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The Best of Hepburn and Tracy
swayland78 October 2004
Of the nine films which paired Spencer Tracy and Katherine Hepburn, Adam's Rib is often considered the best. Writers Ruth Gordon and Garson Kanin were friends of the famous couple and wrote the film specifically for them. Kate insisted the film be directed by her favorite screen director, George Cukor, who services the brilliant writing and on-screen chemistry with his trademark elegant staging and unobtrusive style. The result is a comedy that remains the best "battle of the sexes" films ever made.

When Doris Attinger (Judy Holliday) discovers her husband in the arms of another woman, she opens fire and is charged with attempted murder. Enter Adam and Amanda Bonner (Tracy and Hepburn), married lawyers whose lives are turned upside down when Adam is assigned to the prosecution. An ardent proponent of women's rights, Amanda decides to represent Doris, claiming that if the sex of the parties on trial were switched, the jury would feel differently. This conflict of interests creates friction in the courtroom as well as the Bonners' home.

Spencer Tracy, with his confident and relaxed screen presence, paints Adam as a man quite comfortable with his wife's force and ambition. But Adam grows upset with Amanda as the media spotlight finds the case and magnifies it into a cause for women's rights. He accuses Amanda with disregard for the law, reminding her that no one, man or woman, has the right to take the law into their own hands, and that Amanda is using the case for her own selfish purposes. The script is careful not to polarize Adam's interests. He reveres the law and has no special affection for Doris' husband. In opposing him, Katherine Hepburn manages to retain her signature strength while also portraying Amanda as a loving wife who fears the damage her marriage may sustain because of the case and its publicity. Amanda alleges that Doris is doomed to an unfair trial because the general public irrationally feels male infidelity is much more permissible than female infidelity.

The courtroom becomes a spectacle when Amanda puts a circus strong-woman on the stand and asks her to lift Adam. Tracy rises to the occasion, with an angry outburst that is empowered by his otherwise calm and restrained performance. Despite their marital bliss before the case, Adam admits that he likes "two sexes" and doesn't care for having a wife who is a "new woman" and a "competitor". This rare outpouring causes Amanda to realize just how personally Adam is taking the trial, and that it could result in their divorce.

Ruth Gordon and Garson Kanin deserve special recognition for creating a balanced on-screen battle in what has always been a controversial debate - gender equality. Amanda's plight is shaded by her experiences as a woman, and Adam is presented as a man who admits to always trying to hear her side of the story. That their marriage was a happy one before the trial is an indication of the equality they had achieved together. Amanda is, in fact, equal to Adam in both the career and financial worlds. To create a sparring partner for Amanda, Gordon and Kanin could easily have presented a misogynist, or even a lovable but cantankerous traditionalist. They were wiser to portray Adam as a man who simply refused to see the case as one for gender equality, but for vigilantism.

As directed by George Cukor, Adam's Rib features a great many long takes that play uninterrupted. Even during moments of action, like the scene in which both Bonners are getting dressed for dinner, Cukor utilizes minimal staging and camera movement. The camera points directly across the Bonners' bedroom, with her dressing room off frame left and his off frame right. They shout at each other, poking their heads into the frame, occasionally walking through the frame and back again. And later, when Adam discovers Kip and Amanda together, the ensuing fight is framed similarly, with the camera looking down the apartment hallway, characters popping into frame from the left or right and back again. This isn't to say Cukor doesn't move his camera much. There are several decisive camera movements, but Cukor's sparing use of them, and his tendency to rely more on well-composed master angles gives the film an elegant, traditional Hollywood style. The film also benefits from a lively score by Mikos Rozsa and a catchy Cole Porter tune, "Farewell Amanda". Jean Hagen, unforgettable for her comic turn in Singin' in the Rain, again demonstrates her talent for comedy as the "other woman".

Cukor must have realized that with Tracy and Hepburn on screen, all the camera really had to do was follow them, frame them, and let the sparks fly.

The screenplay and the actors' off-screen romance are gifts to the film. We feel for both of them, and believe in what both are trying to achieve. It is rare that a film about difference and equality plays so fairly to all parties involved, and also rare that such a sensitive subject can retain its comic appeal. But for all the film says about equality, Adam's Rib ultimately serves to remind us that when it comes to Hepburn and Tracy, there is no equal. - Scott Schirmer
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Classic 'Battle of the Sexes' is a Sheer Joy!
Ben Burgraff (cariart)17 August 2003
'Adam's Rib' is arguably the greatest Tracy-Hepburn film, and is certainly the most popular of their teamings. Brightly written (by the husband and wife team of Ruth Gordon and Garson Kanin), it takes the premise of a wife (the sparkling Judy Holliday, in her film debut) on trial for shooting her unfaithful husband (Tom Ewell, establishing himself in the kind of role he'd reprise in The Seven-Year Itch), and turns it into a forum of the sexual values and standards of the 1940s, and a showcase for the fabulous Tracy and Hepburn, who were were never better than as the battling D.A. and defense attorney. In the courtroom and out, the love they share, and tweaking of each other's egos is a sheer joy to watch. That the story is also a knowing commentary about women's inequality under the law makes the film even more topical today, and doesn't reduce the film's enjoyment value at all. It is a VERY funny film, and can be enjoyed at MANY levels!

