Film Review: The Philadelphia Story

The Philadelphia Story

George Cukor’s 1940 classic romantic comedy The Philadelphia Story gets a re-release in time for Valentine’s Day.

Socialite Tracy Lord is getting married for the second time to a self-made businessman. As the wedding approaches, her ex-husband shows up, along with two journalists tasked to cover the big day for their magazine…

The cinematic version of the stage play, Cukor’s The Philadelphia Story has lost none of its vigour. The film is still a wonderful example of a romantic comedy, with romance, drama and humour combining to produce a memorable story.

The Philadelphia Story draws its main characters strongly. Protagonist Tracy gets most attention, although the three other main characters are not left languishing. Other characters are rather more one-dimensional; but do well to provide humour.

The narrative of The Philadelphia Story is set up almost as a mystery; with the central question being whether Tracy will get married, and to whom. The film’s relationships swing back and forth, with pairings revolving as the film progresses. Although some viewers may predict the eventual outcome of the story, but this does not negate from overall enjoyment.

Dialogue in the film is great. With this, The Philadelphia Story reveals what a lot of modern romcoms are missing. The script offers a lot of humour, and interactions between the love interests fizzle and bristle as appropriate. Some aspects of the film do feel dated, but this is to be expected given the film’s age.

George Cukor directs his cast tremendously well, and shows a flair for comic timing. Katherine Hepburn delivers just one in a series of wonderful performances as Tracy Lord. She has the attitude and air to carry off such a character. Cary Grant is good as ever as C.K. Dexter Haven, whilst James Stewart offers an energetic and assured performance. Ruth Hussey also shines.

For those looking for a romance fix, The Philadelphia Story offers this and more. A classic of the genre.

A Philadelphia Story is being screened at the BFI Southbank as part of the Katherine Hepburn season, as well as at selected venues throughout the UK.