The Philadelphia Story (1940) and High Society (1953)

Today I’m going to do a double-movie review.  The Philadelphia Story starring Katherine Hepburn, Cary Grant, and James Stewart, and its musical remake High Society starring Grace Kelly, Bing Crosby, and Frank Sinatra.

I generally am not a fan of remakes…at all.  I find they take away from the original and most of the time fall well short of the original.  However, this was a different time for Hollywood, and High Society was adapted and tweaked enough to make a workable, excellent musical.

This is a retrospective look at these movies.  While I enjoyed them both, I don’t see myself going back and watching each before reviewing.  I also enter this review with a bit of an unfair bias to High Society.  I watched this one first, and then went back and watched The Philadelphia Story.  For that reason, I tended to like the remake more than its predecessor.  There were many similarities between these two movies, even down to the script.  In one of the first scenes featuring Tracy Lord (Hepburn/Kelly), a socialite who is preparing for her second marriage and protecting her father’s playboy tendencies and Mike Conner (Stewart/Sinatra), the reporter from Spy magazine who is getting an exclusive on her wedding, Tracy’s words and actions were virtual mirrors of the other movie.

While the trio of Kelly, Crosby, and Sinatra is far inferior by comparison to the acting talent of Hepburn, Grant, and Stewart, they work very well given the fact that High Society is a musical.  Grant/Stewart work well in acting, but I wouldn’t want them to sing, and as Crosby/Sinatra fail in comparison as actors, the opposite is true if you ask those acting tandems to sing.

It’s also hard to go wrong with a musical that features Louis Armstrong.

Because of the similarities in script and progression, I started tuning out on The Philadelphia Story fairly early.  I believe I had also recently seen Bringing Up Baby, which was another Hepburn/Grant screwball comedy.  I found Hepburn’s performance  incredibly annoying in that one, which is unfortunate because I have nothing both the deepest appreciation and respect for her as an actress.  That probably hurt my opinion of her and the film.

It may just be me but Grace Kelly reminds me a lot of January Jones (specifically as Betty Draper in Mad Men).

It was interesting to note that this was Grace Kelly’s last movie before becoming the princess of Monaco, and her engagement ring in the film was her own.

In conclusion I found both of these movies enjoyable, and The Philadelphia Story is probably the far better of the two, but I personally give the edge to High Society.

My rating: Each movie gets 4.5 out of 5 stars.


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