97. The Philadelphia Story (1940)

Philadelphia StroyDirected by George Cukor

Written by Donald Oden Stewart and Waldo Salt

Produced by Joseph Mankiewitz

Starring: Cary Grant, Katherine Hepburn, James Stewart and Ruth Hussey

Country: United States

Release Date: December 26, 1940

Why you should see it?

This is one of the smartest movies made because it managed to go around the Production Code of the time. The Philadelphia Story managed to tell a story about adultery, infidelity and debauchery (themes that were frown upon at the time) as a romantic comedy.

This movie also managed to have on it the two biggest leading men in history of film, Cary Grant and James Stewart and at the same time allow the true star, Katherine Hepburn, to shine as the center of the movie.

The Philadelphia Story is an adaptation of the Broadway play with the same name by Phillip Barry. The play was started also by Katherine Hepburn, who saw it as a way to rekindle her movie career. She managed, with the help of Howard Hughes, to acquire the rights of the play and get the movie done as her way to get some control of her career and of course a control of her comeback to films.


Tracy Samantha Lord Haven is a wealthy Main Line Philadelphia socialite who had divorced C. K. Dexter Haven, a member of her social set, because he did not measure up to her exacting standards.  She is about to marry nouveau riche  George Kittredge .

Spy magazine publisher Sidney Kidd is eager to cover the wedding, and he enlists Dexter, one of his former employees, to introduce reporter Macaulay “Mike” Connor and photographer Liz Imbrie  as friends of the family so they can report on the wedding. Tracy is not fooled but reluctantly agrees to let them stay—after Dexter explains that Kidd has an innuendo-laden article about Tracy’s father, Seth, who, Tracy believes, is having an affair with a dancer. Though Seth is separated from Tracy’s mother Margaret and Tracy harbors great resentment against him, she wants to protect her family’s reputation.

Dexter is welcomed back with open arms by Margaret and Dinah, Tracy’s teenage sister—much to Tracy’s annoyance. In addition, Tracy gradually discovers that Mike has admirable qualities, and she even takes the trouble to find his published stories in the library. Thus, as the wedding nears, Tracy finds herself torn between her fiancé, her ex-husband, and the reporter.

The night before the wedding, Tracy gets drunk for only the second time in her life and takes an innocent swim with Mike. When George sees Mike carrying an intoxicated Tracy into the house afterward, he thinks the worst. The next day, he tells her that he was shocked and feels entitled to an explanation before going ahead with the wedding. Tracy takes exception to his lack of faith in her and breaks off the engagement. Then she realizes that all the guests have arrived and are waiting for the ceremony to begin . Mike volunteers to marry her, but Tracy graciously declines. At this point, Dexter makes his bid for her hand, which she accepts.


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