Librarian: What is thee wish? Macaulay Connor: I’m looking for some local b - what’d you say? Librarian: What is thee wish? Macaulay Connor: Um, local biography or history. Librarian: If thee will consult with my colleague in there. Macaulay Connor: Mm-hm. Dost thou have a washroom? [the librarian points] Macaulay Connor: Thank thee.
Pairing together Cary Grant, Katharine Hepburn, and James Stewart, in a romantic comedy under the direction of George Cukor, The Philadelphia Story was always destined to become a certified classic. Light, witty, and filled with old school screwball zip, The Philadelphia Story tells the story of a rich and greatly pampered woman named Tracy (Katharine Hepburn) and her impending marriage to commoner George (John Howard). Having left the equally rich C.K. Dexter Haven (Cary Grant) two years prior, Tracy is going for the exact opposite man when Dexter walks backs into her life with two reporters. One, Macaulay “Mike” Connor (James Stewart), is a published author who has to work for a gossip magazine to pay the bills. Alongside him is photographer Elizabeth Imbrie (Ruth Hussey), who must similarly work for pay to fund her love of painting. What ensues is a series of events before Tracy’s wedding that will open their eyes to the world around them and make them learn about themselves and others.
No matter the lessons the film tries to portray, one undeniable element of this film is just how funny it all is, even in 2017. Often times, comedy ages like milk. Fortunately, this one is a fine wine that only gets better with age. In all honestly, cracking it open now may be a crime because give it a few more years and it could be a perfect score. Grant, Hepburn, and Stewart, are still superstars due to their various leading roles in the Golden Age of Hollywood that have endeared them to the masses. This adoration is not without reason as all three are easy, silky charmers who know their way around a good drama or comedy. The Philadelphia Story, in blending comedy and drama together, allows the trio to show their range in both areas. Playing the dramatic scenes with the requisite power and the comedic scenes with excellent timing, delivery, and natural wit, the trio really make this film. Alongside them, Ruth Hussey and Roland Young’s Uncle Willie stand as real highlights with both taking the lines given to them and making the most out of them comedically. Young especially does this, often stealing scenes with excellent lines that are excellently written, but made all the more funny due to Young’s delivery of them.
Thematically, The Philadelphia Story is quite varied, but most often uses its premise as a way to teach humility and understanding. Tracy is shown as a tough-nosed and proud woman who accepts nothing less than perfection from anybody or anything. In planning her wedding, a comment about whether or not it will rain is met with her little sister Dinah (Virginia Weidler) stating that, “Tracy would not allow that.” She is in control of her environment and expects everybody else to live up to the standards she holds herself to. As a result, she divorced Dexter and cut off her father. However, through encounters with Mike and Liz - who she wrote off as typical sleazy gossip writers, only to find out they are serious artists - Tracy learns to not judge a book by its cover. Everybody has a story behind them that one could never expect. So, if they slip or do something you would not do in their shoes, it is not cause to cut them off. Instead, one must strive to accept them in spite of their faults. Mike must learn this as well in regard to Tracy, who he writes off as a typical rich and spoiled girl. Whereas she learns he is a brilliantly smart and funny guy, he learns that she is a similarly fun and exciting person to be around when she lets loose. Together, they both embody accepting faults and looking past the rugged exterior of those around them.
In conjunction with this, the two must also learn humility. Caught up with themselves being greater than they really are, the two look past people who love them and whom they love as well in order to satisfy their own egos. While she rebukes George for wanting to worship her as a goddess, Tracy undoubtedly views herself as a Queen or a goddess. Dexter does not treat her this way, instead loving her unconditionally in spite of their divorce. Through the course of the film and recognition of her own fallibility, Tracy must discover that she is not some supreme being. Instead, she is a typical woman born into privilege who is no greater than anybody else, no matter their financial status. Only then will she be able to find the true love offered to her by Dexter. Likewise, Mike believes himself to be above everybody else because he is a “serious writer”. Even when Tracy says his work is like poetry, he conceitedly retorts that it is poetic. While his work preaches understanding and not judging people by their cover, he does exactly that as he writes Tracy off without even meeting her. He similarly doubts Dexter and looks past Liz because she is not flashy, even if he knows he loves her deeply. Fortunately for him, Liz is always there waiting for him to get his head out of his ass and see the world the way it really is, instead of through rose-colored glasses. Yes, he is a talented writer, but everybody must make ends meet. While he has dreams of grandeur, he does not need to reach it by marrying somebody just because he believes her to be equal footing in the world as a superior person. Instead, marrying the person he is truly meant for is the right option and is the one staring him in the face. However, in order for Tracy to re-discover Dexter and for Mike to finally open his eyes about Liz, the two must learn humility and it is not an easy journey for either.
A witty and thematically sound comedy classic, The Philadelphia Story’s trio of revered stars and a strong supporting cast make the film a true joy to watch unfold. Whether they all offer up jokes about being hung over, being drunk, or over everyday occurrences, the film has a natural zip about it that only 1940s comedies truly possess. Fast-paced, witty, and always quick with comebacks and jokes, The Philadelphia Story balances out its comedy with great acting across the board and a strong romantic element that is incredibly realistic in how it is portrayed. In love, we can sometimes ignore what is right in front of us in favor of something exciting or short-lived. The Philadelphia Story recognizes this with its commentary on affairs and how men sometimes seek to reclaim their youth with a younger woman. No bearing any mark on the wife, the move is a selfish one and one done out of fear of becoming older, according to the film. This really translates to the nature of the romances with neither Tracy nor Mike’s digression from their proper romantic course being because of their partners. Rather, it is due to both seeking something that in somebody that was already in front of him, but they did not know it: true love. Unconditional and tender to a fault, true love wins in the end if its partakers are able to remain focused upon upholding it against all of the odds. Charming, uproariously funny, and an absolute classic, The Philadelphia Story is an excellent romantic comedy that showcases the talent of its entire cast.
So I asked my mom what she thought of the boys and said AND I QUOTE
“(Points to luke) Macaulay Culkin,
(points to Michael) oh my god that’s Chucky!
(Points to Ash) that’s Jim Carrey,
(Points to Calum) now that’s Dr.Wong your grandfathers urologist”