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  • Writer's pictureRonny Duncan Studios

The Philadelphia Story (1940)

Updated: Oct 16, 2022

Plot Summary: This classic romantic comedy focuses on Tracy Lord (Katharine Hepburn), a Philadelphia socialite who has split from her husband, C.K. Dexter Haven (Cary Grant), due both to his drinking and to her overly demanding nature. As Tracy prepares to wed the wealthy George Kittredge (John Howard), she crosses paths with both Dexter and prying reporter Macaulay Connor (James Stewart). Unclear about her feelings for all three men, Tracy must decide whom she truly loves.

*Recognition: Nominated for Outstanding Production, Best Director (George Cukor), Best Actress (Hepburn), and Supporting Actress (Ruth Hussey); Won for Best Actor (Stewart) and Best Writing, Screenplay. AFI 100 (1998) #51, AFI 100 (2007) #44, AFI Romantic Comedy #5 (2008), and A National Film Registry Entrant (1995).

What is this movie is about?: What a marriage should be based on, and the rigors of both finding the right person as well as becoming the right person.

Best Performance: Katherine Hepburn (Tracy) /Cary Grant (Dexter)

Best Secondary Performance: Cary Grant/James Stewart (Mike)

Most Charismatic Award: Virginia Wiedler (Dinah)/Katherine Hepburn

Best Scene: Dexter/George/Seth Break Down Tracy's Confidence/The Wedding

Favorite Scene: Tracy & Seth

Most Indelible Moment: The Wedding/Tracy & Seth

Best Line:

George Kittredge: You're like some marvelous, distant, well, queen, I guess. You're so cool and fine and always so much your own. There's a kind of beautiful purity about you, Tracy, like, like a statue.

Tracy Lord: George...

George Kittredge: Oh, it's grand, Tracy. It's what everybody feels about you. It's what I first worshipped you for from afar.

Tracy Lord: I don't want to be worshipped. I want to be loved.

Honorable Mention:

Dexter: Not interested in yourself! You're fascinated, Red. You're far and away your favorite person in the world.

Tracy: Dexter, in case you don't know it.

Dexter: Of course, Mr. Connor, she's a girl who's generous to a fault.

Tracy: To a fault, Mr. Connor.

Dexter: Except to other people's faults. For instance, she never had any understanding of my deep and gorgeous thirst.

Tracy: That was your problem.

Dexter: Granted. But you took on that problem with me when you took me, Red. You were no help-mate there. You were a scold.

Tracy: It was disgusting. It made you so unattractive.

Dexter: A weakness, sure, and strength is her religion, Mr. Connor. She finds human imperfection unforgiveable. And when I gradually discovered that my relationship to her was supposed to be not that of a loving husband and a good companion, but - [He turns away from her] Oh, never mind.

Tracy: Say it.

Dexter: But that of a kind of high priest to a virgin goddess, then my drinks grew deeper and more frequent, that's all.

Funniest Line:

Dexter: Orange juice, certainly.

Tracy: Don't tell me you've forsaken your beloved whiskey and whiskeys.

Dexter: No, no, no, no. I've just changed their color, that's all. I'm going for the pale pastel shades now. They're more becoming to me. How about you, Mr. Connor? You drink, don't you? Alcohol, I mean.

Mike: Oh, a little.

Dexter: A little, 'little.' And you a writer? I thought all writers drank to excess and beat their wives. You know one time, I think I secretly wanted to be a writer.

The Stanley Rubric:

Legacy: 8

Impact/Significance: 5.25

Novelty: 6.5

Classic-ness: 7

Rewatchability: 7.5

Audience Score: 9.3

Total: 43.55

Remaining Questions:

  • Why is George even in this movie? He's clearly a McGuffin.

  • What could Ruth Hussey have been if she stayed in acting?

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