The Philadelphia Story (1940)

The wisecracking screen partnership between Cary Grant and Katharine Hepburn reached its peak in this adaptation of Philip Barry’s high-society stage comedy.

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Introduction

“Superlative of its kind, sophisticated in the best sense, with continuously witty dialogue which lays bare a deep knowledge of human nature, remarkably fine acting and first-class direction.”
Monthly Film Bulletin, 1941

Katharine Hepburn is Tracy Lord, the breezy socialite whose looming wedding to a dull self-made millionaire brings her ex-husband C.K. Dexter Haven (Cary Grant) back into her life.

Playful on its sparkling surface but canny and insightful at its heart, the Oscar-winning screenplay by Donald Ogden Stewart (adapted from Philip Barry’s play) delivers cutting truths about romance, marriage and forgiveness while giving the nimble ensemble of actors (including an Oscar-winning James Stewart as reporter Macaulay Connor) room to tease comedy out of class conflict and shattered illusions, and drama out of an innocent drunken midnight swim.

Barry’s play resurfaced in 1956 as source material for the musical High Society, with Bing Crosby, Grace Kelly and Frank Sinatra, and songs by Cole Porter.

The Philadelphia Story followed the adaptation of another Philip Barry comedy, Holiday (1938), by the same winning team of Hepburn, Grant, director George Cukor and screenwriter Donald Ogden Stewart.

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