In addition to Holliday and Ewell, the supporting cast includes the terrific David Wayne as a smarmy songwriter-neighbor who covets Hepburn, and 'writes' the ditty 'Goodbye, Amanda' for her (actually composed by Cole Porter, Hepburn's character's name in the film was changed to Amanda, to fit the song!)

Among the many wonderful scenes of the film are the 'home movie', which accurately reflected much of Tracy and Hepburn's own relationship; the infamous massage scene ("I know a slap...!"); the circus 'Strong Woman', demonstrating that women can be as physically powerful as men by lifting the panicking Tracy over her head easily (in the middle of the courtroom!); the infamous licorice-gun confrontation as Tracy confronts Hepburn with Wayne; and Tracy's crying-on-demand revelation.

'Adam's Rib' is a film which never seems to age, but just gets better and better!
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Adam's Rib (1949) ****
JoeKarlosi17 February 2005
Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn make fireworks in this cute film about a well-to-do married couple who both happen to be lawyers. Hepburn is a die-hard Woman's Rights supporter, so when a ditzy lady is charged with shooting her husband after catching him being unfaithful, Kate decides to take her case and defend her. The trouble is, old-fashioned husband Tracy is already penciled in as the prosecuting attorney. Let the Battle of the Sexes begin!

The script sets up a great opportunity to have Tracy and Hepburn sparring with one another during every phase of the trial, as well as at home every night after they've spent each day trying to outwit each other. As a comedy, there aren't any huge belly-laughs, but it's a charming enough little take on the differences between men and women which also manages to make the point that, in many ways, the sexes aren't really all that different when all is said and done.

**** out of ****
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"I Love Licorice"
bkoganbing6 November 2005
Feminist attorney Katharine Hepburn has a new cause. She freely admits to doing a bit of ambulance chasing to get the case of Judy Holliday who shot her husband Tom Ewell after catching him in a love nest with floozy Jean Hagen.

Problem is that of all the cases that he could have been assigned, Spencer Tracy, Hepburn's husband and assistant District Attorney, he got assigned to prosecute Holiday. I guess Spence felt a little of what Bogey felt when Ingrid Bergman came back into his life in Casablanca.

Men down through the ages have certainly had the right to shoot the lovers of their wives when caught, why not women argues Hepburn. The case gets quite a bit of notoriety and of course it puts a strain on the marriage.

But the plot is sure the right vehicle for a lot of great lines and situations. This is Spence and Kate at their very best. Of the comedies they did, this is my favorite, just like State of the Union is my favorite among the more serious films.

Probably Adam's Rib's best known scene is when defense witness Hope Emerson picks up Spencer Tracy in a visual attempt to show feminine prowess and power. Even after seeing it several times you still will laugh yourself silly.

For Adam's Rib, George Cukor denuded Broadway of stars to play in support of Tracy and Hepburn. Making film debuts were David Wayne, Tom Ewell, Judy Holliday, and Jean Hagen.

Wayne is particularly funny and if Adam's Rib was made today, he'd certainly be more explicitly gay. He's the next door neighbor of Spence and Kate and some of the cracks Tracy aims in his direction would be considered downright homophobic. But let's face it, Wayne is an obnoxious scamp and that bit of vengeance that Tracy wreaks upon him and Hepburn in the climax involving licorice is a great cinematic moment.

Adam's Rib is Tracy and Hepburn at the very top of their game and I think folks who are not necessarily fans of their's would be amused.
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Cheeky magnetic romp saying far more than was thought back in the day.
Spikeopath4 March 2008
Adam's Rib turned out to be a delightfully cheeky romp with a kicker sense of humour, all acted out with ease by Spencer Tracy & Katherine Hepburn. I love how the film veers from the courtroom right into their marital home and becomes not just about a battle of wills, but a battle of the sexes as well, much fun watching this famous couple go at each other, both at work and at home. The film benefits greatly from the appearance of the lovely Judy Holliday in her breakthrough role, and it amused me greatly to see David Wayne playing a shifty character as I remember him fondly from the Twilight Zone episode Escape Clause in 1959. 8/10
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Pleasant mid century skirmish in the sexual wars
Dennis Littrell26 January 2000
(Note: Over 500 of my movie reviews are now available in my book "Cut to the Chaise Lounge or I Can't Believe I Swallowed the Remote!" Get it at Amazon.)

Two New York lawyers, husband Adam Bonner (Spencer Tracy) and wife Amanda Bonner (Katharine Hepburn), work out the marital tension and fight the sexual wars in the courtroom on opposite sides of a wife (Judy Holliday) shoots cheating husband (Tom Ewell) case. Adam's masculinity is seemingly challenged and his sense of justice offended by his wife's insistence on showing how smart she is while furthering her feminist agenda at the expense of the law. Will their public confrontation destroy their marriage, or will it ultimately make the bond stronger?

