is uproariously funny and his puppy dog wooing of Katherine Hepburn is enchanting. It is hard to believe that James Stewart only won one Oscar in his outstanding career. Though nominated five times, the only role for which he won the statue is this one, a performance that is unquestionably among his best.

This tremendous comedy brings together three screen legends at the peak of their careers. It was nominated for six Academy Awards winning two, and it was rated #51 on AFI's top 100 of the century. It is a timeless classic that is sure to please. I rated it a 10/10. See it and enjoy.
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Plays your heart strings in a masterful glissando.
budmassey5 October 2003
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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Peerless cast, witty script gives this classic comedy of manners ageless appeal.
gbrumburgh9 May 2001
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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My favourite 1940s Comedy
Calysta1 January 2000
Katharine Hepburn, my favourite actress, gives the performance of her career as Tracy Lord, a spoilt Philadelphia socialite. The movie is a triple treat, with my other two most favourite actors, Cary Grant and Jimmy Stewart, in the other lead roles, Cary as Tracy's former husband C.K Dexter Haven, and Jimmy as the peeved reporter who Kate falls in love with.

Although there has been much written about Jimmy Stewart not deserving the Oscar that year, if it was given for the Academy passing over his performance in "Mr Smith Goes to Washington", then it was well deserved. Cary Grant deserved a nomination, and Kate definitely should have taken out the prize for the year. I could be going to extremes, but I think this was definitely the movie that deserved to take home the statuette for Best Picture of 1940. I have seen both "Rebecca" and "The Grapes of Wrath", movies highly acclaimed that year, but neither has ever come close to "The Philadelphia Story".

The first time I watched it I missed not only most of the witty one-liners, but the whole point of the story. It was the first movie I watched with each of the three stars. Almost a year later after I viewed it again I couldn't believe how I could have passed over such a rare gem.

As a fourteen year old, I can't be pretentious in definitely knowing the real themes of the movie. Maybe something in the way of humility and degrees of acceptance, I'm not so sure. I have thought about it a lot, but have only reached the conclusion that it is one of those 'feel good' movies that is re-watchable. There are things about it, even close to my tenth viewing, that I am still picking up on.

Lead by Ruth Hussey and Virginia Weidler, the supporting cast of "The Philadelphia Story" is one of the finest I have seen.

With Cole Porter songs, and yet another star cast, this movie was shockingly remade into the musical "High Society" in 1956. On all accounts, Bing Crosby, Grace Kelly, Frank Sinatra and Celeste Holm cannot match the sophistication and wit of the non-musical cast. It seemed too much like recycled humour, despite its attempts to modernize an immortal story.

This movie is a slice of Old Hollywood that must not be sampled once to enjoy it. It should be taken in many times!

Rating: 10/10
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Great dialogue, great performances and a real fun, urgent pace to the material make this a delightfully fun film
bob the moo27 December 2005
It is the wedding of the year with socialite Tracy Lord due to marry George Kittredge behind closed doors, with no press allowed. However the editor of Spy Magazine is set to run an exposé of Tracy's philandering father and a New York dancer and strikes a deal with her ex husband CK Dexter Haven if he can get a couple of journalists into the wedding and the reception. Keen to get back at Tracy, Dexter agrees to help and escorts writer Mike Conner and photographer Liz Imbrie into the Lord home in the days before the wedding. With tensions high between Dexter and Tracy, everyone playing games and relationships equally confused and confusing anything could happen and surprises are in store.

Shot in about 8 weeks with a low number of takes and some impressive adlibbed and one-shot scenes this is a movie worth seeing even before you look at the cast list and the professional reviews. The plot is partly a comedy, partly a character drama and partly a romance (albeit a rather tidy one) and each aspect pretty much works in tandem with the others. The comic tension between the characters is really well written and, although it is a cliché, it does fizz and spark across the screen and is regularly hilarious and consistently a delight to the ears. With such superficial energy it would be easy to ignore the fact that it is interesting below this; specifically I liked the character of Tracy and the way that parts of the film show her character being stripped back as she in particular learns something about how she comes across, softening her character a little bit in later scenes. However to suggest that this has great depths is to give it more praise than it deserves, because it doesn't run deep and it isn't a great drama. Likewise the romance isn't a main part of it but it does still work because it is all delivered at such a fresh and funny pace that it draws you in, even to the point where I gratefully accepted the film's conclusion with a smile rather than a sneer.

