Adam’s Rib Review

Adam's Rib
After a wife (Holiday) attempts to murder her philandering husband (Ewell), their case is taken up by married wife attorneys, Adam (Tracy) and Amanda Bonner (Hepburn). Albeit, each on opposing sides of the courtroom. A battle that will spill out of the court and into the bedroom.

by Ian Nathan |
Published on
Release Date:

18 Nov 1949

Running Time:

101 minutes



Original Title:

Adam’s Rib

It is based on a true story of marital crisis, written by a husband a wife duo (Gordon and Karin) and performed by one of Hollywood’s most dynamic on and off screen couples (Hepburn and Tracy), so George Cooker’s spiky, playful, motor-mouthed comedy was never going to stint on home truths. You can’t help but catch the tracerfire of previous bickering in Hepburn’s beady eyes as she unleashes another volley toward her partner. The real and the fictional blur to salty effect in this minor classic, which, alongside The Philadelphia Story (far less of a screwball), is the high-water mark of Cukor’s attempts to bottle up the battle of the sexes.

His film is very stagey, Cukor prefers to lock his camera in place and let his actors fill the frame with energy. Hepburn revs herself into such a sense of righteous indignation, taking aim at the male archetypes being upheld by her laidback husband, she threatens to slip into imbalance. But she is too good an actress to let Amanda lose her way — the script’s bites and barbs leap fully-formed from her mouth without a slip or a gabble. Tracy, by contrast, eases back on the gears, wearing a wry look of uncaring. Her gales blow right over him.  Little wonder, she’s so het up.

The danger is we could take sides, but she is too much fun. Amanda’s case seems to hinge on the dubious legality of sexual stereotyping: if the sexes in the case were reversed the husband would be found innocent. No matter, the point is whatever can fuel the fire that is all but incinerating their marriage, has comedy value.

Irresistable comedy from one of Hollywood's greatest pairings.
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