C.K. Dexter Haven
Based on the play by
As produced on the Stage by
Director of Photography
Art Direction by
Associate Art Director
Film Editing by
Costume Design by
Robert De Bruce
Joseph L. Mankiewicz
Donald Ogden Stewart
The Theatre Guild Inc.
Wade B. Rubottom
Edwin B. Willis
VHS / DVD
Produced: July 5-August 14, 1940
Filmed at the MGM Studios
Premiere: December 1, 1940
On the eve of Tracy Lord's second marriage, to a stuffy Philadelphia blueblood, her ex-husband, C.K. Dexter Haven, equally well born, but more down to earth and something of a drunk, makes an appearance. Haven has arranged for Mike Conner, a reporter from Spy magazine, and Liz Imbrie, the magazine's photographer, to write up the wedding festivities. The reportorial duo are allowed to stay on in the exalted Lord household only after Tracy discovers that she can buy off a scandalous story dealing her fathers illicit affair with an actress by consenting to pose for Spy herself.
The time to make up your mind about people is never.
Time Magazine - April 24, 1939
"Several weeks ago when the curtain rang down on the first New York performance of Philip Barry's Philadelphia Story, Katherine Hepburn heard for the first time the intoxicating music of approving applause from a first-night Broadway audience. The lank y, coltish thoroughbred whom Broadway had kicked off the track five years ago when she tried to run in The Lake delighted the audience with her spirited performance, and became overnight a box-office favorite."
Bosley Crowther - New York Times - December 27, 1940
"Truthfully, the psychology of the story is as specious as a spiel, and, for all the talk about the little lady being 'a sort for high priestess to a virgin goddess', etc.., she is and remains at the end what most fold would call a plain snob. But the way Miss Hepburn plays her, with the wry things she is given to say, she is an altogether charming character to meet cinematically. Someone was rudely charging a few years ago that Miss Hepburn was 'box-office poison'. If she is, a lot of people don't read labels - including us."
Life - 1940
"For The Philadelphia Story fits the curious talents of the redheaded Miss Hepburn like a coat of quick-dry enamel It is said to have been written for her. Its shiny surface reflects perfectly from her gaunt, bony face. It's languid action becomes her lean, rangy body. It's brittle smart-talk suits her metallic voice. And when Katharine Hepburn sets out to play Katharine Hepburn, she is a sight to behold. Nobody is then her equal."
Garvin Lambert - 1961
"[The Philadelphia Story] is above all Hepburn's film. Without her, it would have been much less. She is at her most dazzling; perhaps no actress can manage artificial comedy with such assurance and wit, and her temperament - vital, glittering, delicately exaggerated - is unforgettably displayed."
Dave Kehr - Chicago Reader
"Philip Barry's witty comedy of manners about a spoiled rich girl (Katharine Hepburn) who longs for some genuine romance. George Cukor gives it the royal treatment with a splendid supporting cast: Cary Grant as Hepburn's sardonic ex-husband, James Stewart as the streetwise but romantically timorous reporter who falls in love with her, and Ruth Hussey as Stewart's philosophical partner. It checks in a little below Cukor's 1938 Grant-Hepburn-Barry outing, Holiday, a more tender and less cluttered variation on the same theme, but second best in this league is still something special."
Geoff Andrew - Time Out
"Cukor and Donald Ogden Stewart's evergreen version of Philip Barry's romantic farce, centring on a socialite wedding threatened by scandal, is a delight from start to finish, with everyone involved and working on peak form. Hepburn's the ice maiden, recently divorced from irresponsible millionaire Grant and just about to marry a truly dull but supposedly more considerate type (Howard). Enter Grant, importunate and distinctly sceptical. Also enter Steward and Hussey, snoopers from Spy magazine, to cover the society wedding of the year and throw another spanner in the works. Superbly directed by Cukor, the film is a marvel of timing and understated performances, effortlessly transcending its stage origins without ever feeling the need to 'open out' in any way. The wit still sparkles; the ambivalent attitude towards the rich and idle is still resonant; and the moments between Stewart and Hepburn, drunk and flirty on the moonlit terrace tingle with a real, if rarely explicit, eroticism."
What Kate had to say
Katharine Hepburn - Interview with John Kobal - 1979
"I remember on The Philadelphia Story when Jimmy Stewart was doing the scene, uh.... 'You've got hearth-fires banked down in you, Tracy, heart-fires and holocausts.' And George [Cukor] said to him, 'Now Jimmy, just do the scene in a romantic way. But don't do it as if you were just about to run away to the circus.' So poor Jimmy.... he won the Academy Award for that film? and he was struggling with this thing. 'You've got hearth-fires banked down in you'.. it's a bit fancy to say. And just before he did it, Noel Coward stepped onto the set and Jimmy nearly died. So he did the scene, and Noel in one second could see what was going on, and immediately stepped up to Jimmy and told him how devastating he was. And Gorge said, 'Rill 'em', and took advantage of a moment of flattery and Jimmy got a wonderful take. Stewart was terribly funny about that film. There was a scene where he had to go swimming and he said, 'If I appear in a bathing suit, I know it's the end of me. I know that and I' prepared to end my career, but it will also be the end of the motion-picture industry.' And we both appeared in that scene in long white flannel dressing gowns."
What fellow actors, the director and friends had to say
"Once the picture started she [Hepburn] was just like a regular hardworking actress. No semblance of any 'I want this and I want that. I've done this on the stage for three years, so I know, so don't do it that way.'"
George Cukor - Interview with Gavin Lambert - 1970
"Kate had part ownership of the play, and there was a stipulation in the movie deal that she had to be in it, too. In so may cases like this they cast somebody else. I believe at this time she was considered box-office poison, and she very shrewdly had it in her contract that the two leading men should be big start. We tried to get this and that star, but they weren't available, and we finally chose Cary Grant and James Stewart, neither of whom was considered absolutely top-notch at the time - and they were perfect."
"I've done scenes that even surprise me. I remember in The Philadelphia Story, there is an scene of burning passion with Miss Hepburn and Jimmy Stewart in a comedy vein and they said, 'Well, this is going to be something, isn't it, the both of us being passion flowers..' and it had such beauty and such elevation and such great feeling and such sexual passion. So you see one can do lustful scenes if they're good scenes: it the scenes are true."