“The Philadelphia Story” Review ✦✦✦✧✧

13 November, 2017

Year of Release: 1940
George Cukor
Donald Ogden Stewart
Director of Photography: 
Joseph Ruttenberg
Katharine Hepburn, Cary Grant, James Stewart

Synopsis: A rich divorcee who fronts as a socialite prepares to tie the knot with a new suitor but finds her plans interrupted by her ex-husband who arrives with a group of reporters and offers her a deal to avoid a public scandal.

Philadelphia Story Review:

Cooler than “Bringing Up Baby” and calmer than “His Girl Friday”, “The Philadelphia Story” is the kind of early wartime escapism that feels wholly detached from the conventions of contemporary comedy, playing like a dodo farce with jokes landing perfectly but failing to induce the kind of laughter that one experiences with true screwball masterpieces. Innately ridiculous and reliant on varying degrees of comedic talent, the original “High Society” sees a well cast production in a stripped back set-up, becoming as iconic as the stars within it while also depending almost entirely on the bankability of their four-way love triangle.

Hand-picked for adaptation from stage to screen by legendary star Katharine Hepburn, who sees potential in the risk of sheer performative silliness, “The Philadelphia Story” is far from the screwiest of screwballs yet arguably the most unmissable as Hepburn demands the screen in a challenging production, seeking the glory of any man with a charisma that overshadows even the most captivating of actors. Easily one of the greatest talents of her era, Hepburn’s presence becomes a true blessing and her cadence, naturalism, and comedic timing a necessity in a film seeking the emotional chops in a gifted comedienne, rendering most of the cast wooden as she skips and zigzags her way through what could easily be a restrictive screenplay.

Compulsory viewing for any cinephile but tone-deaf to the wonders of cinematic innovation, “The Philadelphia Story” finds no way to mask its visual flatness, becoming a rather dated production with many age spots and a fair few one-liners that don’t quite pack the punch they once used to. A true ‘oldie’ with three unforgotten stars in top billing, “The Philadelphia Story” begs not to be forgotten and it remains a central point of contact for those overjoyed to see Katharine Hepburn, Cary Grant, and James Stewart exist in the same frame. In this sense, there’s nothing quite like it.


Review Date
The Philadelphia Story