World Library  
Flag as Inappropriate
Email this Article

The Philadelphia Story (film)

Article Id: WHEBN0000062592
Reproduction Date:

Title: The Philadelphia Story (film)  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: 13th Academy Awards, Katharine Hepburn, Cary Grant, John Howard (American actor), James Stewart
Collection: 1940 Films, 1940S Romantic Comedy Films, American Films, American Romantic Comedy Films, American Screwball Comedy Films, Articles Containing Video Clips, Black-and-White Films, Comedy of Remarriage Films, English-Language Films, Film Scores by Franz Waxman, Films About Tabloid Journalism, Films Based on Plays, Films Directed by George Cukor, Films Featuring a Best Actor Academy Award Winning Performance, Films Produced by Joseph L. Mankiewicz, Films Set in Country Houses, Films Set in Pennsylvania, Films Set in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Films Whose Writer Won the Best Adapted Screenplay Academy Award, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Films, Screenplays by Donald Ogden Stewart, Screenplays by Waldo Salt, United States National Film Registry Films
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia

The Philadelphia Story (film)

The Philadelphia Story
Theatrical poster
Directed by George Cukor
Produced by Joseph L. Mankiewicz
Screenplay by Donald Ogden Stewart
Waldo Salt (uncredited)
Based on The Philadelphia Story 1939 play 
by Philip Barry
Starring Cary Grant
Katharine Hepburn
James Stewart
Ruth Hussey
Music by Franz Waxman
Cinematography Joseph Ruttenberg
Edited by Frank Sullivan
Distributed by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
Release dates
  • December 26, 1940 (1940-12-26)
Running time 112 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $914,000[1]
Box office $3,259,000[1]

The Philadelphia Story is a 1940 American Cary Grant, Katharine Hepburn, and James Stewart and featuring Ruth Hussey. Based on the Broadway play of the same name by Philip Barry,[4] the film is about a socialite whose wedding plans are complicated by the simultaneous arrival of her ex-husband and a tabloid magazine journalist. The socialite character of the play - performed by Hepburn in the film - was inspired by Helen Hope Montgomery Scott (1904–1995), a Philadelphia socialite known for her hijinks, who married a friend of playwright Philip Barry.[5]

Written for the screen by Donald Ogden Stewart and an uncredited Waldo Salt, it is considered one of the best examples of a comedy of remarriage, a genre popular in the 1930s and 1940s, in which a couple divorce, flirt with outsiders and then remarry – a useful story-telling ploy at a time when the depiction of extramarital affairs was blocked by the Production Code.

The film was Hepburn's first big hit following several flops, which had led to her being included on a 1938 list that Manhattan movie theater owner Harry Brandt compiled of actors considered to be "box office poison."[6] She acquired the film rights to the play, which she had also starred in, with the help of Howard Hughes,[7] in order to control it as a vehicle for her screen comeback.[8] According to a Turner Broadcasting documentary "When the Lion Roars", after MGM purchased the film rights they were skeptical about Hepburn's box office appeal, so L. B. Mayer took an unusual precaution by casting two A-list male stars (Grant & Stewart) to support Miss Hepburn.

Nominated for six Academy Awards, the film won two; James Stewart for Best Actor and Donald Ogden Stewart for Best Adapted Screenplay. It was remade in 1956 as a musical, retitled High Society.

The Philadelphia Story was produced by Joseph L. Mankiewicz and was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry in 1995.


  • Plot 1
  • Cast 2
  • Production 3
  • Reception 4
    • Box office 4.1
    • Critical 4.2
  • Awards and honors 5
  • Adaptations 6
  • Gallery 7
  • References 8
  • External links 9


The film's trailer

Tracy Lord (John Howard).

Spy magazine publisher Sidney Kidd (Henry Daniell) is eager to cover the wedding, and he enlists Dexter, one of his former employees, to introduce reporter Macaulay "Mike" Connor (James Stewart) and photographer Liz Imbrie (Ruth Hussey) as friends of the family so they can report on the wedding. Tracy is not fooled but reluctantly agrees to let them stay—after Dexter explains that Sidney has an innuendo-laden article about Tracy's father, Seth (John Halliday), who, she believes, is having an affair with a dancer. Though he is separated from her mother, Margaret (Mary Nash), and Tracy harbors great resentment against him, she wants to protect her family's reputation.

