"In 1940, Katherine Hepburn's movie career was in desperate condition. Her 1938 film BRINGING UP BABY, although recognized as a Howard Hawks's masterpiece today, was at the time a box office failure. The failure signaled the temporary end of demand for her talents in Hollywood, although she had HOLIDAY in the can (and costarring, like both BRINGING UP BABY and THE PHILADELPHIA STORY, Cary Grant). So, she went back to the stage, in a play written specifically for her, and the subsequent hit was an unexpected and triumphant return to the screen for Hepburn. Her career never looked back again, especially when two years later she teamed with Spencer Tracy for the first time. Ironically, she originally requested that Clark Gable and Spencer Tracy play the Cary Grant and Jimmy Stewart roles.THE PHILADELPHIA STORY is such an extraordinarily well-done film that one can watch it repeatedly, reveling each time in new and hidden details. It strikes the perfect balance of being spectacularly well-acted, hysterically funny, and delightfully silly while maintaining an elegant veneer. The cast is nearly overwhelming in its quality, with Hepburn and Grant turning in especially fine performances. Jimmy Stewart is also superb, though he won an Oscar for this year that he probably didn't deserve. The Academy in 1940 may have been giving him the award as an apology for not having won the year before for MR. SMITH GOES TO WASHINGTON. Unfortunately, this meant that Jimmy Stewart's best friend Henry Fonda failed to win for one of the finest performances in the history of American cinema, as Tom Joad in THE GRAPES OF WRATH. Still, although the Oscar clearly should have gone to Fonda, Stewart manages a great turn. He and Grant manage a great moment when Stewart adlibbed a hiccup, and Grant, not batting an eye, adlibbed, "Excuse me." The rest of the cast is flawless. Too many excel to mention, but special mention must be made of Roland Young as Uncle Willie, Virginia Weidler in a marvelous turn as Tracy Lord's precocious younger sister, and the erstwhile Errol Flynn nemesis Henry Daniell as the devious and unscrupulous Sidney Kidd. Although this film holds up magnificently upon reviewings, there is nothing like seeing it for the first time. I remember vividly how exciting it was to watch this in the lamentably demised Lincoln Theater in New Haven, Connecticut, having absolutely no idea how the film was going to end only five minutes before the closing credits. Who will Tracy marry? Will she marry? How will the film managed to tie up all the loose ends. I have a list of my all time favorite lines from films. One of my favorites comes from this one. On the morning after Tracy has gotten rip-roaringly drunk, she has almost no memories of what happened, but what she does recall makes her fear that she might have been in a compromising situation with Jimmy Stewart. After Stewart assures the confused and fearful Tracy Lord that nothing happened because she was drunk and "there are rules about that sort of thing," the infinitely relieved Tracy says, "I think men are wonderful."The film has managed to permeate our culture in subtle ways, from inspiring musical remakes, to providing famous adult movie stars with their names, to providing foundations for jokes (in the Rocky and Bullwinkle adventure "The Ruby Yacht of Omar Khayyam," whenever Bullwinkle sees his jewel encrusted small boat, he mutters under his breath, "Yar, yar")."
My, she was yar...
Zack Davisson | Seattle, WA, USA | 11/12/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
"They make few movies of the level of quality as "The Philadelphia Story." This movie is just full of life, good and bad. Cary Grant, James Stewart and Katharine Hepburn are a trifecta of astounding talent, and they blend together with ease and style. Like real people, everyone has their faults and their strengths. Everyone is right and wrong at the same time, in their own way.The dialog is so amazing, you want to quote it at every opportunity, although your life probably doesn't provide the opportunity to drop these kinds of quotes. The "High Society" at play, and the lowbrow crashers making their nickels and dimes all the while allowing their pretensions to art...this is great drama. The DVD is not particularly exciting, and is a surprising let down for such an amazing film, however a film this great doesn't need extras. The main course is filling enough.Definitely something you will watch over and over again. One of the best."
This is why I watch the classics.
