High Society

Childhood friends Tracy Lord and C.K. Dexter Haven got married and quickly divorced. Now Tracy is about to marry again, this time to a shrewd social-climbing businessman. Bing still loves her. Spy magazine blackmails Grace's family by threatening to reveal her playboy father's exploits if not allowed to cover the wedding.

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  • ★★★★ review by Jonathan White on Letterboxd

    The Philadelphia Story is plain and simple the better film. Let’s get that straight right off the top. Bing ain’t no Cary, Frank no Jimmy, and although the Princess has a special charm all her own, it’s not the same sassy sauce that Katherine can dish up.

    I have to admit, though, I have more fun watching High Society.

    Right off the top, after we’re graced by Satchmo’s gravely strains underlying the opening credits, his wink to the audience ‘End of song, beginning of story’, semaphores that High Society isn’t planning on taking itself too seriously. Not that The Philadelphia Story is particularly earnest; I think it more that director Charles Walters wanted it to be made clear he didn’t want to compete with Cukor’s classic.

    On the downside, there really is no chemistry between Bing and Grace … Bing is an affable enough fellow, in his brylcreem and baggy trouser sort of way, and his winning-the-girl-with-song shtick works well enough in his other films, but somehow his easy charm doesn’t hold a candle to Cary Grant’s smoldering masculinity and razor sharp wit. Tempo and pace can’t compete either, which is somewhat expected when you have to drop in a musical number every 15 minutes, but it never drags or feels disjointed. Finally the tour of the ‘playground of the rich and the graveyard of the wealthy’ was rather forced. It was painfully obvious to see that it was a convenient device to a: garner some sympathy for Tracy and the idly rich, b: Give Young Blue Eyes the chance to profess his sudden love away from prying eyes, and c: to profess said love by way of another Sinatra musical number. I can abide ‘c’, but ‘a’ was unnecessary in the story … the charm of Hepburn and clan was that they were unapologetic of their stature, and finally ‘a’ would have been best eliminated, and I’ll get to that in a minute.

    On the upside there’s Grace Kelly’s performance; while not comparable to Katherine Hepburn, and certainly taken from Hepburn’s style and playbook, she looked like she was genuinely enjoying playing against type in what she knew was her final role before transitioning to royalty. I read the rock on her finger in the movie was Ranier’s. While chemistry ( and plausibility ) was lacking in the Bing / Grace relationship, it was quite evident in the Crosby / Sinatra pairing. Screenwriter John Patrick also fixed the biggest issue I’ve always had with The Philadelphia Story by de-emphasizing the Mike Conner / Tracy Lord romantic connection. That’s why I think the eliminating Conner’s pass during the ‘graveyard tour’ would also have been an improvement. It then would have reduced the relationship to a drunken flirt, and nothing more. I have a soft spot for the song True Love; a song guaranteed to be sung on every Bing Crosby Television special (of which there were many) of my youth. This is despite the awkward memory of my Mom and Dad always joining in the crooning, much to my chagrin. Of course the biggest upside are the multiple Luis Armstrong numbers. Man, that cat can swing. Seeing it all in glorious VistaVision and Technicolour doesn’t hurt, either.

    High Society is kind of a slow moving, lumbering cruise ship compared to the yare racing sloop that is The Philadelphia Story; but sometimes, despite the exhilaration of the latter, you can have more fun on the former.

  • ★★★½ review by Noetic Hatter on Letterboxd

    Not fair to compare this one to The Philadelphia Story, since that's one of my all-time favorite movies. But impossible to avoid.

    Grace Kelly is for me perhaps the most beautiful woman ever to come out of Hollywood. But she's not quite there for this character's personality, compared to Kate Hepburn. Sometimes she's great, and other times she's just parroting Hepburn.

    Louis Armstrong isn't necessary for the story, but it reminded me that I am glad he started appearing in movies in the 1950-60's before he died. Hope he got paid well for it.

    I will give this one points for dropping the "Mike proposes to Tracy at the Wedding" ending scene. It flows better without that awkwardness.

    Also, Frank and Der Bingle doing "What a Swell Party This Is" = divine.

  • ★★★½ review by Connor on Letterboxd

    know a fence but i would let frank sinatra choke me

  • ★★★½ review by trolleyfreak on Letterboxd

    Well, if you're going to remake The Philadelphia Story - especially with this title - then you've got to damn well do so with considerable class and MGM succeeded admirably by hiring Cole Porter to provide the memorable tunes and getting Bing Crosby, Frank Sinatra, Celeste Holm and Louis Armstrong to sing them!

    The Ice Queen herself, Grace Kelly, also gets a chance to perform True Love with Bing and she is pleasing - and typecast - as the spoilt rich girl who via re-exposure to her ex-husband on the eve of her re-marriage, learns something about forgiveness and herself..

    The result is a charming musical comedy - not a patch on the original, of course - which nevertheless coasts along rather nicely on the strength of its songs, the charm of its players and benefits from all of the considerable studio 'gloss' thrown at it!

  • ★★★½ review by loureviews on Letterboxd

    One of my 1000 recommended films.

    MGM's musical remake of ‘The Philadelphia Story', their massive hit with Katharine Hepburn, Cary Grant, and James Stewart, takes the music of Cole Porter and casts Grace Kelly, Bing Crosby, and Frank Sinatra in the lead roles, with support from Celeste Holm and Louis Armstrong.

    Kelly is not as funny in the role of Tracy Lord as Hepburn was, although there is no denying the charm of the bit when she joins in with Bing in warbling ‘True Love'.

    There is much fun to be had in watching Crosby and Sinatra, rival crooners from different generations, sparking off each other in their scenes together – especially the fun duet ‘Well, Did You Evah?' The songs are at least memorable and add a lot of zip to the proceedings (highlights include ‘Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?'; ‘Now You Has Jazz'; and ‘I Love You, Samantha').

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