The Philadelphia Story (1940)

Seventy-five years ago, Katharine Hepburn made one of the greatest comebacks in film history. After a string of flops— some of them, like Bringing Up Baby and Holiday (both 1938), now considered classics—the great Kate returned to her stage roots to star in Philip Barry’s play about a headstrong heiress on the eve of her second marriage who’s tempted by an idealistic young reporter and her charismatic ex. Knowing it would be a hit, she got friend Howard Hughes to buy the screen rights for her, so when MGM came calling she not only struck a solid deal for the sale but made them hire her despite her previous label as “box-office poison.” Along with producer Joseph L. Mankiewicz and studio head Louis B. Mayer, she put together the perfect package for the film: George Cukor, one of Hollywood’s best directors of women, gave the film his usual grace and style, while Cary Grant, James Stewart, Ruth Hussey, Roland Young and a scene-stealing Virginia Weidler kept the perfect balance between laughter and sentiment. To critics, the film was all Hepburn, and she won the New York Film Critics Circle Award for Best Actress. To Hollywood, she was still box-office poison. She lost the Oscar, though James Stewart’s performance and the adaptation by Barry’s friend Donald Ogden Stewart won.

(d. George Cukor, 112 m, Digital)