The Philadelphia Story (1940) Movie Poster

Trivia for The Philadelphia Story (1940)

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  • Cary Grant demanded top billing and $137,000 salary, a huge amount at the time. As it turned out, however, he donated his entire earnings to the British War Relief Fund.
  • The original play featured a character named Sandy, who is Tracy's brother and the reason for Mike and Liz to come to the wedding. This character was deleted for the movie in order to beef up the character of Mike. There are several references in the film to a brother of Tracy's, but his name is Junius.
  • Before shooting the scene where Connor passionately recites his poetry to Tracy, James Stewart was extremely nervous and certain he would perform badly. Coincidently, Noël Coward was visiting the set on that day and, having been asked to say something to encourage Stewart by George Cukor, Coward offhandedly said something to Stewart like, "Did I mention I think you're a fantastic actor?" Stewart shortly thereafter performed the scene without a hitch and went on to win the Oscar for Best Actor.
  • Cary Grant was given the choice of which of the two male lead roles he wanted to play. Surprisingly, he chose the less showy part.
  • The film was shot in eight weeks, and required no retakes. During the scene where James Stewart hiccups when drunk, you can see Cary Grant looking down and grinning. Since the hiccup wasn't scripted, Grant was on the verge of breaking out laughing and had to compose himself quickly. Stewart (apparently spontaneously) thought of hiccuping in the drunk scene, without telling Grant. When he began hiccuping, Grant turned to Stewart, saying, "Excuse me." The scene required only one take.
  • Katharine Hepburn starred in the Broadway production of the play on which this film was based and owned the film rights to the material; they were purchased for her by billionaire Howard Hughes, then given to her as a gift.
  • The necklace that Dinah says "stinks" -- and later wears to entertain the reporters -- is a copy of the necklace from Marie Antoinette's "The Affair of the Necklace". You can see it in Norma Shearer's Marie Antoinette (1938), as well.
  • [June 2008] Ranked #5 on the American Film Institute's list of the 10 greatest films in the genre "Romantic Comedy".
  • In his autobiography, Donald Ogden Stewart wrote that the original play was so perfect, adapting it was the easiest job he ever had to do in Hollywood.
  • Spencer Tracy turned down James Stewart's role because he was eager to make Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1941).
  • James Stewart had no plans to attend the Oscar ceremony the year he was nominated for this film. Just before the ceremony began, he received a call at home "advising" him to slip into a dinner jacket and attend the ceremony. He did and he received the award for Best Actor. This was in the days before an accounting firm kept the Oscar voting results secret.
  • James Stewart wasn't at all comfortable with some of the dialog, especially in the swimming pool scene, which also required him to act in a dressing gown. He said at the time that if he'd played the scene in just a swimming costume it would have been the end of his career.
  • James Stewart never felt he deserved the Best Actor Oscar for his performance in this film, especially since he had initially felt miscast. He always maintained that Henry Fonda should have won instead for The Grapes of Wrath (1940), and that the award was probably "deferred payment for my work on Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939)."
  • Katharine Hepburn asked MGM to cast Clark Gable as Dexter and Spencer Tracy as Mike before she met either of them. Both Gable and Tracy were busy with other projects, so James Stewart was cast instead. MGM chief Louis B. Mayer allowed Hepburn a $150,000 salary towards casting the other male role. Cary Grant agreed to do the role for $137,000.
  • Some think, with director George Cukor on board, Katharine Hepburn's first choice of co-star Clark Gable was never going to be a possibility because Gable allegedly had Cukor fired from Gone with the Wind (1939) because he allegedly detested the director's obvious homosexuality. In reality, Cukor was dismissed from "GWTW" because of repeated clashes with the film's producer David O. Selznick, and Gable was simply busy with other projects at the time this film was to be made.
  • Katharine Hepburn's swimming pool dive is the real thing. No doubles were used.
  • Although George Cukor was not usually a very physical director, Katharine Hepburn incorporated some of his mannerisms into her performance.
  • Played Radio City Music Hall for 6 weeks, breaking the previous attendance records set in 1937 by Disney's Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937). It grossed over $600,000 in that one location alone.
