Tuesday, April 23, 2024

Movie Review: The Philadelphia Story

Stars: 3 out of 5
Pros: Lots of laughs in the fun first half
Cons: Story falls apart in the second half
The Bottom Line:
Laughs at beginning
Give way to a rushed ending
Not classic for me

“What’s This Room?  I Forgot My Compass.”  “This Would Be South South West Parlor by Livingroom.”

I’ve heard about The Philadelphia Story for years, and I’ve heard it pretty much universally praised.  I know it’s considered one of the best romantic comedies of all time.  So I was looking forward to a fun time when I finally sat down to watch it.  Sadly, I was left disappointed.

Two years after her divorce, Tracy Lord (Katherine Hepburn) is set to remarry.  Her new groom is George Kittridge (John Howard).  He’s not quite as high society as she is, but she is happy.

However, her ex-husband isn’t happy about the idea of her remarrying.  So, the day before, C. K. Dexter Haven (Cary Grant) shows up with a reporter and photographer, Mike Connor and Liz Imbrie (James Stewart and Ruth Hussey).  Tracy doesn’t want any press at her wedding, but she doesn’t have any choice.  But as Tracy spends time with these wedding crashers, what will happen?

This movie is based on a play that was highly successful at the time.  It had been written for Katherine Hepburn, and she was able to play her role in the movie version, too.  I can see the bones of the play in the first half.  Oh, we get more locations than I’m sure they did in the play, but it was all there in the set up and the initial interactions between the characters.  There were lots of great lines, I was laughing, and I was generally enjoying myself.

It's the second half where things fell apart.  We can start with two of the characters getting drunk and staying drunk for much too long.  I’m usually not a fan of watching drunk characters, and that was the case here.  I certainly didn’t find their antics funny.

Then comes the third act.  I get what we are the audience were supposed be rooting to happen.  But none of it felt earned.  In fact, I had whiplash with how quickly certain characters changed to get us there.  It was almost like the writer looked at the screen time left, threw up their hands, and just ended it.

Between these two things, I was left scratching my head at why the characters decided to do what they were doing.

This isn’t the fault of the actors.  They are all fantastic, and their performances are all perfect at getting every laugh they can out of the script.  I must praise Virginia Weidler who is an absolute delight as Tracy’s younger sister Dinah.  She is a scene stealer.  The second half definitely could have used more of her in it.

Since the film is from 1940, it was filmed in black and white.  Even so, the sets look wonderful.  I can see the appeal of being part of Philadelphia society via this movie.

The first half is fun, but I wish the entire movie lived up to that promise.  I don’t quite see why The Philadelphia Story has become such a beloved classic.

1 comment:

  1. All good points. I think I appreciate this movie for the performances and the laughs in the first half. The second half is kind of a blur in my memory -- so I probably remember it being a better movie than it is.


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