“I’m going crazy. I’m standing here, solidly on my own two hands and going crazy.”
– Miss Tracy Lord, The Philadelphia Story
Watching old movies is one of my favorite things to do. As a kid, my parents would have us watch all of the classics – The Adventures of Robin Hood, Casablanca, The Sound of Music. I’m sure those movies have influenced my interest in writing. Language in film was so elegant back in those days. If you are wondering where the above quote is from, it’s from one of my personal favorites; The Philadelphia Story. Though it’s not my favorite quote in the film (which we will get to later), it seemed fitting to give readers who haven’t seen the film, an idea of the film’s summary.
The film’s main character, Tracy Lord is a Philadelphia socialite from a family of wealth who is getting married, for the second time. The lucky husband-to-be is George Kittredge, one of those good-on-paper gents. But it’s questionable as to whether he is marrying Tracy for the right reasons. As the big day approaches, Tracy is faced with a series of comedic conflicts from her ex-husband, estranged Father, the press, but primarily; herself. Starring Katharine Hepburn, Cary Grant and Jimmy Stewart; this 1940 film was critically acclaimed, won Academy Awards and has been able to stand the test of time with a witty script that is still relevant today.
Tracy Lord is a sophisticated, graceful and beautiful woman. Like all of us though, she does come with baggage and imperfections that balance her chic demeanor. She can be judgmental, unforgiving and must have things done her own way. Criticisms I and I’m sure many women of today can relate to. Tracy Lord is constantly told by the men in her life that they view her more as a figure of divinity than humanity. Being labelled as a ‘queen’ or a ‘goddess’, she takes these accusations to heart. Her efforts are real in that she tries her best to be what society expects her to be; a loving wife and a loyal daughter. Yet, she struggles to hold her tongue and accept the faults of others, specifically so with her Father. Mr. Lord has just returned home in time for his daughter’s wedding after being away for some time, causing much speculation that he has had an affair. Tracy is heartbroken when he accuses her to be made of bronze for failing to forgive his suspected behavior. Dealing with her hurt feelings and stress, she turns to a good friend that we have all needed from one time or another; champagne. That is, a few glasses of 1926 Pommery Champagne.
No to spoil the whole film, Tracy ends up having a wee bit too much to drink on the eve before her wedding and ends up causing similar speculation that she has been accused of judging others for. What makes me look up to her character is that by making a few mistakes that she has been trying to avoid her whole life is what undoubtedly makes her more human. After the fact she is so hard on herself for making a mistake, which I repeat I think we all can relate to. The viewer sees that she sets expectations just as high for herself as she does of others. We all try our best to be perfect in all aspects of our lives; perfectly domestic but career oriented, kind but not pushovers, down-to-earth but sophisticated, I could go on and on. We strive so hard for that idyllic vision of what society pushes us to be that we can’t even take a step back to acknowledge who we really are and accept ourselves, flaws and all. Tracy finds a way to reflect upon herself and comes to accept who she is and with that acceptance she finds it easier to lower expectations both for herself and others.
Katharine Hepburn was an ideal casting for this role. Much of Tracy’s conflict is paralleled with Hepburn’s story in Hollywood. She was criticized for doing things her way; she was outspoken and developed her own sense of style. A style that included pants and no makeup, which was very controversial for the time. Though she endured harsh judgment from the industry, she didn’t change her ways to meet society’s expectations. She embraced who she was. Ready for my favorite line of the film? Quoted by none other than Katharine Hepburn herself who played Miss Tracy Lord:
“There are certain things about that other girl, that Miss Pommery 1926 I rather like.”
To know more about this quote, I invite you to check out the film!