Philadelphia StoryAFI Rank: #51
Year Released: 1940
Director: George Cukor
Actors: Cary Grant, Katharine Hepburn, James Stewart, Ruth Hussey, John Howard
It is simply amazing to me, in watching The Philadelphia Story, that Katharine Hepburn went into this movie being a "not wanted" actress by studios. They felt she wasn't worth casting. I think of her as an absolutely brilliant actress, and this movie shows why. She holds her own against powerhouses such as Cary Grant and James Stewart and has us, until the very end, wondering which suitor she will choose.
The dialogue is amazingly fun. Even after multiple rewatchings I am still laughing out loud and smiling at the situations. There are hidden identities, crossed purposes, and all the usual shenanigans, but it's handled with such a deft hand here. The writing is spectacular, and the execution by the actors is brilliant.
Yes, we have the poor vs rich, the full-of-choices vs the stuck-with-what-I-have, but there's so much more here. The craving to be accepted and appreciated. The desire to follow one's heart. The many twists and turns that all of our lives take.
And where the vast majority of movies - even today! - often don't even have two female characters who speak to each other about anything meaningful, The Philadephia story back in 1940 featured wonderfully strong, smart women who could hold their own against the men in the room. Some of the best dialogue is between women. It's such a treat to have an equal playing field.
If I have any complaints at all, it's about something which might be seen as an "era related issue". Katharine's father is off having an affair with a dancer, and it's this affair that is causing a lot of the grief and problem in the movie. And yet when the father waltzes in, he blames KATHARINE for causing him to have the affair! His daughter! What??? Somehow it's because she wasn't approving and loving and adoring enough of him that he was FORCED to go off and sleep with other women to get the love he needed. This upsets me greatly. And she bought into it! She said "Oh sorry Daddy, it's all my fault that you had to go sleep around".
If people really thought this way in 1940, I am EXTREMELY glad that is in our past.
But with that minor quibble, I enjoy this movie immensely and highly recommend it.
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AFI Top 100 Film Listing
Male vs Female Actors in the AFI Top 100
The Bechdel Test in the AFI Top 100