The cast are a delight, but then that pretty much goes without saying, and they work with the dialogue like a surgeon uses a scalpel. In fact that is a good example because the dialogue is normally almost as sharp as said instrument. Grant may have got top billing and the big money (which he then donated away) but it is very much a shared effort between the three stars, with Grant in fact having the least showy character. If anything the film belongs to Hepburn who is a delight whether spitting back at her father with tears in her eyes or a barbed comment sliding in like a greased knife. Stewart is just as good and is reaction shots show a real comic timing, but he also gives good dialogue and he is fun. Like Stewart, Grant has a great chemistry with Hepburn, which means that he can deliver convincing tension and trade insults without undermining the ending which otherwise would have maybe been an ask too far. Hussey is good and it is easy to forget that she must have felt a bit out of her depth but it never shows in her performance. Support is roundly strong from Young, Nash, Halliday and even Weildler.

Overall this is a delightful film that is such fun and has such a good pace and spark that it is easy to buy into the weaker elements of the narrative and not only forgive them but get into them. The dialogue is sparky and funny while the delivery of same is just what the material deserved. The cast have chemistry and help inject urgency to the story that keeps it all moving forward. A wonderfully delightful film that is fun to watch and surprisingly engaging.
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One of the best Romantic Comedies
MF21018 September 2003
My Rating: ***1/2 out of ****.

The Philadelphia Story is one of the earlier Romantic Comedies. It is also one of the best. This film basically has what most romantic comedies today dont have. That would be a well-written script, Great Acting, and actually funny.

The acting is a huge strength in the film. This is called Katharine Hepburn's best role by many, while I admit she is excellent in a number of scenes, I think she tends to overact at times. Cary Grant is great here. Everyone else is Great but I believe James Stewart to be the standout. He is perfect for this role, its a flawless performance, that he deservedly won the Best Actor Oscar for.

The Script has wonderful dialogue thats delivered flawlessly by the actors. Even simple dialogue like "Isn't that awful" was delivered superbly by Katharine Hepburn. George Cukor made this project look like nothing, he made many films which were "womens films" but he does a damn good job here.

If you think Romantic Comedies of today are good, look at The Philadelphia Story and they will pale in comparison. The Philadelphia Story is a very good film and worth remembering, unlike the mediocre to crappy romantic comedies of today. The Philadelphia Story is highly recommended.
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The most sophisticated comedy ever!
Jo-772 November 1999
Firstly, let me say, that I love Kate Hepburn. She's my favourite actress, and in my opinion, she can do no wrong. For this reason, I'd probably give a good rating to every movie she made.

But 'The Philadelphia Story' really does deserve wonderful praise. It's by far the most sophisticated, and in my opinion, the greatest comedy ever made, one of Kate's greatest roles. She's absolutely hilarious as Tracy Lord, bringing perfection to the role she created on the stage a year before the film, mocking, insulting and making fun out of Jimmy Stewart and Cary Grant.

Her drunken scene with Stewart is pure magic and her mockery of him ('dear professor') is wonderful.

Grant and Stewart are fabulous, Stewart as the rough and tumble reporter infatuated with Tracy and Grant as the neglected ex- husband.

Ruth Hussey and Virginia Weidler are fantastic in supporting roles, and really add to the hilarity of the whole picture.

A funny, bouyant ride through the 1940's- I completely recommend it!
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Main Line society wedding
jotix10011 April 2005
The excellent play by Phillip Barry, is the basis for the delightful transfer to the screen. The choice of George Cukor as its director seems to have been made in heaven. Indeed, Mr. Cukor clearly understood what was needed to make this film the classic it became. George Cukor's contribution, as well of the magnificent screenplay, by Donald Ogden Stewart, make this a timeless comedy that looks as fresh today as when it was originally released.

It helps tremendously that Katherine Hepburn had played Tracy Lord on the stage and knew what made her tick. Ms. Hepburn, an actress of enormous talent, is the embodiment of this society woman. Katherine Hepburn clearly understood her character. Having come herself from a privileged family, she was able to get deep inside her character. Tracy Lord is going to be married to George Kitteredge, a man from her own social circle. Deep down inside, Tracy can't get her mind from the man she really loves, the rascal Dexler.

