(1940)5Dan JardinePlaywright Philip Barry reportedly based the central character of The Philadelphia Story on Katharine Hepburn's brittle public persona, so it should be little surprise that she plays the part so well. The film is a quick-witted translation of the play, essentially a parlor drama with witty, Oscar Wilde-like banter and glib repartee from nearly every actor. There are moments of rare beauty in the dialogue, even if director George Cukor rarely uses them to give the film more visual flair or energy. The story both spoofs and plays sly homage to Clifford Odets' earnest socialist dramas, in which kind-hearted socialites learn to love and admire the working poor -- except that, in The Philadelphia Story, Hepburn turns her back on the working-class hero and returns to her own kind, the aristocratic, debonair, completely irresistible Cary Grant (who does a wonderful job of being...Cary Grant). The aristocrats are well-skewered by the delightful screenplay, and James Stewart is excellent as the cynical but smitten reporter, in a performance that won him his only Academy Award. Donald Ogden Stewart's faithful adaptation of the Barry play was also recognized by the Academy. High Society, the 1956 musical version of this story, was moderately successful, but not in the same classic league.