The Philadelphia Story (Cukor, 1940)

It’s hard to imagine the genre of romantic comedy without Cary Grant. His timing, charisma, and personality will never be duplicated, no matter how much George Clooney intends to try. The Philadelphia Story, like Bringing Up Baby, exemplifies Grant’s genius for facial expressions and charming rants. This time, Grant shares the screen with both Kate Hepburn and Jimmy Stewart, a love triangle of epic proportions and resounding cinematic chemistry. While the supporting players in The Philadelphia Story aren’t as memorable as other classic screwball comedy’s, the stars and their respective characters shine brighter than ever. The dialogue heavy interludes project the whimsical eire of fate, people destined to annoy, love, and save each other. This film is indeed, a fairy tale, as seen by the hand drawn impression of Independence Hall in the opening credits. But as with all of the Cukor masterpieces (Adam’s Rib comes to mind), The Philadelphia Story represents a hope we can find something to relate to in these fantastical experiences, celebrating the artificial within all our waking dreams of fancy. There’s a confidence in The Philadelphia Story rarely seen in today’s romance pictures. Heartfelt grasps at romanticism have been replaced by irony and pastiche, which seem to go further in explaining love’s complexities to current generations than any fairy tale ending could. That’s too bad, because I’ll take Cary Grant any day.


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