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Release year: 1940 Director: George Cukor Screenwriter: Donald Ogden Stewart, Philip Barry (based on the play by) Starring: Katharine Hepburn, Cary Grant, James Stewart, Ruth Hussey, John Howard, Roland Young, Mary Nash, Virginia Weidler Ratings: 2 Oscars: Best Actor (James Stewart), Best Screenplay. 4 Oscar nominations: Best Picture, Best Actress (Katharine Hepburn), Best Supporting Actress ..

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The Philadelphia Story

the philadelphia story official poster

Release year: 1940

Director: George Cukor

Screenwriter: Donald Ogden Stewart, Philip Barry (based on the play by)

Starring: Katharine Hepburn, Cary Grant, James Stewart, Ruth Hussey, John Howard, Roland Young, Mary Nash, Virginia Weidler

Ratings: 2 Oscars: Best Actor (James Stewart), Best Screenplay. 4 Oscar nominations: Best Picture, Best Actress (Katharine Hepburn), Best Supporting Actress (Ruth Hussey), Best Director.

Moviegeek Sunday Classic #201, week 17 2018

Tracy Lord(Hepburn) and C.K. Dexter Haven (Grant) divorced after a passionate marriage and now she is about to get married again. The day before the wedding Dexter shows up at the mansion with two guests, Macaulay Connor (Stewart) and Elizabeth Imbrie (Hussey), and a deal with the publisher of a tabloid magazine to get the story on Tracy’s wedding. As the evening comes feelings are stirred.
 
Based on the play by Philip Barry, The Philadelphia Story is a ‘talkie’, but leave it to this magnificent cast to make it sparkling and interesting. The witty script is perfectly delivered by the great talents in the cast and with romantic moments and a few elements of screwball comedy, this was bound to become the classic it is from day one. Hepburn (Adam’s Rib, 1949) is a perfect cast as the strong-willed, independent Tracy, who suddenly discovers people around her may see her in a different light than she thought and while Grant (North by Northwest, 1959) with his chiseled good looks is an obvious choice to play ‘the one who got away’, Stewart (Vertigo, 1958) certainly provides a strong competition for a threesome with his laid-back charm. The fact that the three are so different creates sparks and great chemistry, while Hussey (The Women, 1939) may be left a little in the background, she still manages to make a big contribution to the film.  As the high society mother, Nash (The Little Princess, 1939) is a delight but overshadowed by a feisty Weidler (Born to Sing, 1942) who creates great comedy as Tracy’s meddling little sister. The play was written especially for Hepburn, who herself comes of a high society background, and played the part on Broadway. It is clear she knows her part well and makes Tracy feel vibrant and full of emotions despite a calm and collected surface. Stewart’s talent for comedy threatens to steal the show in the middle part, a feat that earned him an Oscar, but Hepburn benefits from his presence and delivers one of the performances of her career. The movie can be enjoyed for its talented cast alone, but an excellent script and a tight direction means this is also one of the finest romantic comedies of its time.

Moviegeek info:
 This was the only Oscar win for James Stewart out of five nominations. In 1985 he won the Honorary Award for his work.
 Katharine Hepburn owned the film rights to the material. they were purchased for her by billionaire Howard Hughes, then given to her as a gift.
 Playwright Philip Barry based the character of Tracy on Helen Hope Montgomery Scott, a Main Line Philadelphia socialite famous for throwing lavish parties at her family’s 800-acre estate in Radnor, PA. The studio reportedly intended to shoot the film at Ardrossan (the name of the family’s estate), but decided against it after seeing the size and scale of the main house and the expansiveness of the estate. The producers reportedly thought that no one would believe that anyone could actually live like that, particularly in America in the 1940s.
In his autobiography, Donald Ogden Stewart wrote that the original play was so perfect, adapting it was the easiest job he ever had to do in Hollywood.
Picture copyrights: Warner Home Video

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