Tuesday, May 5, 2015
PHILADELPHIA STORY, THE
(December 1940, U.S.)
In any traditional American screwball comedy that involves a love triangle, the key players are generally three, more often than not one woman versus two men. In THE PHILADELPHIA STORY, it's Tracy Lord (NOT to be confused with the 80's porn star, Traci Lords - LOL!!!) (played by Katherine Hepburn) verses three men; her ex-husband C. K. Dexter Haven (sounds like a law firm!) (played by the always funny Cary Grant), her fiancée George (played by John Howard) and a snooping reporter who would rather be a serious writer (played by James Stewart - my favorite classic actor!) who just may be falling in love with Tracy while he tries to do his job for his magazine called, appropriately enough, SPY; sort of a prelude to real life tabloid trash like the National Enquirer! But even when the film begins, you know you're in for some real interesting characters. One can only feel a sort of empathy for Cary Grant in despising his soon-to-be ex-wife so much that he takes a whole lot of enjoyment in pushing his hand into her face and knocking her down to the floor after she's purposely snapped one of his golf clubs like a twig (why is it in the movies, when women want their revenge against men, they always go for their car or their golf clubs??). I can only think, "You go, Cary!" when I watch that!
As a Philadelphia socialite, Tracy's madcap wedding plans are about to be complicated by the simultaneous arrival of her ex-husband and the tabloid magazine reporter while she tries to constantly convince herself that she truly loves the man she's about to marry as husband number two. And so, the night before the wedding, Tracy gets drunk (one of the few times in her life) and takes what's supposed to be an innocent swim with Mike the tabloid reporter. When George sees Mike carrying the intoxicated Tracy into the house afterward, he presumes the worst (and probably rightfully so). Still, remember that this is the innocent year of 1940 and drunk women having sex with men in swimming pools the night before they're supposed to wed is still (practically) considered a no-no on the big screen when you're trying to make a family comedy. The next day, as would be expected, all parties involved in all of this wedding madness must come clean and confess what they've done and what they haven't done. By the time it's all over, Tracy realizes that all the guests have arrived and are waiting for the wedding ceremony to begin. George is gone, believing his bride-to-be will not be true to him and it's Mike (ex-husband) who volunteers to marry her (again), which she happily accepts. All is happy again, as it should be.
Okay...perhaps it's all a bit hard to follow in terms of some comedic soap opera, but perhaps when you simply consider two facts - that the triangle is now a square with four people instead of three and that it's all just a whole of screwball fun with gifted, legendary actors from the Golden Age of Hollywood who also knew how to be very funny when it was called for, then it's very easy to remind yourself not to get so hung up on every little detail and complication, and to just simply enjoy the witty, romantic laughs and the rather silly flavor of old high society elegance, in glorious black and white classic Hollywood!
Favorite line or dialogue:
George Kittredge (to a horse): "What's the matter, Bessie? You seem worried."
Dinah Lord: "Maybe that's because his name is Jack."