Sunday, 23 January 2011

Old Movie Madness: The Philadelphia Story (1940)

I told you I'd watched a lot of movies today.

The Philadephia Story is based upon a 1939 play and is a comedy based around a woman (Katharine Hepburn) torn between three men - her fiance, her ex-husband (the ever dapper Cary Grant, who donated his fee for the film to the British War Relief fund) and an attractive reporter (Jimmy Stewart).

Tracy Samantha Lord is a Philadelphia socialite who divorced her former husband CK Dexter Haven when he did not live up to her high expections (he was an alcoholic) and is now set to remarry.  The hacks at "The Spy" want to cover the wedding and blackmail her former husband into getting the scoop.  Dexter arrives at her home with writer Mike Connor and photographer Liz Imbrie, claiming they are friends of her brother who is unable to attend the wedding himself.

Tracy quickly discovers their plan but decides to let them stay after discovering that if they do not get a story about her nuptuals they will instead print a scandal about her father and dancer.

Tracy starts to have feelings for the young repoerter Mike and gets incredibly drunk and goes swimming with him.  He carries her back to her room but they are seen by both her fiance George and Dexter.  Angered by George's lack of faith in her Tracy ends the engagement and Mike offers to marry her.  Tracy turns him down and remarries Dexter instead.

I have to admit to really enjoying this movie, though it is really just fluff - Katharine Hepburn, as usual, was utterly marvellous, her nasal high society twang a voice I'd love to be able to mimic but sadly can't (you should hear me, it is highly amusing).  She had fabulous comedy timing and her hungover recoil from the bright sun made me laugh out loud.  Jimmy Stewart did a marvellous job of playing drunk and Grant - well - he is just Cary Grant.  Handsome and sexily at ease even under stress.  Sigh.

For me though there were two real scene stealers; Virginia Wiedler as Tracy's younger sister Dinah, visibly loving getting to ham things up and Ruth Hussey as Miss Imbrie in a series of incredible suits and hats and a remarkable hairstyle that I'm just dying to try.

And I will be hankering after this dress for ever.

The film was remade as "High Society" in 1956 starring Grace Kelly, Bing Crosby and Frank Sinatra.

A really marvellous and gentle movie, well scripted and deserving I think of its 6 academy award nominations.  Jimmy Stewart won for best actor, deservedly.


  1. A perfect Sunday movie, I just adore Jimmy Stewart!

  2. Great post! I love this film too, and I love Cary Grant even more now (didn't think this was possible!) after learning he donated his fee...

  3. The bit where she is hungover cracks me up too. Absolutely hated the High Society remake x

  4. I need to watch this movie! I love Cary Grant:-)

  5. Your choice of film just gets better with each film.
    Hope you had a good weekend.

  6. I swear, every time I watch The Philadelphia Story (and I've seen it dozens of times) I notice something new about it, some little touch or facial expression that is exactly right. Love it. (Although I've got to admit, I pay the most attention to Jimmy Stewart and that "Hearthfires and Holocausts" bit... Oof!)

  7. I adore this movie. I think I'm going to go watch it again.