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MotherofZeus

Philadelphia Story vs. High Society

38 posts in this topic

After reading the comments on this thread, I have decided to "right a wrong": I'm finally going to see The Philadelphia Story. I hate to admit it, but I have never seen the Hepburn/Grant/Stewart movie, but that's going to change!

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      Hands down, "The Philadelphia Story" wins any competition against "High Society." It is so well cast and so well directed and acted that, even though it is shot in black and white, it is the more colorful film. That said, I still enjoy "High Society," primarily for Bing Crosby's interplay with Louis Armstrong and Frank Sinatra. Even so, Cary Grant makes a better Dexter and Jimmy Stewart a better Mike. Also, Katherine Hepburn is a great "ice princess," and she thaws more convincingly than Grace Kelly. The psychological subtext about Tracy and her relationships with Dexter and her father is thoroughly explored in the original in a more effective way than in the musical remake. What is uniquely "fifties" about "High Society" is that it takes a sharp story and softens the edges in the same way that we saw with "Showboat."  It is appropriate that they shifted the action from Philadelphia to Newport, Rhode Island, for they took a tasty Pennsylvania stew and turned it into a New England boiled dinner. It is palatable but bland, when compared to the original.

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On 6/30/2018 at 5:17 AM, Whipsnade said:

      . . . It is appropriate that they shifted the action from Philadelphia to Newport, Rhode Island, for they took a tasty Pennsylvania stew and turned it into a New England boiled dinner. It is palatable but bland, when compared to the original.

What's wrong with a New England boiled [lobster] dinner?!😎 (Note my location!!!)

I just finished The Philadelphia Story and I do prefer it to High Society. It's really hard to beat Grant, Hepburn, and Stewart. I'm not much of a fan of Bing Crosby, so that didn't help in the High Society camp. But I did think the jazz from Louis Armstrong is a big plus. [I did think it was a big plus! Good thing I reread this.]

But if I have to choose, it's The Philadelphia Story. I'm glad I finally saw it. The DVD I borrowed had commentary by film scholar Jeanine Basinger, which I recommend.

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I will confess, after watching High Society again, I give Kelly higher marks than I had.  I am back to looking at the two movies as two entirely different things (as I had prior to the course).  I can't compare the two even if they are verbatim the same story and largely dialogue. Philadelphia Story is a masterpiece. High Society is a fun, lovely musical -- but not even in my top 25.

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On 6/23/2018 at 6:54 PM, LynnBlake said:

I adore Celeste Holms (especially in All About Eve) but with Sinatra??  I don't think so....

I also agree completely with the Grace Kelly and Bing Crosby coupling....I don't think so.

Philadelphia Story is really meticulously cast. High Society? Not so much...

I agree that Celeste Holm was undervalued. As for her teaming with Sinatra, evidently, someone thought they had chemistry because she also plays a love interest in The Tender Trap.  As I rewatched it, I couldn't help wondering who made the decision to put her in the film.  Did Sinatra have enough clout to get her in?  Was there more there?  I never could see her interest in his character as probable despite the explanation that he was the only one left for her woman of a certain age.   In the same respect, even though Crosbly is older than Kelly, I just could not believe her character would go  with Sinatra. 

Which brings me to another point.  Rewatching these musicals, I was struck by the older man/younger woman pairing.  I know that was/is standard for movies to go with the younger actress, but when I was younger, the age difference did not stand out as much to me.  I've been trying to decide if this is because I am older now and more sensitive, or it is another reflection of how society's acceptance of it has changed.

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MotherofZeus thank you for opening this thread.  It has been entertaining and educational to read all the posts.  I am a HUGE fan of The Philadelphia Story and have watched it many times.  I tried to watch High Society once and was bored so I turned it off.  I will say that though I love his voice, I am not a fan of Sinatra acting.  I can't say why.  I am going to go back and watch High Society again and be open to enjoying it for the music, but use your suggestion to keep it as completely separate from PS.

 

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4 minutes ago, MJCB said:

Which brings me to another point.  Rewatching these musicals, I was struck by the older man/younger woman pairing.  I know that was/is standard for movies to go with the younger actress, but when I was younger, the age difference did not stand out as much to me.  I've been trying to decide if this is because I am older now and more sensitive, or it is another reflection of how society's acceptance of it has changed.

This is a really good point.  I submit that the answer is probably both coming from an older viewpoint and that society's acceptance has changed.  I find being older that I am much better at judging a person's age than before, which likely makes the age difference more noticeable.

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13 minutes ago, MJCB said:

. . . In the same respect, even though Crosbly is older than Kelly, I just could not believe her character would go  with Sinatra. 

Which brings me to another point.  Rewatching these musicals, I was struck by the older man/younger woman pairing.  I know that was/is standard for movies to go with the younger actress, but when I was younger, the age difference did not stand out as much to me.  I've been trying to decide if this is because I am older now and more sensitive, or it is another reflection of how society's acceptance of it has changed.

I had a bit of trouble with Bing Crosby in High Society, and not just because of his age. I'm just not, and have never been, a fan of his singing.

But back to the older man/younger woman thing, would both experience and sensitivity play a role? I suspect maybe both are factors, and there may well be more.

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8 hours ago, Marianne said:

What's wrong with a New England boiled [lobster] dinner?!😎 (Note my location!!!)

 

Location noted. No regional disrespect intended. I must confess that the one New England boiled dinner I've had was lobster (when I was in Boston), and it was delicious. But as I understand it, there is a regional penchant for boiling more than lobster, resulting in an historical characterization of New England cooking tending to be bland. And, of course, what is bland is a matter of personal and/or regional taste (Note my location!!!). No matter how I choose to express it, we do both agree on the superiority of "The Philadelphia Story," when compared to "High Society." 

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I have always liked High Society better for some reason.  I honestly have only seen the Philidelphia story a few times and it has been a long time ago.  Maybe it is time to go back and revisit it again.

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If I were only allowed to watch one of the two movies before my execution, I would have to take High Society. Contrary to other opinions expressed, I thought Grace Kelly was delightful and very believable, compared to the sometimes melodramatic KH. Although I don't know who in his/her mind thought that Bing Crosby was remotely believable as Dexter, his voice does do justice to the music, and if you close your eyes, his acting was believable as well.  The library scene with with BC and FS is one of my all-time favorite duets. I thought Celeste Holm was miscast; I never understood her pairing with FS in any movie. But GK and FS? Excellent IMHO. Louis Halpern was the icing on the cake! And yes, I've always thought the writers couldn't figure out how to explain the cheating father, so they came up with the (pretty sorry) dialogue placing blame on the daughter. I, for one, laughed when I first heard it. BTW, did anyone notice that Kate Hepburn's laugh was copied by Meg Ryan? (Sleepless in Seattle, maybe?)

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6 hours ago, Marianne said:

It might be time for a new culinary tour of New England.

 

It is definitely time. I've only been there once and that was 20 years ago. I long to return and sample more of the cuisine.

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