The Philadelphia Story is one of the most successful and best loved screwball comedies of the classical Hollywood era. It is based on the 1939 Broadway production of Philip Barry's play which starred Katharine Hepburn. The film employs the 1930s screwball plot device of the idle rich whose wealth has blinded them to the simple joys of life and the worthiness of middle-class values. Tracy Lord is the arrogant Philadelphia socialite who is planning her wedding to a stuffy social climber when her ex-husband, C. K. Dexter Haven, arrives at the mansion. Haven is a charming millionaire who openly displays his love of life and his disdain of pretentiousness while he secretly longs for the reunion with his ex-wife. Jimmy Stewart and Ruth Hussey are the reporters from the scandal sheet Spy Magazine who have been assigned to cover the wedding. Anti-romance, verbal and witty relationships, and the tendency to poke fun at the rich are all in abundance providing humorous distractions and obstacles to Tracy's and Dexter's final reconciliation.
Director George Cukor here shows his preference for understatement in romantic comedies through his emphasis on plot and performance. Following Frank Capra's example in It Happened One Night and his earlier success Holiday, Cukor employs a screwball comic style which avoids explicit romance between two leading characters. He instead pits them against each other, creating romantic courtship through character tensions.
Because the audience knows that the characters are Hepburn and Grant, two movie stars who have been paired before in Cukor's Sylvia Scarlett and Holiday and Howard Hawks's Bringing Up Baby, the audience is predisposed to want them to get together. Cukor plays with this expectation throughout the film but especially in the famous opening scene: Grant is tossed out the front door; Hepburn appears at the door where she breaks one of Grant's golf clubs; she tosses the...Read More
James Jones's novel From Here to Eternity was a bestseller. Portraying Army life immediately before Pearl Harbor, its racy sex scenes, lively and rough language, and vivid characterizations of men under stress made it one of the most widely read books to come out of World War II. Hollywood was interested but felt that the book would be a difficult project. Obviously the realistic and explicit sex scenes...Read More
Carol Reed's The Third Man is a remarkably enigmatic film in many respects, drawing on a range of talents and traditions so broad as to raise the question of authorship in a particularly acute form. The film owes debts to the Grierson/Rotha tradition of British documentary film, as well as to the post-war neo-realism of Rossellini's Roma Città Aperta and DeSica's Ladri di Biciclette; like its Italian predecessors,...Read More
The film career of François Truffaut is marked by paradox. As the "enfant terrible" of French film criticism he was barred from attending the Cannes Film Festival of 1958. But in 1959 his first feature-length film, Les quatre cents coups (The 400 Blows), earned him honors as Best Director. Similarly, Truffaut's role as champion of the "politique des auteurs" also involved a species of paradox, in his attacking...Read More
In an overheated moment part-way through Laslo Benedek's 1953 film The Wild One, Johnny (Marlon Brando) responds to the question "What are you rebelling against?" with "Watcha got?" That film detailed the restless rebellion of two motorcycle gangs, one bent on havoc, the other on less violent forms of social rebellion, and in Johnny lay the seed of many a Hollywood rebel, the pose of many an aspiring...Read More
Federico Fellini's epic study of the loss of values at the climax of the Italian "economic miracle," La Dolce Vita (The Sweet Life), delineates the daily activities of a writer, turned reporter for a sensationalist journal, who is too deeply compromised by the degeneracy around him to see it, never mind report on it. The opening and closing scenes of the film are cleverly matched allusions to Dante...Read More
Raiders of the Lost Ark is historically important because it marks the first collaboration between George Lucas and Steven Spielberg, the two most financially successful of American filmmakers. Released in the summer of 1981, the film garnered some of the best critical accolades in either man's career; it also continued their phenomenal success: it is now...Read More
Not particularly successful at the time of its release, Vertigo has come to be recognized as one of Alfred Hitchcock's greatest films, where his profounder obsessions are reinforced by his technical inventiveness. It can be argued that Hitchcock's "greatness" comes only from the accident that his recurring obsession with voyeurism is the topic that best meshes with the ontology of the filmgoing experience....Read More
Combining the whimsy of a joyous romantic comedy with the heightened reality of a fairy tale, Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s Amélie is the rare film that touches the heart while dazzling audiences with its invention and creativity. Set in Montmartre and revolving around the escapades of a sweet woman whose do-gooder instincts transform the lives of the people around her, Amélie embraces a hopeful vision that is a stark departure...Read More
Carl Dreyer's last silent film is one of the most famous films in the history of cinema. It is seldom missing on "World's Ten Best Films" lists. Few films have been studied and analyzed as thoroughly in articles and books, and one sometimes feels that the real film is buried in the theory and aesthetics. But, a true classical work of art, La passion de Jeanne d'Arc (The...Read More