Katharine Hepburn may be the most revered American actress in terms of Academy Awards success (having won a staggering four Best Actress awards). Unfortunately, no one epitomizes old Hollywood, in my opinion, more than Audrey Hepburn. I almost find it challenging to like Katharine Hepburn, and have not really seen many of her films because of this so-called rivalry. Thanks to the always marvelous Siobhan I was given the opportunity to see Adam's Rib. The 1949 film was the sixth film to star Katharine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy and the second (of three) directed by George Cukor (who is most well known for the films The Philadelphia Story (1940) and A Star is Born (1954)). Adam's Rib is a classic romantic comedy and Hepburn and Tracy own the screen with the kind of chemistry that is often lacking in modern films - even Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan could learn quite a few things from watching this film! The wonderfully witty screenplay was nominated for an Academy Award in 1950, and the film was ranked by the American Film Institute as the seventh best romantic comedy. The best parts of Adam's Rib are the arguments between Katharine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy, which flow so naturally that it feels like the characters will come to blow.
Adam's Rib opens with a young housewife, Doris Attinger (Judy Holliday) carrying a loaded gun through New York City. She follows her husband Warren (Tom Ewell) and his girlfriend Beryl (Jean Hagen) to her apartment where she repeatedly shoots at them. The following day, while reading the morning paper in bed, Amanda and Adam Bonner (Hepburn and Tracy) argue the logistics of the case and discover they have vastly different views. Adam, an Assistant District Attorney, is dismayed to learn that he has been chosen to prosecute Doris Attinger for attempted murder. Amanda, also a lawyer, goes out of her way to offer her legal services to Doris. She knows that this will upset her husband and reveals this information to him during a dinner party in front of their close friends and neighbours. Adam is incredibly upset by Amanda's actions and the couple soon begin to battle each other in the courtroom, with their antics spread across the front pages of newspapers. Adam and Amanda use every tactic to try to win the case and the harder they fight the more the tension builds at home.
Adam's Rib is a hilarious romantic comedy that owes every bit of its success to Katharine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy. It is wonderful to watch the real life couple create magic on screen. It is no wonder that Katharine Hepburn is listed as the American Film Institute's greatest American screen legend, she presents herself as such as strong woman that Amanda Bonner's personal convictions could encourage today's youth. Unfortunately, there was one part of the film that just pissed me off. The side story involving the Adam and Amanda's neighbour Kip (David Wayne) just infuriated me. It was as if the writers were trying to soften the humour from the tense arguments by having Kip constantly profess his love for Amanda through song. Hearing him speak and sing just annoyed me. Adam's Rib is a smart comedy that highlights the strengths of Hepburn and Tracey's partnership and reminds us that a film does not need cheap laughs to be outrageously funny.
My rating: 3.5 stars out of 4.