Dexter is welcomed back with open arms by Margaret and Dinah (Virginia Weidler), Tracy's teenage sister, much to her annoyance. In addition, she gradually discovers that Mike has admirable qualities, and she even takes the trouble to find his published stories in the library. Thus, as the wedding nears, she finds herself torn between George, Dexter, and Mike.

The night before the wedding, Tracy gets drunk for only the second time in her life and takes an innocent swim with Mike. When George sees Mike carrying an intoxicated Tracy into the house afterward, he thinks the worst. The next day, he tells her that he was shocked and feels entitled to an explanation before going ahead with the wedding. She takes exception to his lack of faith in her and breaks off the engagement. Then she realizes that all the guests have arrived and are waiting for the ceremony to begin. Mike volunteers to marry her (much to Liz's distress), but she graciously declines. At this point, Dexter makes his bid for her hand, which she accepts.



Broadway playwright Philip Barry[9] wrote the film specifically for Hepburn, who ended up backing the play, and forgoing a salary in return for a percentage of its profits.[10] Costarring with Hepburn on Broadway were Joseph Cotten as Dexter Haven, Van Heflin as Mike Connor, and Shirley Booth as Liz Imbrie.[4]

Hoping to create a film vehicle for herself which would erase the label of "box office poison" that the Independent Theatre Owners of America had put on her after a number of commercial failures (including the classic Bringing Up Baby), Hepburn happily accepted the film rights to the play from Howard Hughes who had bought them for her. She then convinced MGM's Louis B. Mayer to buy them from her for only $250,000 in return for Hepburn having veto over producer, director, screenwriter and cast.[8][10][11]

Katharine Hepburn as Tracy Lord and James Stewart as Mike Connor

Hepburn selected director A Bill of Divorcement (1932) and Little Women (1933) she had acted, and Donald Ogden Stewart, a friend of Barry's and a specialist at adapting plays to the big screen, as writer.[10]

Hepburn wanted Clark Gable to play Dexter Haven and Spencer Tracy to play Mike Connor, but both had other commitments. Grant agreed to play the part on condition that he be given top billing and that his salary would be $137,000, which he donated to the British War Relief Society. The pairing of Cukor and Gable would have been problematic in any case, as they had not gotten along on the recent Gone with the Wind, and Cukor had been replaced with Victor Fleming.

The film was in production from 5 July to 14 August 1940[12] at MGM's studios in Culver City.[13] It was shot in six weeks and came in five days under schedule.[8] At one point, Stewart slipped in his hiccuping during the drunk scene. Grant turned to him, surprised, and said "Excuse me," then appears to stifle a laugh. The scene was kept and was not reshot.[14]

Stewart had been extremely nervous about the scene in which Connor recites poetry to Tracy and believed that he would perform badly. Noël Coward was visiting the set that day and was asked by Cukor to say something to encourage him. Stewart was also quite uncomfortable with some of the dialogue, especially in the swimming pool scene.

Hepburn performed the dive into the swimming pool entirely by herself without the help from doubles. Forty years later, during the filming of On Golden Pond, Jane Fonda was frightened to do her own dive, to which the annoyed Hepburn responded, "I did my own dive in The Philadelphia Story."

The film premiered in New York City in the week of 27 December 1940 and it was shown in select theatres in December, but MGM had agreed to hold its general release until January 1941 in order not to compete with the stage play,[8] which was no longer playing on Broadway, but was touring the country.[4] It went into general American release on 17 January 1941.[15] It broke a box office record at Radio City Music Hall by taking in $600,000 in just six weeks.


Box office

The film was the 5th most popular movie at the US box office in 1941.[16] According to MGM records it earned $2,374,000 in the US and Canada and $885,000 elsewhere resulting in a profit of $1,272,000.[1]


According to [17]

The film was the last of four starring Grant and Hepburn, the others being Sylvia Scarlett (1935), Bringing Up Baby (1938), and Holiday (1938). All but Sylvia Scarlett belong to a sub-genre of screwball comedy called the comedy of remarriage described by the philosopher Stanley Cavell as Hollywood's crowning achievement.