The casting of Cary Grant as C.K. Dexler was a touch of genius. Mr. Grant had played opposite Ms. Hepburn before. He was an actor that always delivered and was always a welcome addition to any of the movies of the period. Mr. Grant, with his good looks, makes the perfect man to play the part. As Dexler, the man who broke Tracy's heart, he returns just before the wedding, perhaps to remind her he's still loves her and can't get her out of his mind.

James Stewart was the other happy casting of "The Philadelphia Story". He was relatively unknown to the movie going public, but he left his mark all over the picture. As McCauley (Mike) Conner, this actor was perfect. As the tabloid reporter infiltrating the society wedding he proved his impeccable sense of timing.

Ruth Hussey, contributes to the film in unexpected ways. Virginia Weidler, as Dinah, is irresistible. The rest of the ensemble cast is a director's dream. Mary Nash, John Howard, Roland Young, John Halliday, Henry Daniel and the rest, are perfect.

"The Philadelphia Story" will keep delighting audiences for many years to come.
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The Great Romantic Comedy
nmathieson1 January 2005
Definitely the greatest romantic comedy of all time The Philadelpha Story raises the bar in Hollywood movies. The film is set around the wedding of one of Philadelpha's highest society women (Katherine Hepburn). Her ex-husband who is expertly played by Cary Grant hears of this and decides to crash the party. He does this by bringing along two reporters (James Stewart & Ruth Hussey). They come undercover to get some behind the scene snapshots of the wedding. Of course the results of all this is hilarious.

Stewart and Hussey give ground breaking performances as the reporters. Besides this winning best picture Jimmy Stewart won a well deserved Oscar for best actor in his role. Of course a great comedy would not be complete without the beautiful, charming, hilarious, Katherine Hepburn who never fails to impress. Gave yet another fantastic and unforgettable performance.

Films like this aren't made nearly as well or even made anymore. All the more reason to treasure these wonderful works of art and history. Gerg Cukor does a fine and memorable job in directing but it's the acting and one of films finest screenplays that blows this film way ahead of most romantic comedies. It was originally a play by Philip Barry, and turned into one of the greatest screenplays heard on the silver screen. The screenplay was done by the masterful Donald Stewart. As you can see this is film at its very best and is probably never going to be forgotten.
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You know there's something wrong when a film makes you root for the 'bad guy' ...
ElMaruecan8210 November 2012
Warning: Spoilers
George Cukor's "The Philadelphia Story" was released in 1940 and starred the ultimate Hollywood trinity: Katharine Hepburn, James Stewart and Cary Grant. Being a romantic comedy, we suspect she will end up with one of these two. And since she's about to marry a boring guy named George, we quickly understand that she will not marry him, and that the whole story will consist on leading us to that conclusion in two hours, two endlessly and unstoppably long hours.

I hate to use the word 'overrated' and 'overacted' so I guess the wrong mindset would be an inevitable obstacle between this movie and me. Being the average schmuck I am, I couldn't relate to Katharine Hepburn as Tracy Lord, a young and wealthy socialite praised, adored, worshiped by the other schmucks of her community. For my biggest displeasure, I couldn't even relate to James Stewart because as much as I loved his roles in Capra films, I didn't find any invitation for empathy in his character as Macaulay Connor, the wannabe writer and tabloid journalist for a magazine fittingly named 'Spy".

I could care about Cary Grant as C.K. (as in 'CocKy) Dexter Morgan, the ex-husband, if only for the hilarious way he palms Tracy's face and pushes her down to the floor. But isn't it a bad omen when the film's most memorable instant happens within the first minute. But despite the brilliance of the gesture and the male charisma he naturally exuded, in that particular film, he seemed rather lifeless to me, bored by the whole gossipy environment (I can't blame him) and only there to recite his lines, to create a false impression of chemistry with Tracy. I couldn't stand his constant grin, but not as much as Hepburn's trademark 'Bryn Mawr" accent (thanks IMDb) that got quickly on my nerves, this 'yawr', 'dahling' or this expression as if she wanted us to check if she had salad stuck in her teeth.