This still plays mainly because of the charisma of Hepburn and Tracy and the fine chemistry they create together. The script by Garson Kanin and Ruth Gordon is shallow and profound by turns, yet ultimately witty and pleasing. Judy Holliday as the lower middle-class Doris Attinger (on her way to her signature role in Born Yesterday (1950)) and David Wayne, as the song-writing neighbor who adores Amanda, shine in supporting roles. George Cukor's direction is clear, crisp and always focused. In the end we can see that Adam can be as feminine as Amanda can be masculine. The bit where Tracy cries real tears to win her back and then tells her, "We all have our tricks" is classic. It's his clever answer to her outrageous courtroom theatrics. Memorable as it illuminates their contrasting personalities is the early scene where the unsophisticated Doris is interviewed by Yale law school grad Amanda.

As a political movie, was Adam's Rib ahead of its time as a vehicle for feminist expression, or was it just another apology for male chauvinism, or was it balanced and fair? I'll give you a hint: the title is ironic. One of the things that made the Tracy/Hepburn romance work so well for so long was the creative balance they maintained in the battle of the sexes. The script by Kanin and Gordon carefully continues that profoundly true equilibrium.
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Clever, humane comedy
Spleen26 June 2000
For a while it seems that "Adam's Rib" will be hard to take. More precisely: Katharine Hepburn's Amanda is hard to take. Her feminism - when put to the test - amounts to little more than anthem singing; and however sympathetic her client may be, we can see at once that the case for the defence is almost entirely frivolous. Yet George Cukor is standing in the gallery, apparently cheering her on. It's infuriating. It's like watching an Edwardian comedy about suffragettes.

Well, no. The film is a good deal smarter than we had given it credit for being ... oh, very well, smarter than *I* had given it credit for being. Gordon, Kanin and Cukor understand our infuriation; the supposedly shrill dispute in the first half is merely a starting point. Maybe audiences these days AREN'T too sophisticated for this kind of film. Maybe we're too stupid. (Oh, very well, maybe I'M too stupid.) -In any event, this is really a story about Adam and Amanda. Their story becomes deeper as the trial becomes shallower.

Even while it's infuriating us (our infuriation will be used to good effect later, of course) "Adam's Rib" is never less than pleasant to watch. One reason is that Hepburn and Tracy are just so brilliant. The script serves them both well: neither player is denied good lines, and any impression that Hepburn is meant to be just some hothead, or that Tracy is meant to be just some schmuck, is transitory. This is a wonderful script! My only previous exposure to Hepburn and Tracy had been in "Guess Who's Coming to Dinner", where their partnership was the only thing holding the film together; I wasn't at all prepared for the sheer energy they generate when they set to work on stronger material. Moreover they seem perfectly natural as a married couple.

The music is good, too. There's a catchy original song (not a gratuitous addition ... although it wouldn't matter if it was) by Cole Porter; the rest of the score was written by Miklós Rózsa, in one of his rare lighter moments.
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Sparring attorneys
jotix10020 March 2005
"Adam's Rib", directed by George Cukor, and with a screenplay by Ruth Ford and Garson Kanin, was one of the happiest films the two stars did together. Mr. Cukor knew how to direct this couple, and it shows. There are no false moments in a movie.

The rivalry between Adam Bonner and Amanda, his wife, comes to a head as they both get involved in a criminal case. Adam, as an Assistant D.A. is assigned to it. Amanda, as a successful trial lawyer, decides to get involved in it because she believes Doris Attinger acted in a moment of madness.

This film was ahead of its time because Amanda questions the right of a woman to be judged the same way as a man, something the penal system seemed to ignore. Doris Attinger is a woman that has had enough with the philandering husband that appears to have fallen out of love with her. Warren Attinger doesn't care who he hurts, until Doris decides to take the matter into her own hands.

Katherine Hepburn shows an impeccable delivery as Amanda Bonner. She has an inner beauty that shines and make her glow. Ms. Hepburn was at the top of her career just about then and it shows. Spencer Tracy is Ms. Hepburn's match as the D.A. prosecuting the case. Mr. Tracy is delightful to watch in their scenes together. He has such a mischievous presence that endeared him to us in anything he played.

The revelation in this film was Judy Holliday. As Doris, the accused woman, she shows talent beyond imagination. In a way, it is sad to realize this amazing actress didn't live to make it even bigger in the movies. She was a natural and she is a joy to watch in the film. Lucky are we to be able to see her best work preserved for posterity.

In minor roles David Wayne plays Kip Lurie, a Broadway composer. He is an annoying neighbor who admires Amanda, much to Adam's chagrin. Kip has written a song that becomes popular, "Dear Amanda", that is heard throughout the movie. Also, in the cast Jean Hagen, Eve March, and Hope Emerson who are effective in their roles.

Thanks to George Cukor, Ruth Ford and Garson Kanin for bringing this enjoyable comedy to the screen. Above all, thanks to Spencer Tracy and Katherine Hepburn for playing the Bonners.
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This is what Tracy/Hepburn comedies are all about.
Lee Eisenberg13 June 2005
Sometimes in life, we experience the most embarrassing situations. But no matter how embarrassing these situations are, they can't possibly be as whacked-out as what the characters in "Adam's Rib" experience.