Awards and honors

Ruth Hussey as Liz Imbrie
Cary Grant as Dexter Haven and John Howard as George Kittredge

At the 1940 Academy Awards The Philadelphia Story received 6 nominations:

James Stewart and Donald Ogden Stewart won Academy Awards.

Stewart was not expecting to win and was not planning to attend the awards ceremony. He was called and "advised" to show up in a dinner jacket. Stewart himself said he had voted for Henry Fonda for his performance in The Grapes of Wrath, and always felt the award had been given to him as compensation for not winning the Academy Award for his portrayal of Jeff Smith in Mr. Smith Goes to Washington the previous year. Donald Ogden Stewart, on the other hand, declared upon winning his Oscar: "I have no one to thank but myself!"[10]

Hepburn won a 1940 New York Film Critics Circle Award for her performance,[18] and the film was named one of the ten best of the year by Film Daily.[19]

In 1995, the film was deemed "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant" by the Library of Congress and was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry.

American Film Institute Lists


The stars of the film appeared on Lux Radio Theater '​s radio adaptation of Barry's play in 1942. Lux presented it again in 1943 with Robert Taylor, Loretta Young and Robert Young.[8] It was also adapted on two episodes of The Screen Guild Theater, first with Greer Garson, Henry Fonda and Fred MacMurray (April 5, 1942), then with Hepburn, Grant and Stewart reprising their film roles (March 17, 1947).

The film was adapted in 1956 as the MGM musical High Society, starring Bing Crosby, Grace Kelly, Frank Sinatra, Celeste Holm, and Louis Armstrong, directed by Charles Walters.



  1. ^ a b c "The Eddie Mannix Ledger". Los Angeles: Margaret Herrick Library, Center for Motion Picture Study .
  2. ^ Variety film review; November 27, 1940, page 16.
  3. ^ Harrison's Reports film review; December 7, 1940.
  4. ^ a b c The Philadelphia Story at the Internet Broadway Database
  5. ^ Irvine, Ian "The Real Philadelphia Story" at
  6. ^ "The New Pictures".  
  7. ^ Hyde, Douglas (February 23, 2005). "The Hughes-Hepburn affair; Hepburn biographer describes 'tender' relationship". 
  8. ^ a b c d e TCM Notes
  9. ^ Philip Barry at the Internet Broadway Database
  10. ^ a b c d Melear, Mary Anne. "The Philadelphia Story". Turner Classic Movies. Retrieved 2011-12-18. 
  11. ^ All Movie Overview
  12. ^ IMDB Business data
  13. ^ IMDB Filming locations
  14. ^ Osborne, Robert, Turner Classic Movies broadcast
  15. ^ TCM Overview
  16. ^ FILM MONEY-MAKERS SELECTED BY VARIETY: ' Sergeant York' Top Picture, Gary Cooper Leading Star New York Times (1923-Current file) [New York, N.Y] 31 Dec 1941: 21.
  17. ^  
  18. ^ IMDB Awards
  19. ^ All Movie Awards
  20. ^ AFI's 100 Years...100 Movie Quotes Nominees
  21. ^ AFI's 100 Years of Film Scores Nominees
  22. ^ "AFI's 10 Top 10".  

External links

Streaming audio

This article was sourced from Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License; additional terms may apply. World Heritage Encyclopedia content is assembled from numerous content providers, Open Access Publishing, and in compliance with The Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act (FASTR), Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., Public Library of Science, The Encyclopedia of Life, Open Book Publishers (OBP), PubMed, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health (NIH), U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, and, which sources content from all federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial government publication portals (.gov, .mil, .edu). Funding for and content contributors is made possible from the U.S. Congress, E-Government Act of 2002.
Crowd sourced content that is contributed to World Heritage Encyclopedia is peer reviewed and edited by our editorial staff to ensure quality scholarly research articles.
By using this site, you agree to the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. World Heritage Encyclopedia™ is a registered trademark of the World Public Library Association, a non-profit organization.

Copyright © World Library Foundation. All rights reserved. eBooks from Project Gutenberg are sponsored by the World Library Foundation,
a 501c(4) Member's Support Non-Profit Organization, and is NOT affiliated with any governmental agency or department.