AFI Catalog of Feature Films
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The Philadelphia Story
Director: George Cukor (Dir)
Release Date:   17 Jan 1941
Premiere Information:   New York opening: week of 27 Dec 1940
Production Date:   early Jul--14 Aug 1940
Duration (in mins):   112
Duration (in reels):   12
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Cast:   Cary Grant (C. K. Dexter Haven)  
    Katharine Hepburn (Tracy Lord)  
    James Stewart (Macaulay [Mike] Connor)  
    Ruth Hussey (Elizabeth Imbrie)  
    John Howard (George Kittredge)  
    Roland Young (Uncle Willie)  
    John Halliday (Seth Lord)  
    Mary Nash (Margaret Lord)  
    Virginia Weidler (Dinah Lord)  
    Henry Daniell (Sidney Kidd)  
    Lionel Pape (Edward)  
    Rex Evans (Thomas)  
    Russ Clark (John)  
    Hilda Plowright (Librarian)  
    Lita Chevret (Manicurist)  
    Lee Phelps (Bartender)  
    David Clyde (Mac)  
    Claude King (Willie's butler)  
    Robert de Bruce (Dr. Parsons)  
    Veda Buckland (Elsie)  
    Dorothy Fay (Mainliner)  
    Florine McKinney (Mainliner)  
    Helene Whitney (Mainliner)  
    Hillary Brooke (Mainliner)  

Summary: The wealth and position of the socially prominent Lord family of Philadelphia has made Tracy, the eldest daughter, into an imperious and haughty shrew. Tracy's attitude causes a marital rift with her childhood sweetheart, sportsman and recovering alcoholic C. K. Dexter Haven, leading to a divorce. Two years later, Tracy is poised to wed the pompous and politically ambitious self-made man George Kittredge when Dexter returns from an extended absence accompanied by scandal sheet reporters Macaulay "Mike" Connor and Elizabeth Imbrie. Because Sidney Kidd, the powerful publisher of the scandal magazine Spy , has embarassing information on Tracy's father Seth's affair with a dancer, Dexter agrees to allow Mike and Liz access to Tracy's wedding in exchange for not printing the story on Seth. Although Dexter introduces Mike and Liz as old friends of Tracy's brother Junius, who is living in South America, Tracy realizes that Mike and Liz are reporters. She allows them to stay, however, and puts on an exaggerated performance of a society girl for them when Dexter tells her about Kidd. Tracy is angry at Dexter for coming back after two years, but her mother Margaret and sister Dinah are delighted at his presence, complicating Tracy's attempts to have a dignified wedding. Because Tracy is angry at her father for his affair and doesn't expect him at the wedding, she pretends that her uncle Willie is her father, hoping to make Mike and Liz think that everyone is happy. Though she at first has nothing but contempt for Mike, she gradually comes to admire him when she finds a book of poetry he has written at the local public library. Mike, too, comes to admire Tracy, whom he realizes is more than just a superficial society girl. Liz, who thinks that Tracy and Dexter are still in love, begins to get jealous when she realizes that Mike is starting to fall for Tracy. When Seth unexpectedly returns home and Margaret is happy to see him, Tracy chastises them. Seth then lectures her about her heartlessness, as does Dexter, who gives her a model of the yacht they used for their honeymoon, The True Love , as a wedding present. Confused and hurt over things that Seth and Dexter have said to her, Tracy becomes very drunk at her engagement party and starts kissing Mike after a middle-of-the-night swim at home. The next morning, a very hung over Tracy doesn't seem to remember what happened the night before, but as Dinah and the others start to remind her, she becomes even more confused. When Dexter and Kittredge arrive and Kittridge's pompous reaction to Tracy's seeming indiscretion the night before is revealed, Tracy realizes that she doesn't love him, and Kittridge leaves. The guests have gathered for the wedding, however, and the entire family is waiting for Tracy to do something. As the orchestra plays the strings of the wedding march, Dexter advises Tracy on what to say to the guests and, as he feeds her the lines, she tells them that they were cheated out of seeing her marry Dexter the first time, but they will be able to see her marry him this time. Now realizing that Dexter is proposing, Tracy happily accompanies him down the aisle. Harmony seems to be restored in the Lord household until a flashbulb pops and the bride and groom are surprised by a photographer and Kidd places their picture in the next issue of Spy

