The Philadelphia Story

This is a film which has a very special resonance with me. The Husband courted me with it. No, it’s true. First of all, he sang me his version of “Lydia The Tattooed Lady” – not a patch on Dinah Love’s, it’s true – and when I conceded I’d never heard it before, he referred me to the film. When I admitted I’d never seen the film, he bought me the DVD and sat me down in front of it. We were married a few months later – although admittedly, not to “Lydia”*…

Made in 1940 by MGM and directed by George Cukor, The Philadelphia Story is a somewhat Wildean comedy of remarriage; a couple divorce acrimoniously, she is about to marry someone else and when that falls apart, the couple remarry and live happily ever after. Here, Tracy Lord and CK Dexter Fletcher have divorced after he fails to meet up to her standards – despite being of the same social set and background. Some years later, she is about to marry a self-made man, George Kittridge, who – to put it bluntly – has no idea to behave and simply isn’t used to Tracy’s lifestyle.

Somewhat camera shy, the proprietor of Spy Magazine has to resort to using Dexter, an ex-employee, to construct a ruse to allow two journalists (Macaulay Connor and Liz Imbrie) to attend the wedding and cover it for his magazine. Dexter, reluctantly agrees.

As the film progresses, Tracy finds her feelings torn between George, Dexter and Macaulay and gets drunk on the eve of her wedding. Macaulay endeavours to protect her reputation but is spotted by George, who feels insulted and demands an explanation from Tracy the following morning. In turn, she feels insulted by his lack of faith in her, and calls off the wedding. However, as all the guests have arrived, Dexter steps in to reclaim the bride he lost all those years earlier.

This précis does the film no justice whatsoever. It’s witty, sparkling and takes place predominantly in one house, giving away its genesis as a stage play. The cast is superb; Katherine Hepburn and Cary Grant as Tracy and Dexter, with James Stewart supporting (in an Oscar winning performance) as Macaulay Connor. It’s so much better than the musical remake** – even though there’s only one musical number, and we all know how much I like that…

* Should any members of my immediate family be reading this, I want this played at my funeral. Please.

** High Society. Despite an equally stellar cast, I just can’t see Grace Kelly and Bing Crosby ever having been husband and wife. Frank Sinatra, now…

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