Category Archives: 1940

The Philadelphia Story (1940)

You’re too good for me, George. You’re a hundred times too good. And I’d make you most unhappy, most. That is, I’d do my best to.

— Tracy Lord

It’s a known fact that Katharine Hepburn was considered box office poison during the early part of her career. It wasn’t until she went to Broadway with the #244 Film of All-Time on IMDB, The Philadelphia Story that her career got back on track. It was a smash hit and ran for year until MGM purchased the rights to the play by Philip Barry and created the motion picture. The movie was nominated for six Academy Awards and won Oscars for Best Actor Jimmy Stewart and Best Adapted Screenplay. The farcical nature of the film seemed unnerving to me.

A Philadelphian socialite named Tracy Elizabeth Lord (Hepburn) is getting married to her nouveau riche fiancé, George Kittridge (John Howard) at her parents’ house. The whole action of the movies takes place in the span of three days. Tracy is prepping for her wedding with her mother, Margret (Mary Nash) and her younger sister, Dinah (Virginia Weidler). Their no-good father, Seth (John Halliday) is not invited to the wedding.

A tabloid magazine, Spy headed by Sidney Kidd (Henry Daniell) wants to infiltrate the wedding to get the scoop on the nuptials when Tracy refuses access to the event. He wants to have his reporter, Macaulay Connor (Jimmy Stewart) and his photographer girlfriend, Elizabeth Imbrie (Ruth Hussey) to be a part of the wedding party. How would they do it, you may ask? They enlist the help of former Spy employee and Tracy’s ex-husband, C.K. Dexter Haven (Cary Grant) to pretend that they are friends of Tracy’s younger brother, Julius.

The trio have their plan of action. Macaulay and Liz are looking around the rooms to find any dirt as Dexter schmoozes with his former in-laws. When Tracy sees Dexter, the tension between them is palpable. She wants him out of her house and out of the wedding. She knows that the people pretending to be friends of her brother are working for Dexter. The family pretends to be an eccentric family when the real scoop of the story unfolds with Tracy, George, Macaulay and Dexter.

The movie is a pleasant romp. A comedy of errors, but there were very few genuine laughs in the movie for me. The acting was a little hammy for me.

There were some moments of heart between Stewart and Hepburn. I’m gonna go on a feminist rant here, but I hate it when a strong woman that doesn’t want to get married would settle with an asshole that treated them like shit. their only motivation is not to end up alone. This was the same problem that I had with His Girl Friday, also starring Cary Grant– I will get to him in a moment. A guy could be a complete bastard to the get the girl and she falls for it. It pisses me off. I know that these movies were before the sexual revelation, but come on. It makes me question the intelligence of these women in the end.

I have a major issue with Cary Grant. I have seen couple of his movies that I have notice that he shows no range. He is delivering lines that would cut through Hepburn’s character, but feels like he is saying the lines. He reminds me of Bill Paxton in his delivery. He has this stoic look on his face. It bothers the hell out of me.

Judgment: A nice fluffy movie with not that much substance.

Rating: 6.5/10

His Girl Friday (1940)

MPW-11952

Walter, you’re wonderful, in a loathsome sort of way.

— Hildy Johnson

His Girl Friday was a recommendation from the hosts of the Cinebanter podcast a couple of months ago. In this classic movie viewing month, this movie was on the top of my list to watch. Currently ranked on the Top 250 of All Time on IMDB at #216, this movie moved at a rapid pace, but left me in the dust.

Set in the smoked filled rooms of a local newspaper, Hildy Johnson (Rosalind Russell) walks into the newsroom with her fiance, Bruce Baldwin (Ralph Bellamy) in tow. She wants to tell her ex-husband, Walter Burns (Cary Grant) that she is getting married the next day. She wants to leave the newspaper business for good, be a wife and raise a family.

Walter has a plan to keep his favorite writer and love of his life in the city. His enlists his petty crook friend, Diamond Louie (Abner Biberman) to throw a wrench into Hildy from departing the city with Bruce. He wanted to prey on her desire for the written word.

There is a execution that would correspond the same day as Hildy’s wedding. A mousy man, Earl Williams (John Qualen) is accused of shooting a colored officer. Walter wants Hildy to deliver a great report about Williams that is about to be hanged.

This movie went into some different directions that surprised. There is instances that were contrived and too convenient to be believed.

Rosalind Russell owned the screen. She was an acting clinic in this movie. The dialogue was sometimes silly and artificial, but she sells it. Her witty quips, the playful banter, the knowing looks. Perfect. Cary Grant on the other hand was wooden, flat, and lifeless. He has going through the motions. Disappointing.

Walter was such a bastard that it boggles my mind that Hildy would go back to him in the end. A Big WTF! He mastermind her not being a real woman and made her another worker at his paper. The ending pissed me off so much.

Judgment: If you want to look inside the world of print journalism, watch this movie.

Rating: ***1/2

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