Most romantic film #35: The Philadelphia Story (1940)

Adapted from the play by Philip Barry, a play written especially for Katharine Hepburn, who also played the role of Tracy Lord onstage as well as onscreen.

This play about a high society wedding is also made into a second, musical adaptation titled High Society in the 1950s. But I like this non-musical version.

The central triangle revolves around Tracy, a bride-to-be in Main Line Philadelphia, her ex-husband C.K.Dexter Havens, who lives next door, and Macauley Connor, a journist working for a sleazy tabloid. The acting trio is heaven: Hepburn, Cary Grant as Havens, and Jimmy Stewart in his first big role as Connor. This twentieth-century comedy of manners is full of secondary character actors who do a brilliant job in featured roles, like Ruth Hussey as Connor’s photographer and pal.

The script is witty and sharp, funny and romantic. The designs–costume, sets, and details–equally brilliant and delightful.

In my opinion, this is the best of the Hepburn-Grant match-ups, perhaps because there is less screwball comedy and more romance. Grant is delicious as the ex-husband who subtly woos his ex-wife back. Almost without her noticing it.


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