Play It Again – The Philadelphia Story

Play It Again – The Philadelphia Story. By Jess Lomas.

Play It Again is a weekly feature in which classic-film connoisseur Jess Lomas revisits a revered motion picture from the annals of movie history, to see if it holds up… or if it has aged terribly. And yes, it takes its name from a famously misquoted Casablanca line (hey, whatever; it fits!).

In recent years there’s been no shortage of “star-studded” ensemble flicks, and lately films such as Valentine’s Day and New Year’s Eve have taken this term to a whole new level. However, it is the definition of “star” that has changed the most since the Golden Age, because these star-studded features have been around since cameras first started rolling. Compare today’s Ashton Kutcher, Zac Efron and Katherine Heigl to, say, the cast of George Cukor’s 1940 romantic comedy The Philadelphia Story, which includes Cary Grant, James Stewart and Katharine Hepburn. The comparison is unfair, but the chemistry and casting of this classic movie is unmatched by today’s standards.

Based on the Broadway play of the same name, written by Phillip Barry, and adapted for the screen by Donald Ogden Stewart, The Philadelphia Story stars Hepburn as Tracy Lord, a socialite set to enter into her second marriage. Things get complicated when her ex-husband C.K. Dexter Haven (Grant) and newspaperman Macaulay “Mike” Connor (Stewart) show up, and force Tracy to question who she really should be with: Dexter, Mike or her fiancé (John Howard – not that John Howard, or this one either).

Hepburn, who played Tracy on the stage, acquired the rights to the play from Howard Hughes in order to maintain control of the film and deliver her comeback role after a string of box office flops. This move paid off as The Philadelphia Story went on to be nominated for six Academy Awards, taking home two; Best Actor to James Stewart (who was “advised” to attend the ceremony), and Best Adapted Screenplay.

This is one of those dream casts working with a red-hot screenplay under the direction of one of cinema’s true masters; Cukor having also given us such timeless motion pictures as My Fair Lady, A Star is Born and The Women. Working with some popular concepts of the time, the film is a great example of a simple idea executed perfectly. Although Clark Gable and Spencer Tracy were Hepburn’s initial choices to play her leads, Grant, Stewart and Hepburn still make a handsome and entertaining trio.

Discuss: The Philadelphia Story!

One Response to “Play It Again – The Philadelphia Story”

  1. Sometimes I think this is the best movie ever.

    Most time I think that. *nods*

    It takes turns with Holiday (1938) as my favourite movie ever. And I totally heart you, Jess, for reviewing it for the Quickflix masses. :p

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