Anthony Hinde | Sydney, Australia | 05/03/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Hollywood has a long history of taking Broadway theatricals and turning them into successful films. In 1940, this process produced "The Philadelphia Story" which had been very popular while on the stage with Katherine Hepburn. As it happened, Katherine was given a lot of control over the film. She chose all the leads and virtually had the film adaptation custom crafted for her. The end result was a fabulous cast, great performances and one of the funniest scripts ever produced. One final bit of trivia, the studio claimed to have shot the entire film without the need for any second takes. For the most part, this is an interesting film because it has interesting characters. And like any good cuisine, the ingredients are added with impeccable timing and in such a way as to produce a very spicy result. Instead of identifying with one central character, we are forced to wear the shoes of at least three. James Stewart plays, Macaulay Connor, a dissatisfied reporter working for a society rag. He represents the white-collar class. Hepburn and Cary Grant each represent the upper class. Hepburn is Tracy Samantha Lord, a wealthy heiress who is planning to wed for the second time, after rejecting her first husband on the grounds of what seems to be alcoholism. Grant plays that ex-husband, C. K. Dexter Haven, a now reformed drinker who is still in love with Tracy but is forced to make her life more difficult on the day before her upcoming nuptials. There is a strong social commentary within the film. Tracy's betrothed, George Kittredge, is a working class lad who has worked his way to success. He is possibly the only unlikable character in the movie; as his ambitions are a little too obvious, his mind a little to shallow and his love a little too conditional. There is some early foreshadowing of doom for their relationship. The most obvious clue comes when George tries to mount his horse, after refusing help, and makes a botch of it. Each little scene is jam packed with meaning. The movie would certainly make an interesting study for film students. All of the main characters, barring George, go through significant changes throughout the movie, even if they only change in our perceptions. Tracy's ice-princess veneer is shattered and she becomes a warm, vulnerable and loving woman. Macaulay drops his prejudices, finds some moral fibre and finally stands up for what he believes in. Dexter forgives himself and in doing so, forgives Tracy. Even Tracy's Father turns out to be a caring and wise figure, instead of the distant, immoral playboy we hear described at the start. Overall the film is too clever for words. They just don't make films like this anymore. It actually relies on the audience to get the joke. The puns, cultural references and interactions are not forced down our throat with a laugh track and a snare-drum. That's not to say you have to work hard to "get" this film; it's more like talking with your friends; you just understand, without further explanation. Everything about this film is perfect, which makes it a delight to watch time and time again. If you don't mind classic black and whites, you'll love Philadelphia Story."
MacGuffin | New York City | 08/29/2004
(4 out of 5 stars)
"This film is famous enough--justifiably, I might add--that I need not provide a synopsis. IMHO, it would be pretty hard not to enjoy the delicious antics played out in this Broadway-hit-turned-Hollywood-classic unless, like a previous reviewer, you have an extreme aversion to any of its cast members. No, my complaint is with the print itself. Little or no restoration has been done, leaving images somewhat flickery and not very sharp with fairly poor contrast. Warner has done fine work on some of its other releases but I'm now inclined to wonder if it only applies to non-MGM titles--perhaps a little unresolved rivalry in evidence? There are subtitle and caption options and the lone extra is the original trailer which looks no worse in quality than the film itself. Sound is clear, plain-vanilla mono which is fine since that's how it was originally released. This film was remade as a musical, High Society, in 1956 starring beautiful Grace Kelly who was, coincidentally, the daughter of Philadelphia parvenus before retiring to become Princess of Monaco. I personally prefer the original and would add that, predictably, Hepburn provides more convincing depiction of Yankee royalty as she was closer to the genuine article (I believe she was a DAR). My advice is that if you're a fan for whom this is a must-own (and I include myself among these numbers), try not to pay list for this no-frills release and hope for better things in the future."
"Oh, C. K. Dexter Haaaa-ven!"
Allen Smalling | Chicago, IL United States | 08/14/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"It's hard to overpraise THE PHILADELPHIA STORY (1940), the film version of a successful Broadway play by "society" playwright Phillip Barry. Everything about this movie is top-notch: the suavely witty jazz score, the book, the lavish interiors of Philadelphia "Main Line" mansions (truly the MGM "high gloss" touch at its finest), and especially the winning performances by Katharine Hepburn as slightly spoiled socialite Tracy Lord, Cary Grant as her ex, C.K. Dexter Haven, and especially Jimmy Stewart as Macauley ("Mike") O'Connor, yellow journalist for the tittle-tattle SPY magazine assigned to get the goods on the Philadelphia rich. And he does get the goods--and they almost get him, in a film that manages to be verbally witty, supremely funny situationally, yet upfront about American class divides in the prewar era. In fact, Jimmy Stewart's role was Oscar-winning, as the Academy was impressed by the depth and nuance he gave to his chip-on-the-shoulder journalist, following the idealistic title role of MR. SMITH GOES TO WASHINGTON the year before.
In classic screwball fashion, Tracy Lord (Hepburn) is scheduled to marry a self-made man who worships his maker, until neighbor and ex C.K. Dexter Haven (Grant) and interloping journalist Macauley ("Mike") Connor (Stewart) try to save her from her insane idealism by romancing her themselves! In a classic drunk scene, not politically correct today but funny nonetheless, Stewart serenades (perhaps "bellows" would be a better word) to the tune of "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" the nearly comatose Tracy Lord after a night--and most of predawn morning--of champagne overconsumption. Then he goes looking for his presumed rival, the rich boy next door, "C.K. Dexter Haaaven!"
Really, there is nothing to fault in this highly polished jewel that shows MGM at its very best at the very height of the so-called "studio era." The supporting cast is equally solid and enjoyable and includes Ruth Hussey as Mrs. Embry, Connor's photog assistant, and the irrepressable pre-adolescent Virginia Weidler as Tracy's little sister Dinah, the resident smartass who says what others are thinking.
Is it worth the extra nine bucks for the two-disc edition? In my opinion yes, as it includes an hour-long documentary about celebrated Director George Cukor (whose other credits include THE WOMEN and A STAR IS BORN). Katharine Hepburn is on hand, too, in a self-produced 1993 autobio she called "All About Me."
THE PHILADELPHIA STORY is a "class act" in every sense of the word. Any home that wants to include Hollywood's best on its shelves should buy and enjoy this outstanding DVD. "