The Philadelphia Story Review

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Tracy Lord (Hepburn), eligible daughter of a well-off Philadelphian family due to marry an earnest nerdy type when her first husband returns to keep an eye on the charming male reporter assigned to cover the society wedding. They end up all keeping an eye on Tracy instead...who will she choose?


The facts speak for themselves. Here we have a new 35mm print of this delicious romantic comedy, first released in 1940, that clearly has enough zip and drive to lick the cream of today's crop. Sure, it may not have the advantage of Technicolor, rude jokes or top production values but just one look at The Philadelphia Story and the message is: they really don't make 'em like this any more.

The magic formula is in the plotting: Tracy Lord (Hepburn), eligible daughter of a well-off Philadelphian family, is due to marry a blue-collar nerd (John Howard) when her previous husband Dexter Haven (Grant) shows up at her door. Haven has returned to keep an eye on Mike Connor (Stewart), a hack for scandal rags Dime and Spy (read: real life mags Time and Life) who is covering the wedding. As the ceremony looms, Dexter stokes an old fire for Tracy while Mike stokes up a new one. By the end of the movie, everyone wants to stoke Tracy, such is the charm of Hepburn in one of her most perfect roles.

It is Stewart, however, who walks away effortlessly with the picture (and an Oscar). Director George Cukor, in his romantic element, proves just what a peerless entertainer he was. Grant may be just Grant - debonair, dashing and dry as sawdust - yet he perfectly dovetails with a cast which teeters on the cusp of perfection. The overriding message may well be cringeworthy - we're all the same yet somehow different! - but The Philadephia Story boasts qualities other movies merely dream of: prestige wit and drop dead glamour.

Excellent casting, a great storyline and a shrp script mean that this remains a classic of the genre and one of Katherine Hepburn's best roles.