Archive for the ‘Hope Emerson’ Category

Adam’s Rib

20 Jul

Adam’s Rib – directed by George Cukor. Comedy. Married lawyers on opposite sides of an attempted murder case. 101 minutes Black and White 1949.


It feels as though ten years go by between this and The State Of The Union, whereas it was only 10 months. Once again Tracy and Hepburn are married, and once again Sydney Guilaroff has done Hepburn’s hair to perfectly suit her profession. But she is badly costumed once again by Walter Plunkett, who as in Sea Of Grass, can’t seem to get Hepburn right, and her hats are awful. But that’s not the trouble. The story is just fine – Ruth Gordon and Garson Kanin wrote it. It’s the execution that’s flat. Mind you, the film was a top money-maker, but if you compare it to The State Of The Union what’s clear as a bell is that Frank Capra is a lot of fun as a director and George Cukor is not much fun at all. So it is the story that carries the film, rather than the way it is told, and it is certain set pieces in the script – the scene with the hat in the middle of the bedroom on a chair, while each of them is off camera getting dressed and talking, a Lubitsch touch and a nice one. Hope Emerson picking up Tracy and waving him about like an American flag is hard to swallow and not really funny since it demeans the character. Cukor’s sense of pace is lax: the country scene on the home movies goes on too long. And David Wayne as the swain next door is a pain in the neck; that he plays the character for all it’s worth only exposes its worth. A comic force in the structure carries the picture, rather than the acting, which is convincing but wanting in eccentricity. This is particularly true of Hepburn, whose movement lacks limberness. I seem to be crabbing about a film which has its talent to please. It brings to the screen Judy Holliday in her first film role, but she was a one-note actress, the note being a whine. Tom Ewell is an unlikely bit of casting as a two-timing wife-beater, but he works out very well indeed, as does the great Jean Hagen, as his doxy. But I still have to crab. Cukor has no sense of crowd scenes, no energy for court-room drama, which is what this film is. His court scenes feel as though he were filming a postcard. What he is good at is two-scenes, and those between Tracy and Hepburn are pretty good, while the scene between Hepburn and Holliday is absolutely terrific – not because of Holliday but because of the focus Hepburn bestows on her. Cukor likes two-scenes to run long, which is one of their virtues, but he has no sense of pacing them with other sorts of scenes; although the script-writers give them to him, he doesn’t seem to know how to handle them differently or imaginatively. Of course, he became Hepburn’s house director; she did many films with him – perhaps because she fascinated him, perhaps because she guaranteed work, perhaps because he let her do as she pleased.

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