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High Society vs. The Philadelphia Story


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TCM is releasing the movie "High Society" in theaters.  This made me think of comparing "High Society" and "The Philadelphia Story".   "High Society" is a later musical version of "The Philadelphia Story".  For me, it's "The Philadelphia Story" hands down.  I love the chemistry between Katherine Hepburn and both Cary Grant and Jimmy Stewart plus Katherine Hepburn is a much better actress than Grace Kelly.  I also find the age difference between Bing Crosby and Grace Kelly a bit odd.  Katherine convincingly transforms her character from angry and judgemental to warm and loving and can admit that nobody's perfect.  I always love watching The Philadelphia Story.  The only things I really like about High Society is the music from Louis Armstrong and Bing Crosby with his amazing voice singing "True Love".

    The Philadelphia Story (1940) starring Cary Grant, Katharine Hepburn, James  Stewart, Ruth Hussey, John Howard, Roland Young, John Halliday, Mary Nash,  Virginia Weidler directed by George Cukor Movie Review    The Best Movies From the 1940s: 'The Philadelphia Story' (1940)

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I would normally say, "Don't get me started on this one," but that ship has sailed.  "The Philadelphia Story" is tops in my book!   The cast does it for me, from Grant, Hepburn, and Stewart to Virginia Weidler and Roland Young.  "High Society" leaves me completely flat with its cast -- sadly because I rather like them all individually in other films.  

In short, I'll watch TPS whenever it comes on.  HS, I tried to make it through the entire thing once and failed.  Since then each time I try to give another chance I always turn the channel soon into the movie.   Sorry, Bing and Frank and Grace.  

 

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Of course The Philadelphia Story is the better film.  What a cast, how can you go wrong with Cary Grant and Jimmy Stewart ?  And even Katharine Hepburn,  whom I sometimes find annoying,  is perfect as Tracy Lord.

I do agree that the music in High Society is pretty darn good, it's the main thing that version of the story has going for it.  And in fact,  that song,  "True Love".  is very beautiful and even moving.   But so far as everything else goes,  The Philadelphia Story wins, hands down.

ps:  It's of interest to note that George Harrison, no slouch when it came to judging timeless music,  recorded a version of "True Love",   I think on 33 1 /3.  But then,  when Cole Porter's the songwriter,  it's almost a given that the song will be great.

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15 hours ago, Toto said:

TCM is releasing the movie "High Society" in theaters.  This made me think of comparing "High Society" and "The Philadelphia Story".   "High Society" is a later musical version of "The Philadelphia Story".  For me, it's "The Philadelphia Story" hands down.  I love the chemistry between Katherine Hepburn and both Cary Grant and Jimmy Stewart plus Katherine Hepburn is a much better actress than Grace Kelly.  I also find the age difference between Bing Crosby and Grace Kelly a bit odd.  Katherine convincingly transforms her character from angry and judgemental to warm and loving and can admit that nobody's perfect.  I always love watching The Philadelphia Story.  The only things I really like about High Society is the music from Louis Armstrong and Bing Crosby with his amazing voice singing "True Love".

    The Philadelphia Story (1940) starring Cary Grant, Katharine Hepburn, James  Stewart, Ruth Hussey, John Howard, Roland Young, John Halliday, Mary Nash,  Virginia Weidler directed by George Cukor Movie Review    The Best Movies From the 1940s: 'The Philadelphia Story' (1940)

"The Philadelphia Story" wins by a landslide.  The cast is world's better --  Hepburn, Grant, Stewart, Hussey, Roland Young, etc. etc. etc. --  they're all superior and much more suited to their roles and I especially hate the "High Society" sister-brat whose performance doesn't even come close to wonderful Virginia Weidler's.  The only thing "High Society" has going for it is the music.  My favorite song is the enchanting "Well, Did You Evah?" duet by Crosby & Sinatra.  A magical movie moment.  As for the rest of "High Society,"  Philip Barry,  author of  the original play and Donald Ogden Stewart, author of the original screenplay, are probably spinning in their graves every time this mediocre imitation hits the screen.

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9 hours ago, lydecker said:

 I especially hate the "High Society" sister-brat whose performance doesn't even come close to wonderful Virginia Weidler's.

I don't remember this actresses' name, only that Bing Crosby sings a kind of creepy love song to her.

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10 hours ago, sewhite2000 said:

I don't remember this actresses' name, only that Bing Crosby sings a kind of creepy love song to her.

Lydia Reed who did a few movies but whose main claim to fame was being part of the cast of The Real McCoys.  

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On 11/7/2021 at 12:56 PM, lydecker said:

"The Philadelphia Story" wins by a landslide.  The cast is world's better --  Hepburn, Grant, Stewart, Hussey, Roland Young, etc. etc. etc. --  they're all superior and much more suited to their roles and I especially hate the "High Society" sister-brat whose performance doesn't even come close to wonderful Virginia Weidler's.  The only thing "High Society" has going for it is the music.  My favorite song is the enchanting "Well, Did You Evah?" duet by Crosby & Sinatra.  A magical movie moment.  As for the rest of "High Society,"  Philip Barry,  author of  the original play and Donald Ogden Stewart, author of the original screenplay, are probably spinning in their graves every time this mediocre imitation hits the screen.