But don't take my iconoclasm very seriously, I'm an unexceptional reviewer. In fact, I'm so mediocre, compared to these icons I dare to criticize that I even rooted for John Howard's character as George Kettridge, the target of a whole conspiracy from the director, the writer and the actors. They spared no efforts to mock and belittle George, he was a hypocrite, an ambitious man, but I have to see it to believe it, after all, neither Grant or Connor had better intentions and George seemed a rather decent man. Anyway, they were all so mean-spirited than my immediate reaction was to take his side. At least, in usual screwball comedies, it's one rival against another; here the guy has no chance standing against the two men and his own fiancé plotting against him.

And watching the beautiful Tracy Lord swinging back and forth from Connor to Morgan like a tennis ball was embarrassing, not to mention the ludicrous ending. "Marry me, Tracy", she's reluctant because it wouldn't please his girlfriend photographer Liz (Ruth Hussey). Naturally, Liz doesn't mind being used as a Plan B, nor does Tracy to get back to her precedent husband. Damn, I'm almost glad Georgie got himself out of this mess. The film had its moments though, I liked the part where Stewart pretended to be drunk and you could see at one moment that both him and Grant were trying not to laugh, that was my favorite moment of the film: it was genuine, charming and innocent and it allowed us to forget about the intricacy of the plot.

Speaking of that 'drunk' scene, I'm not sure either that Stewart deserved the Oscar, I know it was a compensation for his loss in 1939, but seriously was he better than Henry Fonda in "Grapes of Wrath", or even as a comedic performance, was he better than Charlie Chaplin in "The Great Dictator"? I could concede anything to the movie, maybe if I watched it a third or fourth time, I will end up believing it's a masterpiece, but I don't think I would praise Stewart's performance, I didn't even think it was worthy of a nomination. The writing also won an Oscar, but then again, it's adapted from a play, it has the kind of prefabricated wit that was overexploited in screwball classics, but for some reason, I don't think these kinds of artificial exchange fit the silver screen.

Maybe it's the whole vaudeville thing, but I grew rapidly tired of these dialogs where you get the feeling that each character is trying to outsmart the other, and naturally, George is the biggest target, he receives them and seems incapable to say one word or two to Grant or Stewart. From funny, it gets incredibly redundant and ruins the poignancy or the intelligent lucidity some scenes genuinely provides. Granted it's not meant to be realistic, and people have to be entertained, but at one point, it's just words, words, words, or like would say Hepburn "wohds, wohds, wohds". And I guess I've seen enough classics not to feel guilty about this one.

And please, don't get me started on the so-called feminist undertones just because Hepburn plays a very strong and outspoken character. If one thing, the film proves (and quite realistically) that a woman can be as strong, as bossy, as a bully as a man IF she's rich. It attacks the core of feminism, which is the perpetual antagonism between men and women by showing that it's only a matter of rich vs. poor. It's funny how the film works better as a social commentary, and it's only by realizing that she wouldn't live with a man who'd prevent her from freedom by letting her drink and loosen up, that Tracy goes with the rich guy, of course, only rich can afford to be decadent.

"There goes George", sings Grant to ridicule him, just ignore them, George, you're the unsung hero of "The Philadelphia Story"
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Sophisticated and classic comedy!!!
Heiress2 June 2001
A truly spectacular film that moves gracefully throughout the lives of several people of differing social class to create a smart and insightful comedy. The dialogue always brings me to the edge of my seat as I listen attentively to the fast-paced, cutting banter of Grant, Hepburn and Stewart. Tracy (Hepburn) is a young woman of "old money" about to marry a man who is "nouveau riche". Two working class stiffs (Stewart and Hussey) are reporters out to scoop this scandalous poor boy/rich girl story for a tabloid newspaper. When Tracy's first husband, C.K. Dexter Haven (Grant), returns to win back his bride.....the fun begins.

The chemistry between Hepburn and her two leading co-stars (Grant and Stewart) is palpable. Hepburn gives the performance of her career in a once in a lifetime role. The character of Tracy is vibrant and smart, with a unique sarcastic flair. C.K. Dexter Haven is dashing, witty and touchingly vulnerable. Grant is brilliant. Hussey and Stewart are equally great in their roles as the "every day man and woman" who have somehow managed to work their way to center stage to the social event of the year.

Through it all, you will laugh at this delightful mix of people and recognize yourself in a little of each one of them. A delightful social commentary!

