A Necessary Luxury: Katharine Hepburn in Holiday and The Philadelphia Story (for Parterre Box)

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Director George Cukor on the set of The Philadelphia Story with John Howard, Katharine Hepburn and Cary Grant.

Cameron Kelsall: Kate. Cary. Cukor. Barry. Put these four together and you’ve got a match made in high-society heaven. Playwright Philip Barry found his muse in Katharine Hepburn, who understudied the role of Linda Seton in the 1928 Broadway premiere of his hit play Holiday. A decade later, she graduated to the lead in a film adaptation opposite Cary Grant, hot on the heels of their screwball success in Bringing Up Baby. It’s a charming, stylish film, directed with class and flair by George Cukor, and it presages the blockbuster success of The Philadelphia Story two years later. David, I hadn’t seen TPS in close to a decade before this re-watch, and I was struck by how pitch-perfect it remains in almost every respect. The script sparkles; the acting, to a person, is divine; and even though the filmmaking is still somewhat rudimentary, it totally captures the ethos of blue-blood society on the Main Line.

David Fox: Including a Main Line house set that actually looks like the Main Line! I know, because it’s only a few miles from where I live in downtown Philadelphia, though the sense of American aristocracy that Barry’s play and the TPS film convey with astonishing verve and gorgeousness is light years away from my own life. One of the real takeaways for me in watching this movie now is to understand far more viscerally the nature of fantasy and wish-fulfillment in American entertainment during the dark days of the Depression and the warning signs of coming war. But while I think it’s easy to just let the luxury wash over us, I also want to point out that Barry—a writer who showed considerable range in his 30-year career—did, in fact, have a message of social reform to convey. That is much clearer in Holiday, I think…

Click here to read the full post at Parterre Box.

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