It all begins when Doris Attinger (Judy Holliday) shoots her husband Warren (Tom Ewell) after she finds him cheating on her. She is promptly arrested for attempted murder. High-priced lawyer Adam Bonner (Spencer Tracy) is assigned to represent Warren in court. However, Adam's wife Amanda (Katharine Hepburn) finds it despicable that a woman was arrested for punishing her unfaithful husband, and decides to represent Doris in court.

Well, as you can imagine, with husband and wife on opposite sides of the trial, things get a little crazy. It only makes sense that they can't help but maintain their spousal attitudes towards each other while in court (especially under the table). But even Amanda starts to find Adam unpleasant for defending Warren, and she plays a few tricks on him in court, namely with a very muscular woman.

One thing that you have to wonder after seeing a movie this good is: how did Ruth Gordon and Garson Kanin come up with such a great story? Well, the point is that they did. It focuses not only on sexism, but also on how the whole trial is affecting their marriage.

Anyway, the point is that in my opinion, "Adam's Rib" should have won Best Picture for 1949. Perfect.
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Absolutely delightful!
mmintz15 September 2001
Warning: Spoilers

I must confess that my initial interest in "Adam's Rib" was because, as I came across it in the library, I mistakenly thought that I'd seen it on AFI's top 100 list. When I got it home I realized that, while some other Cukor movies (and "All about Eve") were there, "Adam's Rib" was not. Of course I did watch it and think maybe it should've been. I truly enjoyed it!

It was funny, warm, interesting, turbulent. The dialogue between Adam and Amanda was up there with Tarantino's stuff. And some of those fights are just downright explosive! The unique relationship between the two is believable and fun to be a part of. There is chemistry and, above all else, mutual respect. It's such a relief that they reconcile at the end of the movie. (Vive la difference!)

Adam Bonner is appropriately goofy but it's clear that there is depth and intelligence beneath his bumbling, stuttering, dispeptic exterior. Amanda Bonner's strength may not be bombastic (with a few exceptions) but her resolve is adamantine. Sure, she may not make much of a fuss about it, but she's going to do what she needs to do, whatever the cost. Of course, this deeply exasperates her husband (almost ending their marriage) but this must also be what he loves so much about her. There is a sweetness and warmth to their marriage that perseveres through all the obstacles thrown in its path. Some of my favorite scenes (though a little frivolous) are the under-the-table courtroom scenes when they drop their pencils and flirt with each other. Kisses are blown, funny faces are exchanged, and Kate even flips her dress up at one point. OUCH!

Though not without imperfections, "Adam's Rib" is a a good, solid movie and I'm glad I made the mistake of watching it.
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Lawyers shouldn't marry lawyers...?
gaityr19 June 2002
ADAM'S RIB is probably the most well-known of the nine Tracy/Hepburn films (with, perhaps, the exception of Guess Who's Coming To Dinner). It stars Spencer Tracy as Adam Bonner, and Katharine Hepburn as his alliteratively-named wife, Amanda. When they wind up as opposing counsel on the same Attinger v Attinger case (Adam prosecuting, Amanda defending), sparks of all sorts--romantic, angry, sexual--fly through the courtroom and their home.

Given the extremely flawed feminism of WOMAN OF THE YEAR (Tracy and Hepburn's first film together), I was worried that ADAM'S RIB would be more of the same--understandable, given that it is written by Garson Kanin, the mastermind behind the first film. The message of the film is certainly muted by the shenanigans Amanda gets up to in the courtroom--deliberately flustering Adam by giving her client a hat he had given her, for example; or flirting with him under the table (a naughty, electric scene); or even worse, having Adam literally shown up by a circus woman. It does occasionally make you wonder why Amanda has to resort to such silly tactics to make such a serious point about equal rights for women. But this really is just a minor offense--I present the entire series of 'Ally McBeal' as proof that, if ADAM'S RIB *did* present female lawyers as silly and flighty, it is hardly the only offender, and the fact that it was made in 1949 might excuse it. 'Ally McBeal' doesn't have that same excuse.

In fact, I *don't* think that ADAM'S RIB is as schizophrenic about affirming the female and equal rights as WOMAN OF THE YEAR is. Yes, Amanda does some silly things in court--this is a flaw in the film, albeit (I feel) a minor one. But, discounting that, Amanda is by all accounts a character the audience can (and do) sympathise with. Moreover, she is affirmed at the end in a way the Tess Harding character never is. I find it very interesting that, at the end, it is *Adam* who schemes to win Amanda back. (Contrast this with WOMAN OF THE YEAR: Tess has to win Sam back, and to do so, must be 'domesticated'.) The film actually makes the point that both Adam and Amanda are partly right--her cause is just as pertinent as his, and they both eventually come to respect what the other is fighting for. That's what gives them a true marriage, a true union based on sharing and trust, give and take. (Again, by contrast, this came under serious fire in WOMAN OF THE YEAR.)

