The Philadelphia Story Screen 97 of 8 reviews

The Philadelphia Story

1940

The Philadelphia Story Poster
  • It's a wordy film, but Cukor’s direction of stars was always easy and natural. He follows the flow of Hepburn’s impossibly slim, tall body moving around rooms and lawns that Tracy has known all her life, and the rattle of all that dialogue flows right along with her. Then, too, Cukor knows how to keep still and give his audience the joy of picking up on the actors’ business.

  • Cary Grant gets to show off his expertise in tumbling with a series of spectacular back-flips. Katherine Hepburn is more vulnerable than usual, and makes it work. Lew Ayres is, my God, TERRIFIC — the heart and soul of the film, in a way. If the movie isn’t as well-known as the Hepburn-Cukor PHILADELPHIA STORY, also from a play by Philip Barry, it may because Ayres complicates it, makes it less than totally joyous.

  • Swipe Katharine Hepburn, James Stewart and Cary Grant aside for a moment. The real star of George Cukor's beloved, cynical country house farce from 1940 is li'l Virginia "Ginny" Weidler who stars in the film as the ultra-precocious Dinah Lord... Weidler never just comes across as a stock child figure, she translates as the specific child of these specific parents: fidgety, silver-tongued, conniving, but ultimately adorable, empathetic and you actually want to spend time in her company.

  • Cukor’s direction and Donald Odgen Stewart’s screenplay make for a timeless screwball comedy poised with delicate eroticism.

  • The narrative follows the formulaic trajectory of the genre from divorce to inevitable reunion, but the film's genius lies in its subliminal remarks on censorship via Cukor's use of off-screen space... Though Cukor uses camera movement sparingly, he does so to great effect, providing his scenes with a humorous or startling punctuation mark; characters are constantly hiding behind columns, hovering discreetly in corners, or peeking through windows.

  • I don’t think The Philadelphia Story would have worked nearly so perfectly without Grant, who was ignored at that year’s Academy Awards because his character’s struggles are largely internal. Add Hepburn’s persona, beautifully explored here in all its wonder, and Stewart’s likeability, and George Cukor’s sensible, subtle, and lovingly unrushed direction of a firecracker script…the result is a studio picture far deeper and richer than its whimsical surface style might lead you to believe.

  • It checks in a little below Cukor's 1938 Grant-Hepburn-Barry outing, Holiday, a more tender and less cluttered variation on the same theme, but second best in this league is still something special.

  • Stewart's “hearth fires and holocausts”-spouting about-face is a marvel of nuance, undoubtedly summoned with the sage assistance of Cukor, who as one of the most powerful gay men in Hollywood at the time (however unspoken) had a unique knack for observing traditional heterosexual power dynamics with a canted eye. Which would make Grant’s character something like the director’s stand-in.

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