Movie Review: The Philadelphia Story
Directors: George Cukor
Reviewed: 30 July 2013
Katherine Hepburn embodies all of the qualities of a magnetic movie star. With her unique, iconic vocal delivery, physicality, and quick wit, she sells the idea of the smart, privileged heiress caught up in a dizzying array of relationships with men who are obsessed over her. Hepburn plays Tracy Lord, a Philadelphia socialite, who used to be married to the marvelously named C.K. Dexter Haven (Cary Grant), is engaged to the noveau riche George Kittredge (John Howard), and must fend off the undercover journalist Macauley Connor (James Stewart) who wants to write up the details of her marriage in the society column of Spy Magazine. The nearly Shakespearean plot of false names, double crosses, and drunken escapades achieves a sort of comic grandeur with Grant leading the way. He is so young and so charming here that he nearly eclipses the other stars. His character is also the most obviously flawed with an undercurrent of melancholy. Cukor's camera holds long takes and focuses on the interiors of the Lord mansion, giving it a stagey quality that befits the rapid fire dialogue and repartee. At its core, Cukor's film studies the collision of love and personal philosophies, however damaging, and offers a winning conclusion that makes perfect sense and feels right, even though there are dozens of other possible ways the film could have turned. There is drinking, dancing, a wedding, and enough quick lines to hold a modern audience's attention. Though personally, I think Grant's is the strongest performance; Stewart, incredibly, took home a Best Actor Oscar for his role here. Sadly, the only shots of Philadelphia here are the superimposed images of Independence Hall over the opening credits, as the film primarily takes place in a comfortable mansion somewhere near Philadelphia. As of now, I do not have a better suggestion for a replacement title.