THE PHILADELPHIA STORY (1940) B/W 112m. dir: George Cukor
w/Katharine Hepburn, Cary Grant, James Stewart, Ruth Hussey, John Howard, Roland Young, John Halliday, Mary Nash, Virginia Weidler, Henry Daniell
First-rate cast sparks this brittle adaptation of Philip Barry's play about a socialite preparing for her second marriage, but still in love with her first spouse. Much of the dialogue is witty, and the stars are at their best.
From The Movie Guide: "This was a project especially dear to Hepburn. Two years prior to the release of THE PHILADELPHIA STORY, Hepburn had been branded 'box-office poison' by a leading exhibitor, thus prompting her to look for a Broadway show suitable for her talents. Playwright Barry wrote the role of Tracy expressly for Hepburn, who covered 25 percent of the play's cost and took no salary, shrewdly opting to take 45 percent of the considerable profits. Joseph Cotten played the Cary Grant role while Van Heflin originated Stewart's part. The cagy actress also purchased the film adaptation rights and eventually succeeded in getting Louis B. Mayer not only to pay her $250,000 for them but also won the right to select her own director, screenwriter, and costars. Grant accepted his role only on the proviso that he receive top billing, which he did. He then demanded a then-whopping salary of $137,000 and got it. (Grant later donated his entire salary from the film to the British War Relief Fund.)
"The film became a box-office smash. It broke all records at Radio City Music Hall with a return of almost $600,000 in six weeks. Hepburn, who won the coveted New York Film Critics Award, lost the Oscar to Ginger Rogers for her role in KITTY FOYLE."
The film won two Oscars, with James Stewart receiving the stauette as Best Actor (perhaps to soften the blow of his loss the year before in MR. SMITH GOES TO WASHINGTON), and Donald Ogen Stewart honored for Best Adapted Screenplay. It was also nominated for Best Picture, Director, Actress (Hepburn), and Supporting Actress (Hussey).
The 1956 musical HIGH SOCIETY is a remake of THE PHILADELPHIA STORY.