Fun, fun, fun. If you enjoy great'll love this movie.
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Overrated, Despite the Big Names
dougdoepke2 March 2014
If this is sophisticated comedy, I'll take the gaucheries of Airplane (1980) any day. Despite the celebrated cast, director, and screenwriter, the movie's not very amusing, unless you think drunks are automatically amusing. In fact, at times the antics are downright annoying, especially the shrill Hepburn character and Stewart's going way over the top as an inebriate reporter.

At best, actress Hepburn is a matter of taste. Here director Cukor gives full reign to her most troublesome habit—sheer staginess. For Tracy (Hepburn), there's no such thing as a simple movement; instead, every inflection is an exaggeration of some sort. Just as bad for the movie, Grant is not allowed his usual superb comedic skills; instead, he gets to look on in a rather wooden manner, a not unreasonable reaction. Unfortunately, this is another example of MGM's Louis Mayer's infatuation with the idle rich and well-housed.

One of the film's few positive notes are the many subtle innuendoes. In fact, the strategic use of such innuendoes as 'intact' made me wonder if the Grant-Hepburn marriage had ever been consummated. Then again, why any man would warm up to such a bitchy "goddess" remains perhaps the movie's biggest conundrum. On the other hand, the supporting cast, particularly Hussey and Weidler, furnish what there is of the movie's meager amusement. Too bad it's only in support.

To me, the movie's exalted reputation is likely the result of Hollywood's promotional arm working overtime. After all, if the production's got this many illustrious names, it's got to be a classic. For a revealing contrast, catch the Grant-Hepburn-Hawks genuinely funny Bringing Up Baby, made only two years earlier. At least, Hawks knew how to edit a scene without letting it drone on and on. Here, Stewart's adaptation of the Barry play may have looked good on paper, but on screen it's quite a different matter, despite all the hoopla.
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Best Movie -- But Not Politically Correct!
kayjaymercy1 September 2005
Warning: Spoilers
The Philadelphia Story is my all-time favorite movie. Like Imbrie and champagne, I've never had enough of it!

The casting is probably what makes this movie great -- who could resist Cary Grant, Katherine Hepburn and James Stewart all in one movie? Most of the supporting actors are superb, as well. Most of my kudos go to Virginia Weidler as Dinah, easily the most complex of all the characters in the film.

Equally important and equally impressive, the dialog in this movie rivals The Princess Bride and others for wit and clarity.

The story itself is light-hearted and fun, if you can leave your politics in your back pocket for a couple of hours. Remember, this film debuted in 1940 -- only a year after the publication of "Alcoholics Anonymous." So perhaps we can forgive Dexter for blaming his drinking problem on Tracy, and forgive Tracy for accepting the blame.

I have a harder time forgiving Seth Lord for blaming his infidelity on Tracy's lack of warmth. What a load of crap! Even if he was influenced by her coldness, what's wrong with Dinah's love? In the end, a spouse cheats because he/she wants to.

I've watched this movie enough times to tell you everything that's wrong with it -- politically, morally, in terms of continuity, and so on. And I'll keep watching it because the great dialog and awesome performances make it worth it every time!
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The story nearly gave me a headache,but Grant,Hepburn,and Stewart made it fun to watch.
SmileysWorld17 September 2011
I really wasn't so much wowed by The Philadelphia Story's "story",as it were,as I was mesmerized by three of the big screen's strongest ever screen presences' interaction with one another.Katherine Hepburn,Cary Grant,and James Stewart were great (if that is even a strong enough word) individually,but together here in this film,they were absolutely out of this world.The story,quite frankly,gave me a headache overall,but I did find the ever famous "hiccup" improvisation between Stewart and Grant hysterical as it was obvious both men could barely compose themselves,but being the professionals that they were,they got it together and moved on,and that's what made the scene so entertaining.I had a great time watching.
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Rusalka's sixteenth film review: James Stewart's only Academy Award-winning performance!
Rusalkathewaternymph27 April 2003
George Cukor hit the jackpot with this lovely story of three different people torn apart and brought together by love. This was the film that brought Katherine Hepburn back into the limelight after being labeled as "box-office poison". Although the story is easy to follow, the plot at times gets a bit contrived and we find ourselves wondering if "normal" people would actually do such things as these people in this film do. But of course, by the end of the film the conflict is resolved and all ends happily...or does it?

