Sunday, 21 November 2010

Scene On A Sunday: The Philadelphia Story

This post was mulling for weeks now, but I didn't get the chance to finish it until now, and it's not even complete....notice how my comments are sorely lacking? But, that's probably a good thing...My deep love for The Philadelphia Story is no secret (see HERE) and this particular scene is my favourite in the film. As I’ve said before, I’m more fond of James Stewart than Cary Grant (so yes, I think he deserved that Oscar). It’s one of those pivotal scenes towards the end when Tracy Lords, the ultimate ice queen finally loses her cool.
 I just love those first few shots, there. It’s so sedate. George Cukor is always underrated, or revered for the wrong films (My Fair Lady as his best work? Mais non!). His work in The Philadelphia Story is a treasure.
Stewart and Hepburn look so lovely together. It’s one of those scenes that plays right out of a play (a la Liz and Dick in Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?) but in a good way. Few films are willing to focus so much on two characters at once.
 Mike: “Champagne’s funny stuff. I’m used to whisky.”
Mike: “Whisky’s a slap on the back. Champagne’s heavy mist before your eyes.”
Just watching them together is pleasing enough, even before we start delving into Donald Ogden Stewart's phenomenal scripts.

Tracy: “Do you hear a telephone ringing?”

Mike: “I did a little while ago.”
Mike: “Let’s see.”
Mike: “No, not yet.”

Mike: “Now I do. Far away.”

It's not news that being inebriated is always a nice way for an actor to showcase their talents, but I love this drunken scene in The Philadelphia Story precisely because they’re really no making great use of physicality to portray drunkenness. There’s just the slight bit of exaggerations, but it’s all so serene and wonderful.

Tracy: “It’s my bedroom telephone.”
Tracy: “Couldn’t be anyone but George.”

Tracy: “I was sort of swinish to him. Perhaps I’d better go and see what...”
Kate is so phenomenal here, it really is a shame she lost the Oscar to the worse of the lot – the others were all so much better; but I digress.

I like that shot of her sauntering off.

Like that shot, above. It’s more strident than Tracy’s usual mannerisms, but it’s never over exaggerated. The telephone has stopped ringing and Tracy seems elated...drunkenly so...

Tracy: “It isn’t ringing anymore.”
Tracy: “I tell you what – let’s have a quick swim to brighten us up. Dexter and I always swam after parties.”

Mike: “Let’s dip into this instead, huh?”

Tracy: “Hello, you.”

Mike: “Hello.”

Tracy: “You look fine.”
Mike: “I feel fine.”
Tracy: “Did you enjoy the party.”

Mike: “Sure, sure. The prettiest sight in this fine, pretty world is the privileged class enjoying its privileges.”
It’s lovely watching Kate as Jimmy speaks. Every line from him seems to precipitate a change of expression from her, but it all seems so natural

Tracy: “You’re a snob, Connor.”

Mike: “No doubt, no doubt.”

Mike: “Awash with champagne was Will Q. Tracy’s pleasure dome on the nuptial eve of Tracy Samantha – Tracy – wheee. Tracy Samantha...”
Come on! Can anyone resist how lovely they look together?

Mike: “Tracy...”
In case you haven’t seen the movie (in which case, I probably should have inserted a spoiler warning and in which case you should be ashmed) Tracy’s engaged to be married, for the second time. She’s upper class, Mike is working class. It’s fairly ironic how alcohol is what gets them to appreciate each other. But I can’t call the idea hackneyed, because this is 1940 and this is pretty much one of the earliest films to do it.

Mike: “You can’t marry that guy.”
Tracy: “George? I’m going to..why...why not?”
Her face is always changing, but you have no idea what she means with these expressions...

Mike: “Well, I don’t know. I thought I’d be for it at first but you just don’t seem to match up.”
Tracy: “Then the fault’s with me.”
Mike: “Well, maybe so. But all the same you can’t do it.”
Ah, that smile...

Tracy: “No?”
Mike: “No.”
Tracy: “Come around about noon tomorrow.”

Tracy: “I mean, today.”
Tracy: “Snob.”

Mike: “What do you mean, snob?”

Tracy: “You’re the worst kind there is – an intellectual snob. You made up your mind awfully young it seems to me.”

Mike: “Well, thirty’s about time to make up your mind and I’m nothing of the sort, not Mr. Connor.”
Tracy: “The time to make up your mind about people is never.”
That has to be the most profound line of the film, but I love how it’s dovetailed into the narrative without any sort of ceremony.
Tracy: “Yes, you are. And a complete one.”
Mike: “You’re quite a girl, aren’t you?”
Tracy: “You think?”

Mike: “Yeah, I know.”
Tracy: “Thank you, professor. I don’t think I’m exceptional.”
Mike: “You are.”

Tracy: “I know any number like me. You ought to get around more.”
Mike: “Within the upper class? No, no. No, thank you.”

Tracy: “You’re just a mass of prejudices aren’t you? You’re so much thought and so little feeling, professor. ”
There you see Tracy acting herself, she’s so hot and cold it’s sort of ridiculous but it’s working because it makes sense. Kate makes it make sense.

Mike: “Oh, I am? Am I?”
Tracy: “Yes, you am. Are you?”
That exchange always kills me.

Tracy: “Your intolerance infuriates me.”

