James Stewart is by far my favourite actor. He gives such an amazing amount of energy to each and every character he portrays and can turn his hand to such a variety of different genres that I can honestly say I have never enjoyed watching an actor as much as I have enjoyed watching James Stewart. This all bodes well for The Philadelphia Story – the only film that James Stewart won an Oscar for – and when you through in the wonderful Katherine Hepburn and the smooth Cary Grant, this really was a film which had me salivating.
Tracy (Katherine Hepburn), is a wealthy Philadelphian socialite who is about to get married for the second time. On the eve of her wedding, her ex-husband (Cary Grant) turns up along with an undercover reporter (James Stewart) and as Tracy gets to know these two men further through the course of the night she begins to learn the truth about who she really is and what she really wants from life.
Adapted from the 1939 stage play of the same, The Philadelphia story is a romantic comedy (almost farcical in nature) which features some outstanding dialogue. In every scene the witty dialogue flows at such a pace that it is worth the price of admission alone just to allow it to grace your ears. Credit for that has to go in part to the Broadway play from which this film was adapted but also to screenwriter Donald Stewart, who deserving walked away with that year’s academy award for best screenplay.
Likewise, the acting in the film is superb. James Stewart gives what is a contender for his career best performance and Katherine Hepburn is also outstanding in a seductive lead female role. Making up the leading trio, Cary Grant is fine as the role of the ex-husband, however in almost every scene he is overshadowed by Stewart and Hepburn. That is more a compliment to the two leads as opposed to a criticism of Cary Grant, who I personally think gives his best performances in his collaborations with Hitchcock.
With all good things comes the bad and in this case the predictable storyline lets the film down a little. However, it is a testament to the great cast that they keep the film enjoyable, witty and entertaining despite the obvious plot points and I really did enjoy this piece of golden cinema.
Perhaps it is too generous to call this a classic, but a finer romantic comedy I have yet to see.