The Philadelphia Story was nominated for six Academy Awards (Best Picture, Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Supporting Actress, Best Direction and Best Screenplay) winning two: Best Actor and Best Screenplay. James Stewart won the only Academy Award of his distinguished career for this film. Katherine Hepburn lost to Ginger Rogers in Kitty Foyle, George Cukor lost to John Ford for his inspired direction of Steinbeck's Grapes of Wrath and the film itself lost to Alfred Hitchcock's American directorial debut, Rebecca.

My rating: 2 and a half stars
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A turning point in Katharine Hepburn's career...
calvinnme22 May 2016
Warning: Spoilers
... and IMHO just about a perfect romantic comedy. C.K.Dexter Haven (Cary Grant) had a short stormy marriage to Tracy Lord (Hepburn). Now she is about to marry George Kittredge (John Howard). Haven and Lord are old money elite. Kittredge is a guy who pulled himself up by his bootstraps...and he won't let anybody forget it. You never really know WHY Dexter agrees to help infiltrate and therefore sabotage Tracy's second marriage. You never know if he intended to try and get her back -from the opening scene it seems their parting was pretty acrimonious. Or maybe he just knew that Kittredge was a drip and didn't want Tracy to suffer a lifetime of..well..being dripped on. At any rate he convinces the Lords into allowing two reporters from "Spy Magazine" to cover her wedding because the magazine publisher has a story all ready to go about Tracy's father's affair with a chorus girl if that coverage is not allowed. Since Haven, although he doesn't need the salary, works for the magazine too, this allows him to get back into the Lord household and do his best to ruffle Tracy's feathers. Tracy's problem and the reason that her first marriage broke up was her inability to see her own moral weaknesses while pointing out everybody else's.

Tracy is completely to the manor born. When she discovers that one of the reporters (James Stewart as Macauley Conner) has written a beautiful book of poetry she asks him why he works for a cheap tabloid magazine instead of writing his own material. His reply is that he has to eat, and this answer rather stumps her. There are many complicating factors. Tracy's dad is off with his mistress, so the Lords try to pass their uncle Wllly off as Mr. Lord to the reporters. When Tracy's dad returns unexpectedly they try to pass him off as uncle Willy. The two reporters (Stewart and Ruth Hussey) have some kind of low key romantic understanding, but then Macauley begins to become attracted to Tracy. Add alcohol and almost code busting complications and insinuations ensue.

It really holds up today as a genuine romantic comedy and comedy of manners in which everybody displays authentic behavior and reactions in spite of that pesky production code. The only thing archaic and even somewhat repulsive is how Tracy's father tries to make his affair with the chorus girl all Tracy's fault. He tells her that when a man has a daughter that loves him in spite of his faults he doesn't go looking for that in his golden years in another woman. I wonder if Chelsea Clinton ever had these problems? But I digress.

Let me just say one thing about James Stewart's Best Actor Oscar. Stewart was wonderful as a working man captivated by a woman from another world, who discovers that the rich are not all jerks, but he was definitely not the lead. This was Grant and Hepburn's picture all of the way. The only thing I can figure is that the Academy felt that they did Stewart wrong the previous year by passing him over in Mr. Smith Goes To Washington, and were making amends.

I highly recommend this to anyone. If you are not into classic film and would like to be, this is a perfect place to start.
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Where's the Beef?
caspian197826 December 2004
In film school, I had to watch this movie once in every class I took in the film program. For four years, not a single class went by without watching this movie for a particular scene or a style of direction or acting. After watching this movie over a dozen times, I am yet to find anything that makes this movie so great. Sure, the cast includes a top list of Hollywood actors, but so what? There is some nice acting but nothing that can be considered great. The opening of the movie with Cary Grant tossing Hepburn to the ground like a rag doll opens the movie up to some great possibilities, especially for 1940. Here, we gather up our hopes that this movie is going to be filled with one giant laugh after another. In the end, we are left with a movie filled with talk, very little action, and hardly any real comedy that can add up to anything being made today. From where I am standing, this is a nice movie, but far from anything terrific. Am I wrong?
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Grant, Hepburn, Stewart - What more could you ask for?
Primtime19 March 1999
This film was a pure delight to watch. Usually if you want to see a film with great chemistry between the two leads, you are hard-pressed to find one. This film takes care of that and even goes one step farther by having great chemistry between its three main characters. Just the sight of these great actors on screen at the same time is something else.

