The Philadelphia Story (1940) (mini-review++)

(If you’re curious, my review process. It’s also pasted at the end of this post. I don’t believe in Rotten Tomatoes. I just believe in me.)

(***all-purpose SPOILER ALERT*** there may be some in this review)

acting 7

directing 7

effects 6

editing 7

writing 9


3.6 out of 5 🐙


The first scene of The Philadelphia Story includes C. K. Dexter Haven (Cary Grant) pushing his ex-wife Tracy Lord (Katharine Hepburn) in the face so she falls backward. I’m not militantly woke, but that one made me raise my eyebrows. But I remember it was a different era. It’s still not cool or right. Just saying. 


“What’s the matter, Bessie? You act worried?”

“Maybe it’s because his name is Jack”

And then it gets worse. Dinah Lord (Virginia Weidler), Tracy’s younger sister doesn’t want to go to because: “Oh please mother, maybe he’s going to sock her again!” Talk about learned behavior. And they say kids today are more violent. This girl wants to see her sister’s ex-husband backhand her sister. 


“He’s not a tower of strength. He’s just a tower.”

The plot is a little nutty, but the 40 were kind of nutty when it came to comedies. Sometimes I can’t deal with the slapstick, affected back-and-forth patter. But sometimes it’s awesome. In this film, it’s great. The dialogue is wicked and sharp. Tracy is particularly sharp when belittling C. K.:

“Cromwell, Robin Hood, Jack the Ripper – where did he teach? I mean your father.”


“The moon is a goddess, chaste and virginal.”

“Stop using those foul words.”

Oh right, I was talking about the plot. Tracy lives with her mother and sister. She used to be married to C. K. but they had a nasty divorce. He shows up for Tracy’s wedding to George Kittredge (John Howard) with Macaulay Connor (James Stewart) and Elizabeth Imbrie (Ruth Hussey). Macaulay and Ruth are reporters hiding their true identities because George is a rich socialite and getting access to the wedding is a big scoop. They essentially have blackmailed C. K. to bring them as guests. 

It’s a little messy. But the deal is that it’s a basic love “square” with C. K., George, Tracy, and Macaulay. I’ve already given a spoiler warning but here come some big ones: George, in archetypal romcom fashion, has no chance. The guy the main gal is supposed to marry at the beginning never has a shot. It appears Macaulay is a lock to win Tracy’s heart because he is the quirky, goes to the beat of his own drummer, archetype. He’s a soulful writer and they even share a drunken kiss and it seems like it is on.


“The time to make up your mind about people is never.”

(F*cking hell. What a line! That’s a line for the ages.) 

The line lives a scene for the ages: Jimmy Stewart and Katharine Hepburn getting drunk together. Stewart does a drunken rendition of ‘Somewhere Over the Rainbow’ and it’s everything you could ever want. And then the director cuts to the following morning, where they are both completely hung over.


(as she stands against a wall)

“I’m standing here on my own two hands and I’m going crazy.”

But I should have known better. The virulent animosity between C. K. and Tracy is romcom 101. The ones who hate each other in the beginning are contractually bound to end up together. And, third spoiler alert, they do. It’s a shockingly modern ending. By all stereotypical romcom plot beats, she should have ended up with Macaulay. He was the quirky guy. he was the bolt of infatuation. But, no. She has grown. C. K. has grown. They aren’t the same people they were when they first got married. They must have seen something again that they saw back in the day. And the fact that both of them still felt it, despite their nasty split, was enough.







(1) Shark Wrighter (SW) Score: Based on a sum of 5 sub-scores (acting, directing, writing/story, effects: cinematography &/or animation &/or effects, editing) with 1 being terrible and 10 being terrific.

(2) Octopuses (0-5 🐙, with 5 being fantastic and 0 being feces)

(3) Octopuses are my unquantifiable feeling…not that SW score is scientific…but this one is even less so

(4) ++ This optional section includes any incredibly *brilliant observations that don’t fit into simple quantitative slices like the scores and octopuses *(they are likely NOT brilliant)

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