The Pfeiffer Philadelphia Story

In this age of remakes and reduced attention spans, I often come across people who say “I don’t like old movies” or “I would never watch something that’s in black and white.” When I hear people talk about classic films like that I always refer them to The Philadelphia Story, and many of the other Katharine Hepburn comedies. The spirit of The Philadelphia Story sparkles with an eternal radiance, thanks to Katharine, Cary Grant, James Stewart and the direction of the wonderful George Cukor.
grant-hepburn-hussey-and-stewartThe Philadelphia Story is so good I can barely believe my eyes. It’s so original, sharp and witty. I am eternally grateful Hollywood has not remade this film for the modern audience, but I do like to play a game with friends (and strangers) in which we attempt to re-cast this film with contemporary actors. I know it would be akin to repainting Bal du moulin de la Galette. But still… it’s fun.Charismatic ClooneyClooney would obviously take the Cary Grant role, and I can only see Tom Hanks as James Stewart, but Hepburn’s Tracy Lord? Oh Lord, I’m torn, because my heart says Meg Ryan, but my head says Michelle. Ryan had the perfect mix of beauty, brains, and comedic timing needed to play a screwball heroine, but Pfeiffer of course shares all of those talents, so I’d have to find room for both.french-kiss-kateCasting Meg as photographer Elizabeth Imbrie would allow Michelle to emit sultry insouciance opposite Ryan’s blend of daffy wholesomeness. Pouring herself into designer gowns, like a modern day Athena, would be only the start. Pfeiffer has grace, the physical dexterity, the aristocratic air. She can crack wise and take a fall, but – like Katharine the great – she’ll always be beautiful!
liz-imbrie-maggieAs they proved throughout One Fine Day, there is something about the way Clooney and Michelle interact with each other that just works. Simple as that. It would be easy to overanalyse their scenes together in that film and talk about little beats and tiny moments, but why? When something is this special, you shouldn’t try to examine it.
the-kissI’d rank their chemistry as second only to Meg and Tom Hanks, and that isn’t really fair since those two have now had four films to impress with. Hanks and Ryan are perceived as the masters, but as a rom-com crash-course in how to do it right, George and Michelle are a tough act to beat. They may not have done many, but to paraphrase Spencer Tracy what they did was choice.

The Philadelphia Story remade! Who would you cast?



Filed under Retrospective

9 responses to “The Pfeiffer Philadelphia Story

  1. Paul S,

    I’m with you, when it’s a Classic classic…leave it alone.

    Great discussion / contrasts though. There maybe some parallels to explore between Katherine and Audrey Hepburn (from the same generation) as you currently do between Meg and Michelle. I think when an actress is really great it is difficult to include her in a category that isn’t pretty much all hers. Men are somewhat more interchangeable….


  2. Hey there Paul! Don’t kill me but I was so excited to see The Philadelphia Story a couple of years ago, but in the end it didn’t wow me. But still, Grant was a lot more watchable in anything than Clooney. As you know, I love One Fine Day because of Le Michelle 🙂

  3. RB

    Michelle Pfeiffer is someone who would have done equally well, filmed either in black and white or color. There’s a certain timeless quality about B/W photography, that while doesn’t give the viewer that gorgeous palette of modern cinematography, does however convey a sense of generations and lasting legacies. This sense of timelessness corresponds perfectly to the roles she’s brought to screen. For that I’d go back to Frankie and Johnny even before One Fine Day. Melanie Parker is a finely drawn character but she’s a product of the times, and thus more limited in that sense. Frankie is a personality that transcends generations.

  4. I totally agree with you Paul. And the cast you picked is perfect , I like both women , I’d be torn;) I always look forward to finding an old B&W , maybe it’s my age 😂👍

  5. Great post 🙂 Your casting ideas for a remake was fascinating. George Cukor has two great films and tons of very good ones under his belt. His two great films are Sylvia Scarlett (1935) and Camille (1936). The Philadelphia Story is very good though and the casting was totally perfect 🙂

    On a totally unrelated note, have you ever seen any films by the late great British filmmaker Ken Russell? He was quite a unique director. Anyway, keep up the great work as always 🙂

    • I’ve only seen one Ken Russell film, that was Billion Dollar Brain, which I remember featuring some beautiful imagery and the beautiful Françoise Dorléac in her last film.
      There are so many holes in the sweep of my cinematic knowledge that it doesn’t so much resemble Swiss Cheese, it resembles Swiss Cheese hung up on a firing range and riddled with bullets. Anyway I’ll keep on trying to play this never-ending game of movie catch-up!

      • Do not feel bad. I think you’re a great expert on films 🙂 Speaking of Cary Grant, Bringing Up Baby was on the other day and it still ranks as one of the greatest romantic screwball comedies of all time. Who can forget that leopard 🙂 Anyway, keep up the great work as always 🙂

  6. allendemir

    I don’t think I’ve ever even seen a Meg Ryan movie without Tom Hanks in it.

  7. I enjoy doing that remake guesswork too (a guest blogger recently did one on Hitchcock on my site). Tom Hanks is right on. Clooney is obviously no Grant, but I agree that he has that natural charm. Maybe Hugh Grant also? I would never have thought of Michelle, but I definitely see your point. I could see Cate Blanchett in that role too, as she does haughty well and is phenomenal in everything. Meg Ryan would definitely pair beautifully yet again with Hanks! Such a fun post.:)

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