Cary Grant, Katherine Hepburn and Jimmy Stewart each give grand performances to this film (Stewart won for Best Supporting Actor) each showcasing their talent. Grant as the rich, charming bachelor trying to get his ex-wife back, Hepburn as the upper-class debutant who plays all of the men in her life as if she has no soul and Stewart as the everyman who holds everyone together while having a few interesting adventures of his own.

Not only is this a very funny film, it has an interesting story line and even a few minor plot twists during the end. Perhaps the fact that the whole film takes place over two days and is mostly shot at Hepburn's home adds to the feel of urgency throughout the entire film. Will she go back to her ex-husband? Will she marry the new man in her life? Will she fall in love and run away with Jimmy Stewart? All of these questions are answered in the end and tied up quite well.

If you want to see one of first genuine romantic comedies with some of the greatest stars to grace the silver screen, then this film is for you! A full recommendation to all.

8/10 stars.
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Vastly Overrated Movie With Unlikeable Characters
ccthemovieman-12 July 2006
What a major disappointment! When I began to collect movies in earnest, and read everything I could about films, this one always got ultra-rave everyone. It also had three huge stars: Cary Grant, James Stewart and Katharine Hepburn. Man, I was anxious to see this.

Well, this movie was terrible. I hated it. The only redeeming quality - and that was worth only two "stars" out of 10, was seeing a young and pretty Hepburn. Otherwise, the dialog was just plain stupid and the main characters - played by those three above - were all irritating to watch. This was the first movie I had seen in which I didn't like Stewart's role. He had always been likable.

Maybe it's just me, but I don't find obnoxious drunks humorous nor do I find stuck-up high-society "dames" a turn-on, either. That's what you have in this vastly overrated movie. It was so bad, I shut it off with 30 minutes to go and got rid of the tape.
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"The time to make up your mind about someone is never!"
kkthomas19 December 2001
This is my favorite movie of all time. The chemistry between Hepburn and Grant, in my opinion has never been matched. It shows that class really has nothing to do with the amount of money you have whether you wear a blue or white collar in life. The banter between Stewart and Hussey is also outstanding. I only wish I had been invited to the wedding!
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A great film perhaps but ------
Gary Wang23 August 2005
At the risk of seeming antagonistic--and I am here, but that is not a bad thing---my nod for most overrated film goes to THE PHILADELPHIA STORY. The reason is simply that it seems like such a conspicuous showcase for the star. I like Ms.Hepburn very much and was marveling at her beauty in ALICE ADAMS only a few weeks ago, while BRINGING UP BABY is one of my top-ten favorite films (does my guilt show??) but she bought the property for herself (admittedly a wise thing to do, fiscally and career-wise) and for me, the self-aggrandizing screenplay renders the movie a net loss. I just can't buy into all the fuss over what to me is not a real agreeable or affable character until we're eight or ten reels into the story and by then she's lost me.
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Did not age well
bart-51 July 2006
This film might have been better to watch 40 or 50 years ago. Now the screwball plot seems silly and corny, with twists and turns that are predictable. The dialogue is creaky and repetitious, rather than witty. On the plus side, Hepburn almost emoted and her few lines in French were spoken well. Seeing her in this role makes me wish it had been Bacall, who would have carried it off more convincingly and lent some tension and heat. Cary Grant was not yet a parody of himself, and was a bright spot. Jimmy Stewart showed some of his typical charm, but this was far from his best role. The supporting cast were basically cardboard cutouts. That's 2 hours I'll never get back.
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Nothing redeeming about this film
cardinalcall18 January 2014
There is nothing I can say positive about this film. It certainly has not stood the test of time.

Who can emphasize with any of the characters in this film? Kate Hepburn is not convincing as the spoiled rich girl who miraculously becomes human with imperfections. Why would a bitch goddess all of a sudden become human after a drunken stupor, after years of being a spoiled brat?

And Cary Grant should have passed on his role as Dexter. He appears wooden and superfluous. Jimmy Stewart should not have received an Oscar for his role either. Why would an intelligent writer suddenly fall in love with such a bitch if he is oh, so bright as a writer?

Nah, this film may have appealed to the rich and those enamored with the American aristocracy, but today it leaves one with the feeling of wanting to vomit.

The only scene that comes off real is when Grant pushes Kate down on the ground. After that scene, change channels because the rest is trite and trash.

My only question is who are the morons who rated this film highly?
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