In the end, ADAM'S RIB really is a wonderful film: it's not without its flaws, of course, but what it comes down to is a truly delightful little romantic comedy, with sparkling performances from its leads. It's a true delight to see Tracy and Hepburn playing a happily married couple who evidently love each other deeply. They really do play together perfectly--always in sync, and so believable as people who are going to spend the rest of their lives with each other. For them, it's the little moments that make all the difference; one of my favourites is when Adam and Amanda are screening a home movie for their party guests. Worried that Adam is mad at her (as he has every reason to be!), Amanda moves quickly across the dark room to him, and gently rests her head on his lap, before returning to her seat. Such a sweet, romantic little gesture, and yet it says volumes about their relationship.

Moreover, the film has plenty of little surprises (I was actually really pleased, and surprised, at the verdict given by the jury); a lovely supporting cast (including Jean Hagen and Judy Holliday, the latter's role being--effectively--a screen test for her later Hollywood career); and incredible dialogue fired off at an incredible pace. Plus, a sweet song by Cole Porter (albeit a very irritating, and crassly forward/opportunistic singer in the character of Kip), and some of the naughtiest scenes in film history that never took place onscreen.

Well, well worth the watch. 9/10.
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Can you say over-rated?
chrishend6 September 2002
Warning: Spoilers
It always surprises me when I go to watch one of these supposed great old movies and find out how bad it is. This one has truly not aged well at all.

There are a few things this movie does well, but the things it does wrong makes it impossible for me to consider it good.

The best part of this movie is the low-key chit chat and relationship dialogue (as long as its the relationship stuff, the courtroom dialogue is inane to the nth degree). It's done well, and there are quite a few mild chuckles to be had.

*mild spoilers for the rest*

The treatment of the court case however is unforgivable. These are most definately two of the stupidest "movie" lawyers I've ever seen in my life. I was sitting throughout the court scenes pulling my hair out waiting for one of them to at least make SOME argument that had anything to do with the case at all. It seemed like neither of them even had a clue what the person was being charged with. Hepburn spends way too much time talking about equal this, equal that, blah blah blah and none of it has anything to do with anything and Spencer is apparently too stupid to argue his side of the case either. And during Hepburn's closing where she is talking about reversing the roles of the males and females, all I could do is sit there and think... so what? Is she telling us we should let this lady off after shooting her husband because we'd let a man off for shooting his wife? What universe is she living in? I have a hard time believing even people in the 40s were that stupid. This kind of stuff totally ruined half the movie for me, and I almost turned it off because these people were acting so irrationally.

Also as an aside, for a movie that brings up the issue of equal rights, I found it pretty misogynistic. The main female characters in the movie are all stereotyped as flightly, emotional, and illogical.

In a nutshell ... relationship stuff ok to good ... rest complete garbage.
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Man smart, woman smarter...?
jc-osms9 June 2009
Frothy and lively if slightly anachronistic Tracy - Hepburn vehicle written by the talented Garson Kanin - Ruth Gordon team which later gave us the equally good "Born Yesterday" and my special favourite "Pat and Mike".

The use of title-boards throughout would have you think the movie was based on a stage play but it's just another clever double-bluff by the writers and director who further distance the viewer from thoughts of the theatre with some amusing and clever camera tricks.

The battle of the sexes theme is laid on a little thick and almost snarls up the movie which suffers a little at times from confusion as to what its main theme is - is it Judy Halliday's story of revenge on her philandering husband, or possibly Hepburn's crusading feminism which sees her turn an attempted murder trial into a farce, or could it even be David Wayne's next-door tune-smith character's attempt to seduce Hepburn away from old man Tracy...?

Of course it's none of these, the entertaining conclusion, liquorice hand-gun, Tracy's crocodile tears and all revealing a celebration of married life and more particularly the close-as-this relationship which subsisted between the two leads until Tracy's death in 1967 (as witnessed at close hand by the writers, intimates with Tracy & Hepburn).

The two star performances make the film, naturally. Naturally in fact is the very word to describe their timing - Tracy the grizzled, conservative, certainly paternal male to Hepburn's fresh, trailblazing and definitely younger female. They were rarely better together than this, Hepburn in particular at last learning to tone down her performance to meet the demands of the film.

In support Judy Halliday makes a great first impression (this was her film debut), Tom Ewell gives his best sour-puss expression throughout but David Wayne's venal character is so objectionable as to almost throw the film off-kilter. There are however many memorable scenes, including not only those alluded to above but also Hepburn's Capra - style parade of female achievers at the trial (as if they would be allowed to appear on the stand in court!) which sees Tracy knocked off his feet literally and the very clever special effect reversal of the sexes of the protagonists to bolster Hepburn's argument.

The sexual equality motif is as indicated a tad overdone but it serves Spence & Kate well enough, giving them plenty of opportunity to spar with each other, their dialogue tripping over each other throughout as they reach the inevitable score draw at the finish.

