The Philadelphia Story

23 03 2010

If a good horror film is one that scares you when you’re least expecting it, then The Philadelphia Story is a good horror film.

This 1940 black and white film is dazzling. The people are beautiful, rich and dewy in soft focus.

What I knew about this movie before seeing it for the first time was that Katharine Hepburn was mostly responsible for it being made at all – she brought it to Broadway and then to Hollywood. I also knew that I generally enjoy her films and characters.

What I didn’t know was that this film showcases a real life conflict but in a fantasy setting.

The movie opens with a lover’s spat that quickly ends in the man pushing Hepburn to the floor. You get the feeling it’s supposed to be comedic. Me and my guy didn’t laugh. “This film is already condoning violence against women” he said, just minutes into the film. *Collective grimace* as we curled up on the couch to watch the plot unfold.

Instantly the film advances two years after the domestic violence incident as Hepburn is set to marry a different guy. She seems to be happy and secure in her life at this point.

An exchange between Hepburn and her mother:
Her mother: We both might face the fact that neither of us have proved to be a very great success as a wife.
Hepburn’s response: We just picked the wrong first husbands, that’s all.

Her being rich and fabulous, some tabloid staffers show up to capture the wedding – one of which is a future love interest for Hepburn’s character. And by “future” I mean that very night.

How did the tabloid crew get into her big ol’ mansion the day before her wedding? Why it was all thanks to her sweetheart of an ex-husband. You remember him? The guy who pushed her? He’s a very charming Cary Grant in fact.

Over the next several scenes, we get treated with funny antics, physical comedy, a little charm, some quirky relatives – it plays out like a typical wedding movie. The highlights in this film are the bursts of great dialogue:

At one point, the new love interest says to Hepburn’s character: Oh, it’s grand, Tracy. It’s what everybody feels about you. It’s what I first worshipped you for from afar

To which she replies: I don’t want to be worshipped. I want to be loved.

It is perfectly romantic at times:

The new love interest: No, you’re made out of flesh and blood. That’s the blank, unholy surprise of it. You’re the golden girl, Tracy. Full of life and warmth and delight. What goes on? You’ve got tears in your eyes.

She responds: Shut up, shut up. Oh, Mike. Keep talking, keep talking. Talk, will you?

At this point, we’re really into the movie – it’s all that black and white dazzle, all that quick dialogue and charm. Still, the scenes between Hepburn and the other men in her life are very disturbing. Read the rest of this entry »