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THE PHILADELPHIA STORY ($25) is one of my favorite movies and one of the reasons that I feel that old movies are the best movies. This classic comedy features Cary Grant, Katharine Hepburn, and James Stewart- three of Hollywood’s greatest screen legends, each of whom are at the top of their form in this movie, delivering sparkling, sophisticated performances. THE PHILADELPHIA STORY is the film version of Katharine Hepburn’s Broadway success, which marked triumphant return to the movies after a period in Hollywood in which she was labeled "box-office poison."

This adaptation of Philip Barry’s wonderfully witty plays tells the story of socialite Tracy Lord (Hepburn), who is about to embark upon her second marriage. Of course, Tracy’s ex-husband C. K. Dexter Haven (Cary Grant) is on hand to help stir things up and teach her a lesson in humility. On the eve of her nuptials, Tracy discovers that Spy Magazine is prepared to publish a scandalous article about her father, but is willing to forego that story if they can offer exclusive coverage of her wedding. With little choice, Tracy allows the reporters into her home and into her life. James Stewart earned him an Academy Award for his engaging portrayal of Macaulay (Mike) Connor, a legitimate author, who begrudgingly works as a reporter for Spy Magazine as a means of earning a living. Director George Cukor stages the action for maximum comic effect, plus he keeps the pacing snappy and coaxing marvelous performances from his leads. The sterling supporting players of THE PHILADELPHIA STORY feature Ruth Hussey, John Howard, Roland Young, John Halliday, Mary Nash and Virginia Weidler.

The Warner Home Video presentation of THE PHILADELPHIA STORY appears identical to the earlier MGM Home Entertainment DVD release. Predating wide screen, THE PHILADELPHIA STORY is presented in its full 1.33:1 theatrical aspect ratio. The black and white film element used for the transfer is quite nice, displaying few age-related markings and not too many noticeable instances of film grain. Overall, the image is sharp and nicely detailed, which makes this an excellent representation of a film that is over sixty years old. Fades and other opticals appear somewhat softer the main body of the film, although they are fortunately brief. Blacks are accurately reproduced and the image displays an excellent range of contrast, all the way up to bright white. Digital compression artifacts are not a concern on this smartly authored DVD.

The Dolby Digital monaural soundtrack displays few anomalies, but the frequency range is limited by the recording technology of 1940. Still, the soundtrack is worth amplifying for Franz Waxman’s wonderful score. Dialogue is nicely reproduced and always remains intelligible. Subtitles are available on the disc in English, French and Spanish.

The basic interactive menus offer access to the standard scene selection and set up features, as well as a theatrical trailer.

I am not alone in my love for THE PHILADELPHIA STORY; in 1998 this film classic was named as one of the AFI’s 100 Greatest American Films. If you want to own this wonderfully entertaining piece of movie history, you can’t go wrong with Warner Home Video’s DVD edition. Highly recommended


The Philadelphia Story



DVD reviews are Copyright © 2000 THE CINEMA LASER and may not be copied or reprinted without the written consent of the publisher.
THE CINEMA LASER is written, edited and published by Derek M. Germano.



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