As a recent viewer of some absolutely moronic so-called comedies from the modern era, it was a tonic to go back in time and watch this masterful exhibition of Hollywood comedy at its very best.
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more angry than funny
dartleyk19 January 2014
often billed as a funny battle of the sexes, it really isn't; it's no contest; tracy comes off as asoft-spoken guy who treats his wife pretty well; hepburn on the other hand is frequently strident and rude; he seems devoted to her while she constantly flirts with the neighbor; he treats her respectfully, she revels in humiliating him at home and at work in court; sure, some of the disconnected skits are funny, mainly helped by judy holiday, not hepburn; and his moment of ethical and legal revenge is instantly dismissed by her; overall needed more give and take like other tracy-hepburn movies, and less of the relentless, one-sided pounding where tracy in the end has to pull a girlish trick to win back the woman who treats him as an incompetent fool
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A sophisticated romantic comedy.....
Maddyclassicfilms28 November 2009
Warning: Spoilers
Another classic from director George Cukor,Adams Rib is the perfect example of the magic of one of cinemas greatest on screen couples.Katherine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy are pure perfect together in all of their nine pairings and had a deep love affair off screen as well.Their chemistry is terrific and really adds to the appeal of their films.

With an intelligent and very funny screenplay by Garson Kanin and Ruth Gordon(best remembered for her sinister role in Rosemary's Baby),and plenty of memorable moments this is easily one of the best films of the 1940's.

Successful lawyer husband and wife Adam Bonner(Spencer Tracy)and Amanda(Katherine Hepburn)are a very happy couple and treat each other as equals.A crack appears in this perfect relationship in the form of a famous case which they both take on.

Young wife Doris Attinger(Judy Holliday)is accused of shooting and injuring her unfaithful husband Warren (Tom Ewell).Amanda defends Doris and Adam is her opposition when he defends Warren and his girlfriend Beryl Caighn(Jean Hagen).Soon the stage is set for fiery confrontations in the courtroom as these two legal eagles take flight.

At first the case doesn't affect their home life but Adam is annoyed by the attentions of musical neighbour Kip Lurie(David Wayne)who flirts with Amanda and writes her a special song.

How will the case turn out and will Adam and Amanda be able to kiss and make up again?well watch this classic battle of the sexes and find out.

Highlights include Adam being lifted up in court by a circus strong woman,a massage which descends into a huge argument,Adams liquorice gun and the unforgettable moment where he gets in touch with his feminine side,to prove a point to Amanda.
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Adam's Spare Rib
erniemunger30 December 2005
An obvious Hepburn/Tracy vehicle, riding on the couple's real-life romance, Adam's Rib suffers from a blatant absence of plot and, come to think of it, pretty much anything that makes a good film. Adam and Amanda Bonner, respectively attorney general and lawyer, take sides in a courtroom battle over a woman's case who cooled her husband's adulterous ardour by clumsily trying to shoot him down. Sure enough, the legal joust spills over into the counsels' private life, with Hepburn making a case for women's rights and Tracy trying to compete on traditional, i.e. "manly" legal grounds. What could have been a pacey screwball classic quickly turns into a humdrum romance-cum-esprit playlet deludingly relying on desperately "witty" colloquy and the chemistry between the two stars, foggily directed by an uninspired George Cukor, who must have been crying secretly in between takes. Though Tracey and Hepburn are on cruise control mode, there's only this much anyone could have siphoned out of a virtually non-existing intrigue, and after a somewhat upbeat beginning, it all drifts off into precocious women's lib rhetoric, most of it obstructing any further development of the story. Worst of all, the side plot – the couple's friend, a viscerally annoying wannabe songwriter and singer openly courting Miss Hepburn – is about the patchiest piece of script you've come across, shredding this hapless comedy into bits of fluffy dinner talk and cack-handled situation comedy. The truth of the matter is that, right from the start, Cukor follows the wrong cue, when he decides to stage a gender fight by settling on the obvious option, which is Hepburn siding with the betrayed female and Tracy defending the shot-at husband. This is of course a wild and foolish guess, but Billy Wilder, in his heyday, would have likely tackled the same story by going head first for a reversal of roles, perfidiously casting Tracy as a reluctant champion of the "weaker sex" instead, which in itself could have sparked off a firework of quiproquos and story twists and, incidentally, prevented anyone involved in this weakling from trying to get away with a routine job. For all those tender souls who keep fooling themselves about the grand cinema of olden days, and how everything was so much better in those days, this is shattering proof that futility is timeless.
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Not as dramatic, engaging or funny as has been suggested but the lead pair make it well worth seeing
bob the moo29 May 2005
Adam and Amanda Bonner are happily married, despite the sparky nature of their relationship. Lawyers each, both are interested in a newspaper report of a woman who shot (but not killed) her husband when she discovered him in the arms of another woman. The Bonner's take differing views of the case and it is no surprise that Adam ends up prosecuting while Amanda is Doris Attinger's defence counsel. With the gloves off in the courtroom with a legal battle of sexual equality, it is no surprise that the conflict and disagreements don't end at the front door and soon it is all kicking off.

The issue of sexual equality may have moved on from where it was in the middle of the last century but this film occasionally hits an interesting point, even if the majority of it is fairly shallow and a bit unconvincing in terms of legal argument. Without really engaging me, the film still held my interest as the story developed and it was fairly enjoyable even if it couldn't settle on whether or not it is a comedy or a courtroom "issue" drama; as it was I didn't think it did either brilliantly but did both well enough to make it work. I did expect more laughs because I thought it was going to be one of the screwball genre, but once I realised that it was more amusing than funny then I was able to settle into it.

