Friday, February 11, 2011

Movie Review: The Philadelphia Story

I thought I’d take the time to tell you why Philadelphia Story is a movie you owe it to yourself to watch. It stars Katherine Hepburn, Carey Grant and Jimmy Stewart, and it was directed by George Cukor, based on a play by Philip Bary.

The story takes place in--you guessed it--Philadelphia. Not the city, really. More of a rich country estate near by. Tracy Lord (Hepburn) and C.K. Dexter Haven (Grant) were married but divorced some years ago. Now Tracy’s about to marry again, this time to George Kittredge, an up and coming politician. Haven pops up at the Lord estate the day before the wedding, accompanied by two “friends” (Spy magazine reporters hoping to get a scoop on the wedding), Mike Connor (Stewart) and Liz Imbrie.

I think what I like most about the movie is the dialogue and the way the characters interact. Anyone looking for an excellent example of a character-driven plot need look no further. Hepburn and Grant are spot on as a feuding divorced couple, and their interactions are fantastic, and Stewart is tremendous (and hilarious as a drunk). Better still, the plot never forces its characters to do things they wouldn’t naturally do. Everything--including the finale--fits and makes sense, something Hollywood isn’t always able to do. The film was nominated for six Oscars in 1941 (including best actress, supporting actress, director and picture) and won two (including a best actor statue for Stewart).

Too often these days, people are willing to overlook a movie just because it’s old. I have friends who see the latest pop culture efforts, but they’re missing out on so many movies that have proven their lasting worth. Sure, this is in black and white. So what? The characters and plot and dialogue are better than most of the films that come out today. It’s funny and intriguing and appealing to men and women alike. Or it should be, at least. I challenge you to watch this and then not like it.

As an interesting note, the play this movie was based on (by the same name) was also made into a fairly well-known musical: High Society, with Bing Crosby, Frank Sinatra and Grace Kelly and music by Cole Porter. It's a decent movie, but not even Bing's crooning and make it rise above Hepburn, Grant and Stewart. Sorry, Bing.

Four stars (out of four)

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