Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Flick Pick: The Philadelphia Story

The Philadelphia Story
(MGM, 1940)

Had this been done by average contract players, it would have been merely excellent. Handicapped by such slight talents as Cary Grant, Katharine Hepburn, and Jimmy Stewart, it's simply brilliant. The screenplay, from the Broadway play, is twice as smart as anything you'll see in most movies on their best day all the way to the present time, and George Cukor's directing was nearly effortless, consisting mainly of staying out of the way and letting the story tell itself. It's rare to find such snappy and witty dialogue in any movie, but to find it in one that's 75 years old is a notable thing indeed. Hepburn, who had headlined the stage play, was considered a movie box office jinx after a string of horrid films nearly ruined her career, despite two prior nominations and one Oscar win as Best Actress. But with the help of Howard Hughes, she acquired the film rights to the play (Hughes bought them for Hepburn as a present), to use as her chance to stage a box office comeback. She and the movie were both nominated for Oscars, six in all, and it won two, for Best Screenplay, and Best Actor for James Stewart, who was surprised to beat out the guy he himself had voted for, Henry Fonda in The Grapes Of Wrath. Hepburn went from "poison" to a career of only twelve nominations, and a standing record of four wins, as Best Actress. She was 33 when this film was made. Watch it, and see what all the fuss was about.

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