Now this is my kind of old school romantic comedy! Not that the two can really be compared, but I’ve always preferred Katharine to Audrey Hepburn. No relation, and therefore no real grounds for comparison (it’d be like comparing Spencer Tracey to Kevin Spacey, the only relation being a similarity in names), however I still just can’t help myself. Audrey is lovely, but airy and far too delicate for my sensibilities. Katharine is an amazon, ballsy, outspoken, intelligent, and independent, and I always admire and respect women with more balls than their male costars.
I loved everything, absolutely everything, about The Philadelphia Story. It’s witty, clever, fast paced, just the right amount of silly, and a dash of romance (but nothing too fluffy. I’m sure Katharine wouldn’t stand for it.)
Even more so than the film and story itself, I love the fun little factoids I found out about it while perusing IMDB’s trivia page on the film while I watched. For instance, not too surprising but still fabulously intriguing, the character Tracy Lords was inspired by Katharine Hepburn’s real life public persona. Philip Barry, playwright of the original Broadway production, found her so intriguing that not only did he use her as inspiration, but he used the play itself as a way to woo her back to the stage after poor reviews for The Lake had her doubting herself.
The role was created specifically for her, and based on her. She caved and starred in the Broadway production, and later owned the film rights to the material: they’d been purchased by Howard Hughes (whom she dated briefly), and given to her as a gift. Some gift!
As far as production value goes, there’s not much to it. Cinematographically it’s a very simple film, which is kind of par for the course with a romantic comedy, especially at this time. Where it goes above and beyond the call of duty is in the dialogue, direction, and acting.
Hepburn was superb, an absolute joy to watch on screen. She is far from your average bathing beauty, with her sharp features, rail thin frame, and lanky mannerisms. That being said, she’s a far cry from awkward! Her rail thin frame is the result of her upbringing, taught by her physician father and suffragette mother to always push her mind and her body to their highest potential. Her dive into the pool midway through the film is the real thing, as she shows off her athletic potential. She commands every scene with her sharp tongue and keen wit, both of which inspired the script and her picture perfect performance.
Cary Grant is Cary Grant: classic, effortless, and divine. He’s suave, and cunning, and unfortunately I’d say a little underused in the first half of the film. But what he lacks in screen time in the first half, he more than makes up for in presence in the second half. He doesn’t put on a particularly moving performance, just the classic performance he’s so good at: dashing scoundrel with a hint of self-effacing humor, who somehow manages to remarry the same girl. Whatever IT is, he’s got IT in spades. No one can argue with that.
Jimmy, oh Jimmy boy. James Stewart is just a loveable treasure, as always. A little prickly around the edges this time around, he’s still good ol’ Jimmy Stewart. Evidently he never wanted the role, as he thought he was completely wrong for the part. Oscar says differently. That being said, evidently Stewart was under the impression that the Oscar he won for this performance was most likely back payment for Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, another film on my list praised endlessly by my darling father. Considering that the Oscars are usually, if not always, filled to overflowing with idiotic politics, I’d say he was probably bang on. His part was integral, and was truly a pleasure to watch, but I’m not so certain it was Oscar worthy. But his improved hiccuping drunk (that nearly causes Grant to lose face on camera) had me in stitches.
In a smaller, but no less entertaining role, Ruth Hussey was an absolute delight. What’s more is she holds her own next to the incomparable Hepburn! She deals out some of the best one-liners in the entire film, and does it with a cool, calm, collected edge that left me stunned. I didn’t think any other female could stand next to Hepburn and make me think “I can’t decide who I like more”, but Hussey made that a reality.
I think I have as much love for this movie as I did for All About Eve. Granted, Eve is nowhere near a comedy, let alone a rom-com, but my enjoyment was on par. The fast-paced dialogue made me laugh and give pause, the performances had me grinning ear to ear throughout the duration of the film, and the end result was a beaming, overjoyed me.
This post was originally published on my tumblr on December 5, 2011.