The Philadelphia Story (1940)
In spite of the fact that George Cukor was a consummate professional by 1939—he had close to thirty films under his belt by the time he signed on to do this one—there still must have been at least a few moments during the production of this film where he came close to buckling under the pressure. The egos involved in the making of The Philadelphia Story: Grant’s, Stewart’s, Hepburn’s… not to mention Cukor himself, who had no small opinion of his own talents; these were colossal careers, colossal investments and the studios knew it. It was enough pressure to overwhelm anyone. But the end result is overwhelmingly successful and rightfully deserves all the hallowed reverence that's lavished on it. It’s a little bit loose and hokey, but I think that it had to be in order to give all these stars room enough to stretch.
In my opinion, Katherine Hepburn’s iron will fired this picture. She went into this film determined to build it into a success because she needed a success; she pulled it together, and her performance sets the tone and keeps up the momentum. Her career was in a slump, and rumors were circulating, critics claimed that she was washed up—she was not.
The Philadelphia Story is two parts romantic comedy, one part screwball and one part mild, political statement. That’s already a great mixture, add three spectacular performances, and the rest is history.
Director: George Cukor
Cast: Cary Grant, Katharine Hepburn, James Stewart, Ruth Hussey, John Howard, Roland Young, John Halliday, Mary Nash, Virginia Weidler, Henry Daniell