2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
SUCH GREAT CLASSIC COMEDIES AT AN IRRESISTIBLE PRICE,
Amazon Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This review is from: TCM Greatest Classic Films Collection: Romantic Comedies (Adam's Rib / Woman of the Year / The Philadelphia Story / Bringing Up Baby) (DVD)
This review is of the DVD TCM GREATEST CLASSIC FILMS COLLECTION: ROMANTIC COMEDIES. It's good news to get these gems on DVD, better news to get them consolidated on just one disc, superlative news when the price is as tasty as it is here and now.
First up chronologically, BRINGING UP BABY (RKO, 1938, dir: Howard Hawks) unites Cary Grant and Katharine Hepburn as the ultimate screwball match: he's a sexually inhibited paleontologist about to embark on a passionless marriage to a research colleague (a blah, obviously mismatched fiance is practically a requirement to set up a love triangle in a screwball comedy); Hepburn is the flighty socialite (here the term "madcap heiress" is no cliche) who keeps getting in the prof's way with the help of a tame but scary-looking black leopard named "Baby." The mere name sets up lots of verbal gags: Butcher: "Twenty-five pounds of meat; is it to be roasted or broiled?" Cary: "No, it's to be eaten raw . . . it's for Baby." All in all a wonderfully breathless, dizzy movie that just spins out of control to the point where we wish there really were leopards infesting rural Connecticut for all the charm, inadvertent wit and surprise slapstick they would inspire. Listen, too, for Hawks's legendary sly phallic wit: how Cary's figure picks up the name "Mr. Boney"; or how to insert a new dinosaur part properly into a Brontosaurus: "Nonsense, we tried it in the tail yesterday and it didn't fit." I would rank BRINGING UP BABY with other great screwballers from the Thirties like Jean Arthur's EASY LIVING or Grant's own HOLIDAY. This is one of the funniest movies you'll ever see.
"Oh, C.K. Dexter Haaaaaven!" Unbelievably, BRINGING UP BABY did not set box-office records and Katharine Hepburn was branded "box-office poison" by local-theater exhibitors in 1938. Two years later, though, a rematch and a new movie forgave all. THE PHILADELPHIA STORY (MGM, 1940, dir: George Cukor) is the old MGM polish at its highest and glossiest. Based on a stage play by Philip Barry, this high-society comedy (which in fact was remade into a less-successful 1956 MGM musical, HIGH SOCIETY) concerns a rich, Main Line Philadelphia socialite, Tracy Lord (played with spirit and intelligence but laboring under a High Society "bronze goddess" hauteur by Katharine Hepburn), who's about to marry a self-made man who's a bit of a stick (again, mismatch apparent to all), but who is really, despite her own protestations, drawn to both her turbulent ex-husband C.K. Dexter Haven (Cary Grant) as well as to a tough-as-nails reporter out to get the lowdown on the rich at their society wedding (Jimmy Stewart as McCauley Connor). What hasn't this film got? Great interiors, great exteriors, a wisecracking pre-ad played by Virginia Weidler (Self-made man trying to mount skittish horse: "Whoa, Bessie! Whoa! She won't let me on." Weidler, as little sister Dinah Lord: "Maybe it's because his name is Jack.") Also a terrific supporting cast, outstandingly well chosen for their bright playing, plus one of the great hangover scenes of all times, and the stirring, quickly evolving and very human evolution of love-and-friendship relationships among the three principal characters. Great fun and for its time (1940) great chic, too. Rarely has a Broadway social comedy slipped its conventions and been made so well into a movie with no loss of conviction or humor.
WOMAN OF THE YEAR (MGM, 1942 dir: George Stevens), which became the basis for a Lauren Bacall Broadway musical nearly forty years later, deals with a phenomenally busy, outrageously worldly ace political reporter (Hepburn), paired for the first time cinematically with a lowbrow but eclectic sports commentator (Spencer Tracy). The two are just marvelous together as they negotiate the ins and outs of hectic wartime flirtation, courtship, and marriage, followed by the downbeat realization that the duo may not have much in common with each other except romance. Is that enough? He likes Irish pubs and aging mugs; she speaks a dozen languages and can get anyone from Eleanor Roosevelt to deep-cover spies *tout de suite* on the phone. Along with the romance and high humor comes an interesting social awareness borne of World War II and contemporary Americana (Hepburn to Tracy at Yankee Stadium, at a sell-out daytime baseball game, drawls "Are all these people unemployed?"). More situational humor and character development with relatively little slapstick, but O, what characters! (Hang on for William Bendix playing a nostalgic palooka and bar owner.) Although WOMAN OF THE YEAR may seem at first a little anachronistic, the idea of the power couple with different careers trying to cobble a life together is just as salient today . . . just rarely so funny and endearing.
Who doesn't like ADAM'S RIB (MGM, 1949, dir: George Cukor)? The battle-of-the-sexes theme is played out again by a Tracy-and-Hepburn rematch; he is a criminal prosecuting attorney (nickname "Pinky"), while she's his spouse and counsel for the defense (nickname "Pinkie"). Judy Holliday is just as wonderful playing the hapless wife of a no-good heel (Tom Ewell) who is shot and wounded by Holliday after he's had one too many evenings out with his cutie (Jean Hagen). One flash from the courtroom -- Hepburn: "And then you squeezed the trigger?" Holliday: "Yes." Hepburn: "And then what happened?" Holliday [with perfect comic timing]: "Bang??" Here a clear thesis is laid down: shouldn't the same moral rules apply to men as well as to women? If a woman strays from her husband it's "something terrible" in the words of one staffer; if a man strays it's "Not nice. . .," to which Hepburn replies "Why should there be any difference?" Staffer: "I don't make the rules." Hepburn: "Sure you do, we all do." Inevitably, it falls to Hepburn to defend woebegone Holliday in court with her husband as opposite counsel for the people! (Even the inevitable evening-newspaper intercutting is cute.) ADAM'S RIB is no mere "issue" movie but a full-blown farce that takes both genders seriously, enhanced by a clever Cole Porter song ("Farewell Amanda") written for the movie by the fictional wisecracking, slightly epicene next-door neighbor "Kip" (David Wayne): "Why are you always inviting judges over? Are you trying to get in good with them?" . . . "Lawyers should never marry other lawyers. This is called inbreeding, from which come idiot children -- and more lawyers." The Garson Kanin / Ruth Gordon screenwriting collaboration really shines here, as it would in other Tracy/Hepburn flicks. A splendid time is guaranteed for all.
Here's a terrific opportunity to get all four of these gems together on one inexpensive DVD. These are the sorts of classics people just don't dislike, unless you're an enemy of wit, deft plotting, classic comic couplings and good ol' Hollywood black-and-white. See them again as a revival -- or find out for the first time why reviewers like me get to toss the word "classic" about with such impunity. If anyone questions your choice in movies, you can always say, "It's for Baby!"