Tracy: “I should think that of all people a writer would need tolerance. The fact is, you’ll never – you can’t be a first-rate writer or a first-rate human being until you’ve learned to have some small regard for human fr-“
Another key moment. It’s almost a carbon copy of the speech Tracy’s father gave her earlier. She’s known for her aloofness, being a goddess of bronze who has no ability to stoop to the level of those not as perfect as she. It’s the same reason she and Mike can’t work – no matter how brilliant they look together, too much prejudice. I love how she shifts from her ranting into an idling comedic bit...

Tracy: “Aren’t the geraniums pretty, professor?”

And off she walks, as if nothing has happened, I don't know how people can see The Philadelphia Story and still doubt that Katharine Hepburn was gorgeous.

Tracy: “Is it not a handsome day that begins, professor?”

Mike: “Lay off that professor.”

Tracy: “Yes, professor.”

Mike: “Oh. You’ve got all the arrogance of your class, haven’t you?”

Tracy: “Oh! What have classes to do with it? What do they matter except for the people in them? George comes from the so-called lower class, Dexter from the upper. Mac the night-watchman is a prince among men, Uncle Willie is a – pincher.”

Tracy: “Upper and lower, my eye. I’ll take the lower, thanks.”

Mike: “If you can’t get a drawing room.”

Tracy: “What do you mean by that?”
And back she goes, from sanguine to exasperated.

Mike: “My mistake.”

Tracy: “Decidedly. You’re insulting. Oh, don’t apologise.”

Mike: “Wait, who’s apologising?”

Tracy: “I never knew such a man.”

Mike: “You wouldn’t be likely to, dear; not from where you sit.”

Tracy: “Talk about arrogance.”

Mike: “Tracy.”

Tracy: “What do you want?”

Mike: “You’re wonderful.”
Brilliant shot there...

Tracy: “Ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha.”
No one can tell me Cate Blanchett didn’t get her laugh for The Aviator from this.

Mike: “There’s a magnificence in you, Tracy.”
The first authentic close-up of the scene, and so lovely to see.

Tracy: “Now...I’m getting self-conscious. It’s funny. I...”
Tracy: “Mike, let’s...”
Mike: “Yeah.”
Tracy: “I don’t know. Go up, I guess. It’s late.”
Mike: “The magnificence that comes out of your eyes, and your voice, and the way you stand there and the way you walk. You’re lit from within, Tracy. You’ve got fires banked down in you – hearth fires and holocausts.”
Tracy: “I don’t seem to you made of bronze?”
Mike: “No, you’re made out of flesh and blood. That’s the blank on the holy surprise of it. Why, you’re the golden girl, Tracy, full of life and warmth and delight.”
Mike: “What goes on? You’ve got tears in your eyes.”
Tracy: “Shut up. Shut up. Oh, Mike, keep talking. Keep talking. Talk, will you?”
Mike: “No, no, I... I’ve stopped.”
Tracy: “Why?”
Tracy: “Has your mind taken hold again, dear professor?”
Mike: “Good thing, don’t you agree?”
Tracy: “No, professor.”

Mike: “All right. Lay off that professor stuff, do you hear me?”
Tracy: “Yes, professor.”
It’s so nice watching her get frazzled now, talk about role reversal...

Mike: “It’s really all I am to you, is it?”
Tracy: “Of course, professor.”
Mike: “Are you sure.”
Tracy: “Why, yes – yes. Of c-”
And the kiss (about time).
Tracy: “Golly.”
Tracy: Golly Moses.”
Mike: “Tracy.”
Tracy: “Mr. Connor, Mr. Connor, Mr. Connor.”
Mike: “Tracy...”
Tracy: “All of a sudden I’ve got the shakes.”
Mike: “It can’t be anything like love, can it?”

Tracy: “No, no. It mustn’t be. It can’t.”

Mike: “Would it be inconvenient?”

Tracy: “Terribly. Anyway, I know it isn’t. Oh, Mike, we’re out of our minds.”

Mike: “And right into our hearts.”

Tracy: “That old-time music.”

Mike: “It does, doesn’t it?”
Tracy: “...As if my insteps were melting away...What is it? Have I got feet of clay, or something?”
Mike: “Tracy...”
Tracy: “It’s not too far to the pool. It’s just over the lawn and in the birch grove. It’ll be lovely now.”

Mike: “Tracy, you’re tremendous.”
Tracy: “Put me in your pocket, Mike.”
Aren't they just lovely? Further proof that the classics did everything better...


CrazyCris said...

fabulous scene! also my favourite in the movie!!!

I think the main reason I prefer this one to "High Society" (which I love for the music and the two main male leads) is Kate... she is WONDERFUL!!! (and Grace Kelly just doesn't ever come close!)

sheesh! must have taken you forever to deconstruct this scene! bravo!

Jose said...

Well that was a lot of scrolling.

Lovely scene, I wanna live in that dress she wears here. So flawless.

Fitz said...

I think the read more function might be of use here.

Yojimbo_5 said...

She's magnificent. But, I never bought Stewart in this scene, and as he won the Oscar for not winning for "Mr. Smith..." I've never considered the Oscars anything more than a political decision.

I've had conversations like this; isn't life grand.

Andrew: Encore Entertainment said...

cris never saw high society. grace kelly is lovely to watch, but i've never been interesting her as an actress.

jose it's so weird you say that about the dress because while i was compiling the shots i kept thinking. if this were a hollywood red carpet i just know jose would be gushing over it.

fitz ha. sorry, but i sort of hate the read more function.

yojimbo oh, i'm jealous. which i could have conversations that are as perfect as this.

ken said...

Does anyone know the name of the music that was playing on the radio during this scene? Please post all of the music's information if you know the answer. Thanks