Monday, December 20, 2010

12 Days of Favorites: The Philadelphia Story

The story of Love & Squalor begins many years before the fateful meeting of Wilde.Dash and M, long before the almost nightly movie marathons on uncomfortable and rank smelling dorm furniture and Sound of Music sing-a-longs. From the mid 80’s on, unaware of each others’ presence, M and Wilde.Dash were bonding with family, not over board games or a large family meal (ok, there was a lot of that too), but over the likes of Woody Allen and Walter Pidgeon. The holidays in said families were filled with the usual Christmas fair, but also with strange family film favorites and traditions. So hang your stockings with care and when your sister starts complaining about your billionth viewing of It’s a Wonderful Life and how boooooring it is, spend your 12 Days of Christmas with the movies that have followed Love & Squalor from infancy to bloggerhood.

Believe it or not, The Philadelphia Story isn't one of those movies my mom made me watch.  She made me watch High Society, which is the same story set to music and shot in technicolor, sure, but never The Philadelphia Story.  I'm not sure who signed off on making High Society just 16 years after George Cukor's stellar version, but they were missing something when they shot it.  Namely, three incredibly charismatic leads with a chemistry that's undeniable.  Can you replace Cary Grant with Bing Crosby?  Uh, no, not even close. The Philadelphia Story ranks high as a personal favorite, and its wit is undeniable.  As one of the original predecessors to the modern romantic comedy, it uses what we now consider to be genre conceits in the best way imaginable while offering up what no recent rom com can offer: the sharp edges of Katharine Hepburn in her youthful prime as perpetually stubborn Tracy Lord.  I adore these characters, and the blend of personalities on screen opens up the possibility for surprises and dialogue you never saw coming, and though I've seen this movie a half million times now, I never tire of the expertly timed, bantering exchanges.  As the years have gone by, The Philadelphia Story has become a tradition by default.  It's a comfort film, and one that I will go to not once a year, but usually twice.  The thing is, see, that when someone puts on a film featuring Cary Grant, Jimmy Stewart, and Kate Hepburn, it's pretty hard to ignore it.  You have to sit down.

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