Monday, August 2, 2010

The 100 Best Movies: #36

36. The Philadelphia Story (1940)

When the legendary Katharine Hepburn opened on Broadway in Phillip Barry's 1938 play The Philadelphia Story, she had gotten some of the finest reviews of her career (up to that point). Even though she had won an Oscar in 1932 for Morning Glory, by Hollywood standards, she had been considered "old hat" and her best performances behind her. Broadway critics encouraged Kate the Great to pursue retaining her luminous stage role of Tracy Lord for the inevitable film version of the hit play. She did more than that. She convinced Phillip Barry to sell her the film rights as she went shopping for a movie studio to produce it. Once Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer agreed, she handpicked director George Cukor (her personal favorite) to helm the picture and insisted he get the best leading men to star opposite her. What resulted was one of the finest romantic-comedies of all-time featuring some of the best performances from its three leading stars (especially Ms. Hepburn). The story is of wealthy heiress Tracy Lord (Hepburn) planning her second wedding to a man "completely different" from her first husband, C. K. Dexter Haven (the always charming Cary Grant). The festivities are interrupted by Haven and two reporters who work for a tabloid magazine trying to get a scoop on the affair. One of the reporters (played by the great Jimmy Stewart in an Oscar-winning performance) begins to fall madly in love with Tracy and she becomes part of a massive love quadrangle that includes her, Haven, the reporter and her intended. It is a smartly written and brilliantly acted romantic-comedy (something we don't see very often anymore). It was also a great "comeback" for Katharine Hepburn as it was (to me) her greatest film role.

Next Post: #35

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