The screen adaptation of the play was literally tailor-made for Katharine Hepburn and it shows. You're right about the cast: Ruth Hussey is better than Celeste Holm, Roland Young is better than Louis Calhern, etc., etc., etc. The real saving grace for High Society is Grace herself. She has the lightest of comic touches, in my opinion, as opposed to Hepburn's more acid-tongued delivery, which also works well in its own terms. The scene where Grace puts on the reporter and photographer with a droll display of gracious living is priceless, as is the way she "processes" the photographer's name, rolling it around on her tongue: "Elizabeth Imbrie...It sounds like a medieval saint who was burned to death." She's one step ahead of them at every turn and, even though they begin to sense the put-on, there's no crack in her facade that gives them a comeback. It's beautifully played and a credit to her as a comedienne.

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I saw High Society first, about 40 years ago, and enjoyed it but after seeing The Philadelphia Story about ten years later there was really no contest.  Grace Kelly lacked the energy and sharpness that Katherine Hepburn brought to Tracy Lord.  It could be that it was Kelly's last movie before becoming Princess Grace and she was somewhat distracted.  But Bing Crosby, Frank Sinatra and Celeste Holm also lacked the crispness in their roles that Cary Grant, Jimmy Stewart and Ruth Hussey had in TPS.  Maybe just a matter of style.  Or maybe a matter of age.  The four from TPS were all in their late 20s to mid-30s, while among the HS cast only Grace Kelly was in that age group (27). Holm was 39, Sinatra 41 and Crosby 53.

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15 hours ago, TerryE51 said:

But Bing Crosby, Frank Sinatra and Celeste Holm also lacked the crispness in their roles that Cary Grant, Jimmy Stewart and Ruth Hussey had in TPS. 

Can you please elaborate what is meant by "crispness" when describing a person?

15 hours ago, TerryE51 said:

The four from TPS were all in their late 20s to mid-30s, while among the HS cast only Grace Kelly was in that age group (27). Holm was 39, Sinatra 41 and Crosby 53.

Never thought about it but now that you've pointed it out, completely agree with this observation.

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14 hours ago, Ray Faiola said:

"True Love" was the song my wife and I danced to at our wedding. But THE PHILADELPHIA STORY is hands down the topper.

Dancing to "True Love" at your wedding is so sweet!  My husband and I danced to "Some Enchanted Evening" by Rodgers and Hammerstein from the show "South Pacific" at our wedding.  I'm a romantic at heart.

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On 11/9/2021 at 5:53 AM, TikiSoo said:

Can you please elaborate what is meant by "crispness" when describing a person?

Never thought about it but now that you've pointed it out, completely agree with this observation.

The TPS cast just seemed more at ease with one another, so the dialogue was livelier and their interactions were more natural.  The High Society cast seemed more remote; they often seem to be  just saying lines instead of conversing with one another.

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Dissenting vote to follow....well okay, kind'a sort'a anyway. Truth is, I like 'em both, and although I DO have to admit the original is a bit better overall.

I've always thought Sinatra was especially good in the role of Mike the reporter. And, I think what saves this musical remake is the singing "duel" between Frank and Bing, THE two biggest recording artists of the mid-20th century at that time, in the "What a Swell Party This Is" number done in the mansion's study. Always have considered this number the real show stopper of the film.

(...c'mon now, HOW can you not like it when Bing sings his signature "Boo boo boo boo" during it, and in immediate reply to it Frank sings "Don't dig that kind'a croonin', chum", and to which Bing then says "You must be one of the newer fellas"...c'mon, ya GOTTA appreciate THAT at least for cryin' out loud, RIGHT?!!!)

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I like both films.  Both have their merits and while I know that High Society is a remake of The Philadelphia Story, the fact that it's a musical remake makes it different enough (for me) to consider it its own "thing." 

The Philadelphia Story has the advantage of having its fantastic cast: Katharine Hepburn, Cary Grant, James Stewart, and Ruth Hussey.  I actually prefer the little girl in High Society over Virginia Weidler in the original, because she gets on my nerves. The Philadelphia Story has the great drunk scene between James Stewart and Cary Grant.  And of course, Cary Grant's charm lends hugely to the film.  Neither Bing nor Frank replicate what Cary brings to the screen.  However, I also enjoy the cast of High Society: Grace Kelly, Bing Crosby, Frank Sinatra, and Celeste Holm.  I love Bing and Frank's duet in the film.  I love Grace and Bing's duet as well.  On a purely superficial level, I enjoy Grace's wardrobe more than Katharine's.  I also love the presence of Louis Armstrong and moving the setting of the film from Philadelphia to Newport, RI and taking advantage of the Newport Jazz Festival.  The presence of jazz music in the form of Armstrong's appearance and Bing's occupation in the film, gives High Society the edge (for me) over The Philadelphia Story in terms of music.

