Kate and Spence; sure I’m as biased as they come – but is there any screen couple more iconic. I suppose Richard and Liz would give them a run for their money but Kate and Spence trump them in age, celebrity, and longevity and aren’t we all suckers for happy endings? I’ll be honest, my interest in Spencer was only incidental since he seemed to be a single entity with Kate, who was my first love. The couple made a host of films together – some good, some fair, and some excellent. This probably falls into the last category. I always wonder why the film wasn’t more successful and why it isn’t more celebrated today. Unless I’m mistaken, no other Kate/Spencer films captures the brilliance of lovers on screen more than this self aware comedy Adam’s Rib.
Speaking of people I’m fond of, George Cukor probably ranks up there with the greats when it comes to directors I admire. The man has a talent for brilliance, regardless of genre, though he’s most remembered for his comedies. I always credit George for two of Kate’s other excellent pieces (Little Women, and The Philadelphia Story) and with Adam’s Rib he repeated the excellence of these two pieces, which altogether probably represent stages of the woman. Kate’s Jo March was the now developing girl, her Tracy Lords was the woman caught on a precipice and in Adam’s Rib her Amanda Bonner. We can’t really ignore the subtle gender politics of the film (remember the middle section of The Philadelphia Story) but it’s not exactly a crutch for the film. And who cannot forget Judy Holliday (Oscar winner to be) in her first screen appearance. It’s now legend that Kate and company lobbied for Judy to star in Adam’s Rib to convince producers that she could hold her own (as in Born Yesterday). It’s a gamble on a newcomer that works, because even if Judy is not the greatest actress she’s completely aware of the scope (and limits) of her talent. She turns her significant defendant into a wonder.
Why is it that I come back to Adam’s Rib so often? It’s not as ridiculously funny as Desk Set, or as light on its feet as Pat & Mike, it doesn’t get be teary eyed like Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner but it’s just an all-round delight. It’s not just two lovers acting as lovers on screen. It’s as if with Adam’s Rib we get a rare (and almost voyeuristic) look in on the private life of that revered couple, and it does it while all the while being an excellent film.