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  • Writer's pictureCarrie Specht

Criterion Collection Releases The Philadelphia Story

If you’re a film lover and you don’t already know about the Criterion Collection, then you really need to get informed. Long story short, the Criterion is THE vendor for high quality DVDs and Blu-rays of the best films ever made, complete with restorations, re-mixes, exceptional commentaries, and all sorts of other bonus material you can’t even imagine. What it comes down to is if you’re going to make a purchase of a film in a format that you can touch and store in your private collection, then you should make sure it’s a Criterion issue. Period. That being said, Criterion releases their latest work monthly. And there’s an iconic classic film included in the 2017 November releases.

This November, one of the Golden Age of Hollywood's wittiest romantic comedies is finally joining the Criterion Collection. Produced in 1940, The Philadelphia Story stars Katharine Hepburn, Cary Grant, and James Stewart, all at the height of their dazzling charms. This furiously witty comedy of manners single-handedly revitalized Katharine Hepburn’s career and cemented her status as the era's most iconic leading lady. She was very shrewd when she went about orchestrating this task. While starring in the Philip Barry stage play on Broadway, she realized Hollywood would eventually come calling for the screen rights. Hepburn snapped up those rights with the financial help of her then boyfriend, Howard Hughs. She then handpicked her friend George Cukor to direct and added a contingency that allowed her final approval on her male co-stars. Although she wasn’t able to secure her first choices (Spencer Tracy and Clark Gable) she ended up doing just fine.

The intoxicating screenplay by Donald Ogden Stewart pits the formidable Philadelphia socialite Tracy Lord (Hepburn, at her most luminous) against various romantic foils. First there’s her charismatic ex-husband (Cary Grant), who disrupts her imminent marriage by paying her family estate a visit. There’s also a tabloid reporter on assignment to cover the wedding of the year (James Stewart, in his only Academy Award-winning performance). And, of course there’s a fiancé in there somewhere, and a philandering father, and a flirtatious uncle. The female cast of characters is just as robust with a daffy mother, a sharp-talking photographer, and a pre-pubescent sister who’s wise beyond her years. The fast-talking screwball comedy is one of the greatest American films of all time, and now Criterion has made it even better.

The Criterion edition will feature a 4K restoration, along with new supplements exploring the film's production. The audio commentary is from a 2005 recording featuring film scholar Jeanine Basinger. There’s a new introduction to actor Katharine Hepburn's role in the development of the film created by documentarians David Heeley and Joan Kramer. Other bonus materials include a new documentary, In Search of Tracy Lord, which is about the origin of the character Tracy, and her social milieu. There are also two full episodes of The Dick Cavett Show from 1973, featuring rare interviews with Hepburn, plus an excerpt of a 1978 interview with director George Cukor. And although you couldn’t ask for anything more, there’s actually a lot more! This is a great fine for anyone who loves the Golden Age of cinema and the artists who made it so glamorous.

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