The Philadelphia Story (1940) Poster


James Stewart had no plans to attend the Oscar ceremony the year he was nominated for this film. Just before the ceremony began, he received a call at home "advising" him to slip into a dinner jacket and attend the ceremony. He did and he received the award for Best Actor. This was in the days before an accounting firm kept the Oscar voting results secret.
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The film was shot in eight weeks, and required no retakes. During the scene where James Stewart hiccups when drunk, you can see Cary Grant looking down and grinning. Since the hiccup wasn't scripted, Grant was on the verge of breaking out laughing and had to compose himself quickly. Stewart thought of hiccuping in the drunk scene himself, without telling Grant. When he began hiccuping, Grant turned to Stewart saying, "Excuse me." The scene required only one take.
Cary Grant demanded top billing and $100,000 salary--a huge amount at the time. As it turned out, however, he donated his entire earnings to the British War Relief Fund.
James Stewart never felt he deserved the Best Actor Oscar for his performance in this film, especially since he had initially felt miscast. He always maintained that Henry Fonda should have won instead for The Grapes of Wrath (1940), and that the award was probably "deferred payment for my work on Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939)."
Katharine Hepburn starred in the Broadway production of the play on which this film was based and owned the film rights to the material; they were purchased for her by billionaire Howard Hughes, then given to her as a gift.
Cary Grant was given the choice of which of the two male lead roles he wanted to play. Surprisingly, he chose the less showy part.
Spencer Tracy turned down James Stewart's role because he was eager to make Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1941).
The word "Philadelphia" on the Oscar that James Stewart received in 1941 is misspelled. The Oscar was kept in the window of his father's hardware store located on Philadelphia Street in Indiana, Pennsylvania.
Playwright Philip Barry based the character of Tracy on Helen Hope Montgomery Scott, a Main Line Philadelphia socialite famous for throwing lavish parties at her family's 800-acre estate in Radnor, PA. The studio reportedly intended to shoot the film at Ardrossan (the name of the family's estate), but decided against it after seeing the size and scale of the main house and the expansiveness of the estate. The producers reportedly thought that no one would believe that anyone could actually live like that, particularly in America in the 1940s.
Katharine Hepburn's swimming pool dive is the real thing. No doubles were used.
Katharine Hepburn deferred her salary for 45% of the profits.
James Stewart wasn't at all comfortable with some of the dialog, especially in the swimming pool scene, which also required him to act in a dressing gown. He said at the time that if he'd played the scene in just a swimming costume it would have been the end of his career.
The original play was written specifically for Katharine Hepburn. Playwright Philip Barry wanted to woo the actress back to the stage after she had received disastrous reviews for the play "The Lake" on Broadway.
When Tracy Lord mentions the Chinese poet who drowned trying to kiss the moon's reflection in a river, she is referring to Li Po (also known as Li Bai) who, according to legend, drowned while reaching from his boat to grab the moon's reflection.
Cary Grant only agreed to appear in the film as long as he got top billing. As Katharine Hepburn was dubbed "box office poison" at the time, this demand was readily agreed to.
On Broadway, Katharine Hepburn played opposite Joseph Cotten (in the role played by Cary Grant in the film), Van Heflin (the James Stewart role) and Shirley Booth (the Ruth Hussey role). Anne Baxter played the younger sister. The play ran for 415 performances, making nearly $1 million at the box office. It then went on tour for another 250 performances and an additional $750,000 in box-office receipts.
In his autobiography, Donald Ogden Stewart wrote that the original play was so perfect, adapting it was the easiest job he ever had to do in Hollywood.
Some think, with director George Cukor on board, Katharine Hepburn's first choice of co-star Clark Gable was never going to be a possibility because Gable allegedly had Cukor fired from Gone with the Wind (1939) because he allegedly detested the director's obvious homosexuality. In reality, Cukor was dismissed from "GWTW" because of repeated clashes with the film's producer David O. Selznick, and Gable was simply busy with other projects at the time this film was to be made.