One of the main reasons that the film has continued to last down the years is the chemistry between Tracy and Hepburn. Both are convincing as a couple in terms of romance, attrition, chemistry and other aspects of their relationship on screen. Tracy is tetchy and enjoyable but Hepburn is more than a match for him and she does it with style and real humour. Support is good from Holliday as well as Wayne's annoying neighbour. Mainly though it is Tracy and Hepburn's movie and they more than carry it between them.

Overall though this is not quite the classic that I had hoped it would be but it still did enough to make it work today. The courtroom stuff is not as dramatic or as relevant as it may have once been and the comedy is more of the sharp variety than the laugh-out-loud sort; however the chemistry between the lead two keeps it going and makes it worth seeing still.
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Each character is absurdly stupid
cb236922 October 2014
I admit, I am only 59 minutes in, but I can't watch another second of this. Both Hepburn and Tracy's characters are too annoyingly stupid.

(Possible spoilers??, this explains only the set up and the beginning of the film)

The film centers around a case that is way too clear: A woman buys a gun, follows her husband until she finds him cheating on her, and then shoots all 6 bullets in their direction, hitting the husband in the chest and wounding him. The film decides to choose this case as a backdrop for a discussion on sexism, and while that was clearly a problem in the 50s, it is of no importance to this case. The lawyers spend their time bickering over whether or not the man was having an affair, but neither seem to realize that adultery is no grounds for murder, nor is it even a crime in America. Any good writer would have realized that the details of this case weren't ambiguous enough for a discussion on sexism, and would have changed certain details, but alas, they did not and we spend our time watching Hepburn make a mountain out of a molehill and Tracy make Mount Everest out of Hepburn's mountain.

I give this film a 4 because there is some good dialogue in between the badly-done plot and it is a decently tight script. I read the rest of the story on wikipedia and it doesn't seem to get much better. I don't suggest watching this unless getting back at men is such a fantasy of yours that you are willing to forgive the unbelievable aspects of this story.
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Hollywood Dream Team struggles with stale script
moonspinner5518 July 2004
Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn worked so smoothly together that it's almost difficult to fault their films. Hepburn's admiration for Tracy off-screen is hard to ignore, but she was a character actress first and foremost (and THEN a movie star), and she's deeply in character here and believable. Tracy, on the other hand, took movie-making with a grain of salt--we don't see his indifference, but we do see his casual 'naturalness,' his underplaying. Spencer Tracy actually overacts at underplaying, mumbling some of his throwaway lines for effect or overlapping Hepburn's dialogue with his. This non-effort actually shows effort, and turns this comedy into an actor's exercise. It's not very funny anyway: married lawyers take opposite sides of a spousal-abuse case. Dated battle-of-the-sexes doesn't give Judy Holliday much to work with (word has it this was her screen-test for "Born Yesterday"). It's all very smart and sophisticated on the surface, but callow at its core. Screenwriters Ruth Gordon and Garson Kanin received Oscar nominations for their script, which disintegrates into door-slamming farce. ** from ****
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Hasn't Aged Well
stills-631 May 2000
Hepburn and Tracy do great improvisation when they have nothing to talk about. They're fun to watch when the plot isn't getting in the way. But the plot DOES get in the way. I still wonder why they couldn't have thought up a better scenario to test the equality of men and women other than what Hepburn calls an "unwritten rule". I've seen a good number of Hepburn and Tracy movies now and have yet to see one that rates higher than a 6 merely because the plots are so weak. Did everyone think that they could carry a movie no matter how bad it would otherwise have been?

I didn't really like any of the supporting characters, either, especially the hard-to-watch David Wayne.

I didn't live through this period, and I'm sure this was considered shockingly feminist in its day, but it hasn't aged well. It comes across as just the opposite now.
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Clumsy comedy for lack of focus
vostf10 November 2002
You're disappointed when the premise sounds good but the movie looks weak. Adam's Rib has a too serious background translated in too many talks. Basically that's what makes the movie a poor comedy with only a few laughs.

To go further in the analysis I would say the Hepburn-Tracy couple is over-stretched between private life/social life/professional life. This narrative stretching is only here to show feminism under a comprehensive focus. The outcome is the domestic comedy and the feminist cause cannibalize each other.

For great comedies, prefer the pairing of Ms Hepburn with Cary Grant: Bringing up Baby (delightfully over the top), Holiday or the Philadelphia Story (where Cukor masters in mixing serious issues with good laughs).
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Definitive Tracy-Hepburn Vehicle Dates a Bit with Polemics But Remains a Comedy Classic
Ed Uyeshima30 October 2006
Seven years into their screen partnership, Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn made what is arguably their best effort together, the sixth of nine movies they made together. The zingy repartee and old-shoe comfort in their relationship are in full bloom in this 1949 comedy classic directed by George Cukor. Written by the legendary husband and wife writing team of Garson Kanin and Ruth Gordon, the plot focuses on a headline-grabbing court case involving Doris Attinger, a dim-witted wife who shoots her philandering husband Warren just as he is caught with his blowsy mistress Beryl Caighn. Representing the wounded husband is Assistant DA Adam Bonner who is looking for a quick conviction of the wife. However, his proto-feminist attorney wife Amanda sees the alleged crime as an act of justifiable defiance and decides to defend the wife.

