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Philadelphia Story, The (reissue)


Stars: Cary Grant, Katharine Hepburn, James Stewart, Ruth Hussey, Roland Young, John Howard, John Halliday, Virginia Weidler, Henry Daniell, Mary Nash

Director: George Cukor

A pungently witty screen classic that was remade 16 years later as High Society. The original is still the best, even though it doesn't have Bing Crosby and Frank Sinatra singing Did You Evah?.

There's a big wedding afoot in Philadelphia, involving society queen Tracy Lord (Hepburn) and stuffy suitor George Kittredge (a bad career move for Howard, then the screen's dapper sleuth Bulldog Drummond). But the biggest of several flies in the ointment proves to be the arrival on the scene of Tracy's ex, the suave C K Dexter Haven (Grant).

Stewarts scopped two Oscars for this superbly breezy slice of escapism: James Stewart, then only 31, was acclaimed 1940's best actor (today it would have been supporting) for his portrayal of the wedding reporter who also falls for Tracy, while Donald Ogden Stewart deservedly took the writer's award for the best screenplay of the year.

Hepburn, too, was nominated for an Academy Award for her performance as Tracy, the poor little rich girl dissatisfied with the men in her life. And she never looked lovelier.

The film, which glides by as if on gossamer wings, belongs to a now extinct, highly polished and sophisticated, not to mention whiplash witty, light Hollywood comedy style in which a thin story was made to race along beautifully with backing from excellent dialogue and supremely talented stars.

Just feel the chemistry between Grant and Hepburn, for example, as they discuss the 'yar' qualities of the yacht True Love while reminiscing about their honeymoon.

David Quinlan

USA 1940. UK Distributor: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. Black and white.
112 minutes. Not widescreen. UK certificate: U.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 0, Violence/Horror 0, Drugs 0, Swearing 0.

Review date: 08 Feb 2015