I am planning on going to the theater tomorrow to see High Society.  I'm looking forward to watching the first of at least a dozen classic film offerings that are happening in the next couple of months near me. 

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14 hours ago, Dargo said:

Dissenting vote to follow....well okay, kind'a sort'a anyway. Truth is, I like 'em both, and although I DO have to admit the original is a bit better overall.

I've always thought Sinatra was especially good in the role of Mike the reporter. And, I think what saves this musical remake is the singing "duel" between Frank and Bing, THE two biggest recording artists of the mid-20th century at that time, in the "What a Swell Party This Is" number done in the mansion's study. Always have considered this number the real show stopper of the film.

(...c'mon now, HOW can you not like it when Bing sings his signature "Boo boo boo boo" during it, and in immediate reply to it Frank sings "Don't dig that kind'a croonin', chum", and to which Bing then says "You must be one of the newer fellas"...c'mon, ya GOTTA appreciate THAT at least for cryin' out loud, RIGHT?!!!)

 

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21 minutes ago, lydecker said:

 

Debbie Harry and Iggy Pop, of all people, did a revamp for an all-star Cole Porter tribute CD back in the 90's. It was a cute novelty, but Dargo's right; Crosby and Sinatra really sang the hell out of it.

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1 hour ago, DougieB said:

Debbie Harry and Iggy Pop, of all people, did a revamp for an all-star Cole Porter tribute CD back in the 90's. It was a cute novelty, but Dargo's right; Crosby and Sinatra really sang the hell out of it.

Red Hot + Blue was the CD, done as an AIDS benefit.  Each song was performed by a different artist or artists, all of them with relatively recent hits at the time.  

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Has anyone ever wondered why Tracy needs Liz to be her maid, uh, matron of honor at the end (other than to get Liz into the wedding scene)?  We know why Dex asks Mike to be his best man -- George's best man is probably off getting drunk with George, and anyway Dex wouldn't want George's best man.  But nothing hints that Tracy's maid of honor for her wedding to George would've been someone with a special connection to George, such as his sister, or someone who hated Dex.  So we can assume that Tracy's original maid of honor was a friend of hers who likely would've been happy to be part of her wedding to Dex.  Yet she's nowhere to be found.

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22 hours ago, TerryE51 said:

Has anyone ever wondered why Tracy needs Liz to be her maid, uh, matron of honor at the end (other than to get Liz into the wedding scene)?  We know why Dex asks Mike to be his best man -- George's best man is probably off getting drunk with George, and anyway Dex wouldn't want George's best man.  But nothing hints that Tracy's maid of honor for her wedding to George would've been someone with a special connection to George, such as his sister, or someone who hated Dex.  So we can assume that Tracy's original maid of honor was a friend of hers who likely would've been happy to be part of her wedding to Dex.  Yet she's nowhere to be found.

That is an interesting point that I never considered, as you'd think that Tracy would have already had her maid of honor lined up.  Maybe the maid of honor ran off with George.  He needed a woman with more "honor."  Lol. 

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On Sunday, I went and saw High Society in the theater.  It was a Fathom event and was intended to celebrate the film's 65th anniversary.  

Having seen both The Philadelphia Story (which I've seen in the theater before) and now High Society, I have to say that I love both films in for different reasons.

I love The Philadelphia Story for the cast, of course.  I love the rapport between Tracy and Dexter.  I enjoyed the drunk scene between Dexter and Mike.  The dialogue is great.  I love the scene between Tracy and Mike at Tracy's bachelorette party.  It's a top-notch film.

In High Society, I love that cast as well.  Grace Kelly is sublime as the untouchable Tracy Lord, a woman who expects perfection from everyone.  I thought Bing was fabulous as Grace's ex (looking past their obvious age difference.  Obviously Bing's character is probably supposed to be younger than Bing himself).  I liked that there was more information about Tracy and Dexter's first marriage.  The "First Love" flashback was especially sweet.  I also liked that there was an explanation for why Dexter was there--he lived at the neighboring estate.  In the original film, I always wondered why Dexter was there.  It just seemed like he showed up out of the blue and stayed at the Lord's house. I also loved the switch from Philadelphia to Newport, RI to take advantage of the jazz festival.  I loved the jazz music in the film much more so than the music in The Philadelphia Story.  Frank Sinatra and Celeste Holm were great.  I especially loved Frank and Bing's duet.  Their drunk scene was just as much fun as Jimmy Stewart and Cary Grant's.   I also loved Louis Armstrong as the Greek Chorus of the film.  Grace Kelly's wardrobe in this film is superior to Katharine Hepburn's--especially her wedding dress at the end.  Hepburn's wedding dress in The Philadelphia Story was ugly, imo. 

Both films featured Seth Lord and Uncle Willy. Seth Lord was horrible in both--blaming his daughter for his infidelity.  Tracy was better off pretending Uncle Willy was her father.  

The Philadelphia Story and High Society are both wonderful films and I'm happy to watch either at any time. 

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