Adam’s Rib

Talkie of the Week: Adam’s Rib

USA 1949, 101 minutes, black & white, MGM. Director: George Cukor, Written by Ruth Gordon and Garson Kanin. Cast: Spencer Tracy, Katherine Hepburn, Judy Holliday, Tom Ewell, Davis Wayne, Jean Hagen, Hope Emerson, Eve March, Clarence Kolb, Emerson Treacy, Polly Moran, Will Wright, Elizabeth Flournoy

Plot summary: Adam and Amanda are happily married until a case divides the two lawyers in court when he has to prosecute his wife’s female client.

Review: As one of the most successful romantic comedies, Adam’s Rib is a classic gem for its topic of equality between man and women, and for its splendid cast led by Spencer Tracey and Katherine Hepburn. Famous for their on screen chemistry and witty acting, the two stars brought a sparkle of energy to an already hilarious script. Written especially for the two actors as their sixth silver screen collaboration, the film was loosely based on the real life story of William and Dorothy Whitney and presented Judy Holliday in her first big part. Praised for the quality of their script, screenwriters Ruth Gordon and Garson Kanin got nominated for an Academy Award and was added to the National Film Registry in 1992.

As one of those classics that never gets old, Adam’s Rib is a film I simply cannot get enough of. I may be biased towards two of my favorite Hollywood veterans, but Spencer Tracy’s and Katherine Hepburn’s performances are a pure joy to watch. With their endless banter and their natural quality, they added life to a film that was already blessed with a talented director and an excellent score. The case they quarreled about as Amanda and Adam Bonner is a real hoot, especially due to the eventful courtroom scenes. In addition to that, Judy Holliday, Tom Ewell and Jean Hagen did a wonderful job supporting the main stars, never outshining them but strong enough to leave a mark.

Available on DVD today, Adam’s Rib is the perfect treat for an evening at home with friends. It will entertain you and maybe stir a discussion about a topic that never really seems to get old. More than sixty years later, the sense of humor and style may be different, but that’s exactly what makes this film pure gold.

Adam’s Rib original trailer

His Girl Friday

Talkie of the Week: His Girl Friday

USA 1940, 92 minutes, black & white, Columbia Pictures. Director: Howard Hawks, Written by Charles Lederer, Ben Hecht and Charles MacArthur, Based on the play The Front Page by Ben Hecht and Charles MacArthur. Cast: Cary Grant, Rosalind Russell, Ralph Bellamy, Gene Lockhart, Porter Hall, Ernest Truex, Cliff Edwards, Clarence Kolb, Roscoe Karns, Frank Jenks, Regis Toomey, Abner Biberman, Frank Orth, John Qualen and Helen Mack

Plot summary: Editor-in-chief Walter is used to getting his way until his ex-wife Hildy returns to New York to get married to an insurance man from Albany who will take her away from the newspaper business.

Review: His Girl Friday is a fast paced screwball comedy directed and produced by Howard Hawks, starring Cary Grant and Rosalind Russell. Based on the play The Front Page by Ben Hecht and Charles MacArthur, the 1940 adaptation was altered by the playwrights themselves and additional screenwriter Charles Lederer. Russell’s Hildy Johnson, originally male on stage, was turned into a quick-witted female reporter who is trying to get away from her ex-husband and editor-in-chief Walter Burns, played by Cary Grant.

Living on smart and funny dialog, His Girl Friday paints the breathless world of newspaper journalism in a time that’s long gone. It creates the myth of the ruthless editor-in-chief and his go-get-it attitude who would do anything to keep his star reporter from quitting her job. Cary Grant was an ingenious casting choice for the slick Morning Post chief who’s always cooking up a new idea to delay his ex-wife’s departure and wedding plans – Grant’s undying energy has the potential to leave the audience out of breath they get so caught up following his schemes. Rosalind Russell did an equally impressive job, slowly falling for her ex’ cabals although she smelled the rat behind his motives right from the start. Matching wit with her former husband and employer, she also easily outshines her new desired prey: fianc√© Bruce Baldwin, a simple-minded insurance agent from upstate New York, brilliantly played by Ralph Bellamy. The restaurant banter between ex-wife, her husband-to-be and former spouse is one of the best scenes in the entire movie. But there are many more memorable and over-the-top moments a good screwball movie needs.

If you enjoy these kinds of comedies, this classic is a definite must-see for you. You’ll rarely stop chuckling about Grant’s and Russell’s entertaining repartee and the story itself has the quality to make you come back to this movie again and again.

Available on DVD, youtube and Hulu.

My Little Margie

TV classics: My Little Margie

USA 1952-55, 4 seasons,  126 episodes, approximately 25 minutes each, CBS and NBC, black & white. Created by: Frank Fox, Theme music composer: Alexander Lazlo. Cast: Gale Storm, Charles Farrell

Plot summary: 21-year-old Margie lives with her widowed father Verne Albright. With their darling quirks and tics, they are a family like none other.

Review: My Little Margie was a sitcom that started as a summer replacement for I Love Lucy and lasted for four full seasons on its own merit, switching channels in its third year from CBS to NBC. Circling around twenty-two-year-old Margie and her life with her widowed father, the show introduced a rather unusual family to the screen. Back in the 50s, families were more traditionally depicted with a mother, father and their two or three children; well-known examples surely are The Donna Reed Show or Father Knows Best.

My Little Margie featured thirty-year-old Gale Storm as Margie who did her best at giving convincing performances in this screwball-esque show. She was supported by an equally committed Charles Farrell whose Verne Albright was often brought to the brink of sanity by his on-screen daughter and her many mishaps, oddities and darling endeavors. The main characters sometimes teamed up with guest stars such as Gertrude Hoffmann’s Mrs. Odetts, an Ethel-Mirth-inspired sidekick to Margie, or Verne’s boss Mr. Honeywell played by Clarence Kolb. Some episodes also included Margie’s boyfriend Freddy Wilson (Don Hayden) Verne’s many attempts at finding himself a new wife until he finally found Roberta (Hillary Brooke).

All in all, the show was pure entertainment: lovely to watch and relax to for children and their parents alike. Not unlike Life With Elizabeth, Susie or I Married Joan, the show has found a new audience since selected episodes have been released on DVD or channels like youtube. With the rights now in the public domain, it would be fantastic to see more episodes published for old as well as new fans to enjoy. My Little Margie may soon be celebrating its sixtieth birthday but for everyone who’s interested in cultural history it is still a lot of fun to watch.

My Little Margie sample episode