Production Company: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Corp. (Loew's Inc.)
Distribution Company: Loew's Inc.  
Director: George Cukor (Dir)
  Edward Woehler (Asst dir)
Producer: Joseph L. Mankiewicz (Prod)
Writer: Donald Ogden Stewart (Scr)
  Waldo Salt (Contr wrt)
Photography: Joseph Ruttenberg (Dir of photog)
Art Direction: Cedric Gibbons (Art dir)
  Wade B. Rubottom (Art dir assoc)
Film Editor: Frank Sullivan (Film ed)
Set Decoration: Edwin B. Willis (Set dec)
Costumes: Adrian (Gowns)
Music: Franz Waxman (Mus score)
Sound: Douglas Shearer (Rec dir)
Make Up: Sydney Guilaroff (Hair styles)
Production Misc: Keith Weeks (Prod mgr)
Country: United States

Source Text: Based on the play The Philadelphia Story by Philip Barry (New York, 28 Mar 1939).
Authors: Philip Barry

Copyright Claimant Copyright Date Copyright Number Passed By NBR:
Loew's Inc. 28/11/1940 dd/mm/yyyy LP10102 Yes

PCA NO: 6594
Physical Properties: b&w:
  Sd: Western Electric Sound System

 
Genre: Romantic comedy
 
Subjects (Major): Divorce
  Reporters
  Snobs and snobbishness
  Socialites
  Transformation
  Weddings
 
Subjects (Minor): Alcoholics
  Ambition
  Drunkenness
  Engagements
  Fathers and daughters
  Infidelity
  Parties
  Philadelphia (PA)
  Publishers and publishing
  Scandal
  Sportsmen
  Yellow journalism

Note: According to a news item in HR , Clark Gable was originally to have played the role of C. K. Dexter Haven. Another item in HR states that the film was completed five days under schedule. The Var review notes that in order to avoid competition with the stage play, M-G-M agreed not to put the film into general release until Jan 1941, although it was screened at selected theaters in Dec 1940. Hepburn revised the role she starred in on Broadway. James Stewart won an Academy Award for Best Actor and Donald Ogden Stewart won the award for Best Screenplay for their work on this film. The film also received the following Academy Award nominations: Best Picture, Best Actress (Katharine Hepburn), Best Supporting Actress (Ruth Hussey) and Best Direction (George Cukor).
       In an interview, Cukor confirms that Katharine Hepburn, who was considered "box office poison" at the time, had purchased the screen rights to the play, which was written with her in mind, in hopes of reviving her flagging film career. As hoped, the film's success revitalized Hepburn's standing in Hollywood. According to modern sources, because she had purchased the screen rights before the play opened, she was able to chose her director and co-stars. In 1942, the Lux Radio Theatre presented Philip Barry's play featuring the film's stars, and in 1943, presented another version starring Robert Taylor, Loretta Young and Robert Young. In 1956, Charles Walter directed Grace Kelly, Bing Crosby and Frank Sinatra in High Society , M-G-M's musical version of the Barry play. 

Bibliographic Sources:   Date   Page
Daily Variety   5 Dec 40   p. 3.
Film Daily   26 Nov 40   p. 7.
Hollywood Reporter   17 Apr 40   p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter   13 Jun 40   p. 8.
Hollywood Reporter   5 Jul 40   pp. 12-13.
Hollywood Reporter   14 Aug 40   p. 7.
Hollywood Reporter   4 Dec 40   p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter   10 Dec 40   p. 1.
Life   6 Jan 41   pp. 31-32.
Motion Picture Herald   30 Nov 40   p. 36.
New York Times   27 Dec 40   p. 22.
Variety   27 Nov 40   p. 16.

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The American Film Institute is grateful to Sir Paul Getty KBE and the Sir Paul Getty KBE Estate for their dedication to the art of the moving image and their support for the AFI Catalog of Feature Films and without whose support AFI would not have been able to achieve this historical landmark in this epic scholarly endeavor.
 
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