Katharine Hepburn asked MGM to cast Clark Gable as Dexter and Spencer Tracy as Mike before she met either of them. Both Gable and Tracy were busy with other projects, so James Stewart was cast instead. MGM chief Louis B. Mayer allowed Hepburn a $150,000 salary towards casting the other male role, a sum that Cary Grant agreed to.
The film was remade as High Society (1956) starring Grace Kelly in Katharine Hepburn's role, Frank Sinatra in James Stewart's and Bing Crosby playing Dexter (Cary Grant).
Before shooting the scene where Connor passionately recites his poetry to Tracy, James Stewart was extremely nervous and certain he would perform badly. Coincidently, Noël Coward was visiting the set on that day and, having been asked to say something to encourage Stewart by George Cukor, Coward off-handedly said something to Stewart like, "Did I mention I think you're a fantastic actor." Stewart shortly thereafter performed the scene without a hitch and went on to win the Oscar for Best Actor.
In Katharine Hepburn's first scene in the film, she appears in a stylish trouser suit designed for her by Adrian. MGM chief Louis B. Mayer objected and had to be convinced to let the costume remain.
Played Radio City Music Hall for 6 weeks, breaking the previous attendance records set in 1937 by Disney's Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937). It grossed over $600,000 in that one location alone.
The original play featured a character named Sandy, who is Tracy's brother and the reason for Mike and Liz to come to the wedding. This character was deleted for the movie in order to beef up the character of Mike. There are several references in the film to a brother of Tracy's, but his name is Junius.
[June 2008] Ranked #5 on the American Film Institute's list of the 10 greatest films in the genre "Romantic Comedy".
The necklace that Dinah says "this stinks" about and later wears to entertain the reporters, is a copy of the necklace from Marie Antoinette's "The Affair of the Necklace". You can see it in Norma Shearer's Marie Antoinette (1938), as well.
Cary Grant keeps calling Katharine Hepburn red. Her natural hair color is in fact red.
Alan Rickman named this as one of his favourite romantic films.
"Lux Radio Theater" broadcast a 60-minute radio adaptation of the movie on July 20, 1942, with Cary Grant, Katharine Hepburn, James Stewart, Ruth Hussey and Virginia Weidler reprising their film roles.
Although George Cukor was not usually a very physical director, Katharine Hepburn incorporated some of his mannerisms into her performance.
"The Screen Guild Theater" broadcast a 30-minute radio adaptation of the movie on March 17, 1947 with Katharine Hepburn, Cary Grant and James Stewart reprising their film roles.
The original Broadway production of "The Philadelphia Story" by Philip Barry Jr. opened at the Shubert Theater on March 28, 1939, ran for 417 performances, closed on March 30, 1940 and starred Katharine Hepburn, Shirley Booth, Joseph Cotten and Hayden Rorke.
"Theater Guild on the Air" broadcast a 60-minute radio adaptation of the movie on April 4, 1948 with James Stewart reprising his film role.
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Included among the "1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die", edited by Steven Schneider.
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The film was the 5th most popular movie at the US box office in 1941.
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In order to avoid competition with the stage play, MGM agreed not to put the film into general release until January 1941, although it was screened at selected theaters in December 1940.
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Katharine Hepburn had become interested in James Stewart for the part of the newshound ever since the actor had received accolades and an Oscar® nomination for his portrayal of an idealistic senator in Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939) the previous year.
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The film made its New York television debut on WCBS (channel 2) on Saturday 25 June 1960.
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Samuel Goldwyn at Paramount offered to make the film with William Wyler directing and Gary Cooper playing Mike Connors.
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Jack L. Warner at Warner Bros. offered to make the film with Errol Flynn as C.K Dexter Haven.
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The Philadelphia Story is one of two classic movies, still well-known and widely available in multiple formats, in which Cary Grant and Roland Young both appeared, the other being Topper.
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The trivia item below may give away important plot points.

In one scene, Jimmy Stewart carries Katherine Hepburn, singing "Over the Rainbow," from The Wizard of Oz. The director of this film, George Cukor, was briefly employed as the director of The Wizard of Oz, setting the look for many of the characters and continuing to advise on the film even after he was fired.
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