George Cukor directed this classic comedy talkfest that offers special pleasures for fans of Katharine Hepburn, James Stewart, and Cary Grant. Tracy Lord (Hepburn), the daughter of a super-wealthy family living in a ritzy suburb of Philadelphia, is slated to marry George Kittredge
(Howard), a stuffed-shirt coal company executive. Previously she had been married to C.K. Dexter Haven (Grant) in a stormy short-lived relationship that ended largely because Tracy couldn't deal with Dexter's drinking and irresponsible ways. As her wedding nears, Dexter shows up at the estate,
ostensibly to attend the nuptials, but really to protect the reputation of his ex-in-laws. Dexter has learned that publisher Sidney Kidd (Daniell) plans to run an expose about Tracy's stagedoor Johnny father (Halliday), revealing in Spy magazine details of his chronic womanizing. To mollify the
publisher, Dexter, who works for Kidd, arranges for the magazine's chief scandal reporter, Mike Conner (Stewart), and photographer Liz Imbrie (Hussey) to report on the wedding for the magazine. Mike has a healthy skepticism about the ways of the rich until he gets smitten by Tracy, who grows more
unsure of her desires as her wedding nears. Indeed most of the major characters must decide whom they really love before the film is over. Of course, all must end happily even if unexpectedly.
With such a stellar cast, a fine director working in the type of picture he did best, and some genuinely witty dialogue, this film has all the ingredients for a great comedy. And it is great, though there have been many funnier comedies. The film has an unfortunate tendency to take itself too
seriously for long stretches. Mike's shameless adoration of Tracy and the cloying speeches he's forced to deliver in her praise try our credulity and patience. A very strong case is being made here for the sheer irresistibility of the film's female star. The film also strenuously drives home the
point that people born poor aren't necessarily noble while men born rich aren't necessarily cads. No need to stop the presses for this little news bulletin!
This was a project especially dear to Hepburn. Two years prior to the release of THE PHILADELPHIA STORY, Hepburn had been branded "box-office poison" by a leading exhibitor, thus prompting her to look for a Broadway show suitable for her talents. Playwright Barry wrote the role of Tracy expressly
for Hepburn, who covered 25 percent of the play's cost and took no salary, shrewdly opting to take 45 percent of the considerable profits. Joseph Cotten played the Cary Grant role while Van Heflin originated Stewart's part. The cagy actress also purchased the film adaptation rights and eventually
succeeded in getting Louis B. Mayer not only to pay her $250,000 for them but also won the right to select her own director, screenwriter, and costars. Grant accepted his role only on the proviso that he receive top billing, which he did. He then demanded a then-whopping salary of $137,000 and got
it. (Grant later donated his entire salary from the film to the British War Relief Fun.)
The film became a box-office smash. It broke all records at Radio City Music Hall with a return of almost $600,000 in six weeks. Hepburn, who won the coveted New York Film Critics Award, lost the Oscar to Ginger Rogers for her role in KITTY FOYLE. The film was poorly remade as a musical, HIGH
SOCIETY, in 1956, starring Bing Crosby, Frank Sinatra, and Grace Kelly.
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- Review: George Cukor directed this classic comedy talkfest that offers special pleasures for fans of Katharine Hepburn, James Stewart, and Cary Grant. Tracy Lord (Hepburn), the daughter of a super-wealthy family living in a ritzy suburb of Philadelphia, is slated… (more)