  • The original play was written specifically for Katharine Hepburn. Playwright Philip Barry wanted to woo the actress back to the stage after she had received disastrous reviews for the play "The Lake" on Broadway.
  • On Broadway, Katharine Hepburn played opposite Joseph Cotten (in the role played by Cary Grant in the film), Van Heflin (the James Stewart role) and Shirley Booth (the Ruth Hussey role). Anne Baxter played the younger sister. The play ran for 415 performances, making nearly $1 million at the box office. It then went on tour for another 250 performances and an additional $750,000 in box-office receipts.
  • Katharine Hepburn deferred her salary for 45% of the profits.
  • Playwright Philip Barry based the character of Tracy on Helen Hope Montgomery Scott, a Main Line Philadelphia socialite famous for throwing lavish parties at her family's 800-acre estate in Radnor Township, PA. The studio reportedly intended to shoot the film at Ardrossan (the name of the family's estate), but decided against it after seeing the size and scale of the main house and the expansiveness of the estate. The producers reportedly thought that no one would believe that anyone could actually live like that, particularly in America in the 1940s.
  • "Lux Radio Theater" broadcast a 60-minute radio adaptation of the movie on July 20, 1942, with Cary Grant, Katharine Hepburn, James Stewart, Ruth Hussey and Virginia Weidler reprising their film roles.
  • "The Screen Guild Theater" broadcast a 30-minute radio adaptation of the movie on March 17, 1947 with Katharine Hepburn, Cary Grant and James Stewart reprising their film roles.
  • "Theater Guild on the Air" broadcast a 60-minute radio adaptation of the movie on April 4, 1948 with James Stewart reprising his film role.
  • The original Broadway production of "The Philadelphia Story" by Philip Barry Jr. opened at the Shubert Theater on March 28, 1939, ran for 417 performances, closed on March 30, 1940 and starred Katharine Hepburn, Shirley Booth, Joseph Cotten and Hayden Rorke.
  • In Katharine Hepburn's second scene in the film, she appears in a stylish trouser suit designed for her by Adrian. MGM chief Louis B. Mayer objected and had to be convinced to let the costume remain.
  • When Tracy Lord mentions the Chinese poet who drowned trying to kiss the moon's reflection in a river, she is referring to Li Po (also known as Li Bai) who, according to legend, drowned while reaching from his boat to grab the moon's reflection.
  • Cary Grant only agreed to appear in the film as long as he got top billing. As Katharine Hepburn was dubbed "box office poison" at the time, this demand was readily agreed to.
  • The film was remade as the Cole Porter musical High Society (1956), starring Grace Kelly in Katharine Hepburn's role, Frank Sinatra in James Stewart's and Bing Crosby playing Dexter (Cary Grant).
  • The film made its New York television debut on WCBS (channel 2) on Saturday 25 June 1960.
  • Cary Grant keeps calling Katharine Hepburn Red. Her natural hair color is in fact red.
  • Included among the "1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die", edited by Steven Schneider.
  • Alan Rickman named this as one of his favourite romantic films.
  • The film was the 5th most popular movie at the US box office in 1941.
  • In order to avoid competition with the stage play, MGM agreed not to put the film into general release until January 1941, although it was screened at selected theaters in December 1940.
  • Katharine Hepburn had become interested in James Stewart for the part of the newshound ever since the actor had received accolades and an Oscar® nomination for his portrayal of an idealistic senator in Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939) the previous year.
  • Jack L. Warner at Warner Bros. offered to make the film with Errol Flynn as C.K Dexter Haven.
  • Included among the American Film Institute's 1998 list of the Top 100 Greatest American Movies.
  • Included among the American Film Institute's 2000 list of the Top 100 Funniest American Movies.
  • Features Ruth Hussey's only Oscar nominated performance.
  • This film has a 100% rating on Rotten Tomatoes based on 58 critic reviews.
  • This film in part of the Criterion Collection, spine #901.
  • Virginia Weidler's song, "Lydia, the Tattooed Lady" had been written only the previous year and was first performed on film by Groucho Marx in "At the Circus".


  • In one scene, Jimmy Stewart carries Katharine Hepburn while singing "Over the Rainbow" from The Wizard of Oz. The director of this film, George Cukor, was briefly employed as the director of The Wizard of Oz, setting the look for many of the characters and continuing to advise on the film even after he was reassigned.
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