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Wick's Review

Created Apr 27, 2012 08:48AM PST • Edited Dec 25, 2019 08:11PM PST

  1. Quality
  2. Very Good 3.5

    Call me crazy, but I find The Philadelphia Story inferior to Bringing Up Baby, its contemporaneous cousin. Katherine Hepburn’s comeback movie – the picture that cemented her status as a hit making star – is a very fine romcom and an understandable member of seven American Film Institute all-time lists, but it’s not LOL funny, nor as inspired as the other classic she made with Cary Grant during that period.

    But enough Bringing Up Baby comparisons. Let’s focus on AFI’s #5 RomCom.

    The story of Philadelphia heiress Tracy Lord’s wedding to her second husband getting interrupted by her first husband and a pair of tabloid snoops was first a hit on Broadway starring Katherine Hepburn. Why? Her inimitable hijinks lead to a really romantic result after several surprising twists and turns. That’s why.

    The Philadelphia Story was written for the Great Kate, with the film rights purchased and gifted to her by Howard Hughes, her boyfriend. Now that’s how a sugar daddy should treat a talented starlet!

    James Stewart won his only Best Actor Oscar for his role as the tabloid writer, while the combination of him, Grant and Hepburn remains one of the all-time great starbursts.

    Like RomComs? Gotta see The Philadelphia Story. Its star power, wit and sense of place make it a classic.

  3. Really Great 4.5

    Katherine Hepburn’s Tracy Lord is one of the Silver Screen’s greatest creations, making perfect use of her creator’s trademark vigor and insouciance. The Great Kate was friends with Helen Hope Montgomery Scott, the inspiration for Tracy Lord. Imagine the parties!

    Jimmy Stewart’s writer presents an emotionally tougher side of the normally amiable actor. Perhaps if he’d tilted his career this way, he would have won more than just this one Oscar.

    Cary Grant didn’t have to stretch to play a winning aristocrat. But it never gets tiring watching him do it.

    The rest of the rather large cast is fine if unremarkable.

  4. Male Stars Perfect 5.0
  5. Female Stars Perfect 5.0
  6. Female Costars Very Good 3.5
  7. Male Costars Good 3.0
  8. Very Good 3.5

    Main Line Philadelphia gives the film its deep sense of place – the aristocratic estates, the Quaker dialect spoken in the village, the Social Register set. Disturbing this insular bubble come a pair of tabloid snoops, plain speaking middle-class Americans. The conflict they create makes for a clash of American cultures and provides a taste of the celebrity obsessed media culture we live in today.

    If only it were as funny as it is clever and well conceived. Ah well, even Tracy Lord can’t have everything.

  9. Direction Great 4.0
  10. Play Very Good 3.5
  11. Music OK 2.5
  12. Visuals Very Good 3.5
  13. Content
  14. Tame 1.4

    Men were gentlemen and women were ladies in The Philadelphia Story, even if the prospect of them not behaving that way drives much of the drama.

    Interestingly, the movie has Cary Grant’s character eschewing alcohol, after apparently being a drunkard when he was married to Katherine Hepburn’s Tracy Lord. Alcoholism isn’t mentioned per se, but even this level of attention to its dangers is notable for a 1930s movie.

  15. Sex Titillating 1.6
  16. Violence Gentle 1.2
  17. Rudeness Polite 1.5
  18. Glib 1.4

    The Philadelphia Story tells a story about the idle rich during the Great Depression, yet jealousy and vitriol are absent. Times have changed in Hollywood, as noted in my review of Bringing Up Baby.

  19. Circumstantial Glib 1.5
  20. Biological Glib 1.6
  21. Physical Natural 1.0


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