Welcome to a new series called “We Recycle Lines,” wherein WRM contributor Margaret runs a comparison of one line as used in two films. Remakes, sequels, parodies and homages all welcome.
HOME TEAM: The Philadelphia Story
A 1940 film, based on a play of the same name, with one of the starriest-ever Old Hollywood casts. Cary Grant, Katharine Hepburn, Jimmy Stewart, and Ruth Hussey held the principal roles, with frequent Hepburn collaborator George Cukor directing. It remains one of the premier entries in the “comedy of remarriage” genre, which had its heyday in the 30s and 40s. The story follows a society woman (Hepburn) whose wedding plans are complicated by the arrival of a pair of tabloid journalists (Stewart and Hussey) and a playboy ex-husband (Grant). Universally considered a classic, and virtually omnipresent on your local PBS affiliate.
Box Office: $3M ($50M in today’s dollars, and the 4th-highest grossing movie of the year)
RottenTomatoes Score: 100%*
Oscar cred: Six nominations, and two wins: Stewart for Best Actor and Donald Ogden Stewart for Best Adapted Screenplay.
CHALLENGER: High Society
A musical adaptation of The Philadelphia Story featuring music and lyrics by that singular genius of popular song, Cole Porter. Boasting perhaps the only cast that could be considered starrier than that of its predecessor, it features Bing Crosby, Frank Sinatra, Grace Kelly, Celeste Holm, and Louis Armstrong. Also a classic, though it owes much of its status to the celebrity of its cast and the Porter score. In glorious Technicolor.
Box Office: $13M ($112M in today’s dollars, and the 9th-highest grossing movie of the year)
RottenTomatoes Score: 80%*
Oscar cred: Two nominations (for song and score), and zero wins.
High Society is a pretty straightforward remake of The Philadelphia Story, though there are some plot details that shift in order to better accomodate the musical numbers, and the presence of Louis Armstrong essentially playing himself. The musical version is also generally lighter– Cole Porter lyrics notwithstanding, there is overall less bite to the movie.
There are many recycled lines throughout, as the films share the same source material, but it’s almost inarguable that all the best lines belong to Tracy Lord, the queen of Philadelphia society and the centerpiece of the plot. Both Hepburn and Kelly had already earned a Best Actress Oscar by the time she played Tracy Lord, and both were at major turning points in their careers. Hepburn was about to turn around a reputation as “box office poison” with her first major hit in years and go on to dominate the movie industry, and Kelly was about to leave the business entirely. It was just after wrapping High Society that she married Prince Rainier III of Monaco, and took a permanent hiatus from show business to be his Princess, cementing her status as a permanent object of public fascination both onscreen and off.
THE RECYCLED LINE: “Put me in your pocket, Mike”
Home team’s line reading: (Skip to 2:37)
Katharine Hepburn is in fine form in this movie, and this is arguably her best scene in the film. Her proud, refined Tracy Lord, quick with a barb and quicker with a comeback, is now rip-roaringly drunk, with all sorts of amusing consequences. Her “Put me in your pocket, Mike,” to Jimmy Stewart, is just the right blend of plaintive, seductive, and something-only-a-drunk-person-would-say.
Quotable? Certainly, though it has fierce competition from the rest of the Oscar-winning screenplay.
Challenger’s line reading: (Start at 3:23)
A fun performance from the very picture of an ice-queen socialite, Grace Kelly’s version of Tracy is certainly very charming and always easy on the eyes. However, even in what should be her most vulnerable moment she never completely loosens up. She’s so cool and refined even when plastered that the whole scene, down to the line that caps it off, just never packs the same punch.
Hepburn, handily. She executes a tricky balancing act in this scene, seamlessly blending girlish enthusiasm, desperate vulnerability, sly sexuality, and comic drunkenness. Kelly never stood a chance. Hepburn had an ace in the hole: the part was written for her. Playwright Philip Barry created Tracy Lord to perfectly sync with Hepburn’s particular strengths as an actress. She originated the role on Broadway to enormous commercial success, and took up the rights to a movie version in order to ensure that no studio head could try and give that role to anyone else. A smart business decision on her part, and huge gift to movie lovers everywhere. Apologies to Miss Kelly, but it’s Hepburn remains the queen of high society.
Which performance do you prefer?