Reviews

Reviews

The Philadelphia Story

The Philadelphia Story

George Cukor

USA, 1940

Credits

Review by Matt Bailey

Posted on 27 February 2005

Source Warner Bros. DVD

If I could only watch the movies of one actor for the rest of my life, I would choose the work of Cary Grant without a moment’s hesitation. He made films in all kinds of genres and he turned in fantastic performances in just about all of them. If I were to want a thriller, I would merely need turn to North by Northwest to see Grant in one of the finest of them all. If I wanted drama, I could turn to Only Angels Have Wings. If I were in the mood for comedy, I’d have a wealth of greats to choose from including The Awful Truth and Bringing Up Baby from the 1930s, His Girl Friday and The Bachelor and the Bobby-Soxer from the 1940s, Monkey Business and Operation Petticoat from the 1950s, and That Touch of Mink from the 1960s. However, if my choice were limited to just one film, I would pick The Philadelphia Story. That is not because I think it’s the best movie ever made (but it is one of them), but because I get a tremendous thrill from watching Cary Grant in this movie.

In all of his films, Cary Grant usually plays some variation on the character of “Cary Grant.” It is often been said about him in biographies that the hardest role he ever played was “Cary Grant.” Born Archibald Leach into working class family in Bristol, England, he reinvented himself as the embodiment of suave sophistication and dry wit and lived the role on screen as in real life. In The Philadelphia Story, Grant had one of his best roles, one that allowed him to play a sophisticate but which also gave him room to toy with the role, bouncing lines off some of the best actors working in movies at the time: James Stewart and Katharine Hepburn in the leads and Ruth Hussey, Mary Nash, Roland Young, and Virginia Weidler in supporting roles. This group of other actors would be another reason I would choose to watch this movie above all of Grant’s others. Each member of the cast, no matter how small their role, gets a moment in the spotlight. All of them get a great line or a bit of physical comedy that showcases their talents. The film, even though it was meant as a comeback vehicle for Hepburn (who was considered box office poison at the time), is very generous to its cast and uses its ensemble of players not just as a foil to make its central stars shine brighter but as a true cast of comedic players working in harmony.

Though I suspect that, because of its age and genre, fewer and fewer people will be watching this movie in future years and considering it a classic, I would hope those interested at all in movies (especially those interested in making movies) would add this to their collection or rental queue. This film is Hollywood at the top of its game.

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