This potentially tense set-up leads to a trial where Amanda sets out to prove that a double standard exists for women and that Doris was merely defending her family and home. Adam, however, believes that the law is the law no matter the gender of those involved and that a murder was indeed attempted. Consequently, the story is not so much about Adam's inherent sexism as it is about Amanda's single-minded determination to prove her point even as the case degrades into a media sideshow. Over half a century later, Amanda's arguments sound rather dated, one-note and frankly ill-conceived with many of her lines simply polemics. At the same time, Hepburn plays such a convincing litigator that her case actually sounds persuasive at times. Tracy is also in top form as he brings his unique combination of sympathy and combustible bluster to a man who respects his wife deeply but becomes increasingly disillusioned with her unlawful stance.

Together, they banter terrifically throughout, but it's in the domestic scenes, for instance, the home movie of their Connecticut farm and the late night meal preparation, where you feel their natural chemistry the most. As Doris, Judy Holliday delivers in her first significant screen role, bringing a deeper pathos to the scorned wife than you would expect. Several years away from "The Seven Year Itch", Tom Ewell plays Warren for the smarmy, sexist cheater that he is, while Jean Hagen expertly plays Beryl as a media-hungry floozy. As the Bonners' next door neighbor Kip, David Wayne acts rather fey for someone who supposedly wants to run away with Amanda, but I suppose the approach was intentional to ensure nothing would really threaten the Bonner marriage except the case. However dated some of the sexual politics feel, the film is still one of the most smartly played of romantic comedies. Unfortunately the 2000 DVD has no extras.
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Mr and Mrs Pinky
Spuzzlightyear25 July 2005
Adam's Rib is quite an interesting movie soley based on it's premise and actors alone. Let's see, Spencer Tracy and Katherine Hepburn playing dueling lawyers on a case about a woman who may have shot at her philandering husband. Kate believes she's not guilty, because the husband got what was coming to him cheating on his poor wife!. So, um, where does that place Hepburn and Tracy in real life? One of the more famous adulterous pairs in history are playing dueling lawyers fighting over a case of a woman who may or may not have shot at her husband because he was cheating? Hmm interesting. Don't get me wrong, I loved the movie. Hepburn and Tracy are one of the most famous screen couples in history, and this proves it. Their repartee is amazing here. Also worth noting is the supporting cast, with of course, Judy Holliday in her screen debut as the wife of the philandering husband, and also David Wayne as the staple gay character (After all, this IS a George Cukor movie) All in all, one of the more famous comedies of the 1950;s.
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Impressive but erratic battle-of-the-sexes comedy
Richard Burin8 April 2010
Adam's Rib (George Cukor, 1949) is often hailed as the best "battle-of-the-sexes" comedy on celluloid, but it's beset with the same problems as the bulk of these Tracy-Hepburn vehicles: dated social observation that's tricky to navigate today, a lack of laughs and dramatic sequences that are just too heavy. The leads are a blissfully married couple who clash when they take opposing sides in a murder trial: assistant DA Spence leads the prosecution of wronged wife Judy Holliday (who is magnificent), while crusading feminist Kate leaps to her defence. Holliday plugged philandering husband Tom Ewell, you see, then fired wildly around the flinching floozy he was nuzzling up to, Jean Hagen.

The acting is absolutely stunning - universally superb - and there's smart use of newspaper inserts and a puppet show motif, but the material is spotty and chunky, with humour arriving in slabs rather than being weaved through the narrative. Kudos to former stage star David Wayne (he played Og in the smash Broadway version of Finian's Rainbow) for being so formidably irritating as Hepburn's extremely camp confidante and suitor. His reading of Cole Porter's specially adapted song Farewell, Amanda is a rare moment of respite in a teeming sea of annoyance. Hepburn asked her favourite director, Cukor, to favour Holliday in the filming of their scenes and leaked stories to the press about Judy's revelatory performance enraging both the leads. The ploy was designed to land her apprentice the lead in the screen adaptation of Born Yesterday, which she had initiated on stage. It worked - and she took home the Best Actress Oscar the following year.

As for Adam's Rib, it's impressive and memorable but, despite all that, resolutely not a classic.
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Bored bored bored
Mike Friedman19 July 2005
Could Spencer Tracy be underplaying any more than here? The script is dreadful and I was simply bored. Now that's one thing I rarely am in a Hepburn picture. This, along with "Bringing Up Baby" just hasn't aged well at ALL. At least 'Bringing Up Baby' is funny because of the screwball element.

'Woman of the Year' is still a far better film, covering some of the same topics as this, but in a far cleverer fashion. I can even see parallels between the two plots.

You still get a sense of the Hepburn/Tracy chemistry here, but the rest of it is a gigantic mess. Even the Cole Porter song is boring.
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