- The Best of Hepburn and Tracy 10/8/2004 12:00:00 AM by swayland7
Of the nine films which paired Spencer Tracy and Katherine Hepburn, Adam's Rib is often considered the best. Writers Ruth Gordon and Garson Kanin were friends of the famous couple and wrote the film specifically for them. Kate insisted the film be directed by her favorite screen director, George Cukor, who services the brilliant writing and on-screen chemistry with his trademark elegant staging and unobtrusive style. The result is a comedy that remains the best "battle of the sexes" films ever made.
When Doris Attinger (Judy Holliday) discovers her husband in the arms of another woman, she opens fire and is charged with attempted murder. Enter Adam and Amanda Bonner (Tracy and Hepburn), married lawyers whose lives are turned upside down when Adam is assigned to the prosecution. An ardent proponent of women's rights, Amanda decides to represent Doris, claiming that if the sex of the parties on trial were switched, the jury would feel differently. This conflict of interests creates friction in the courtroom as well as the Bonners' home.
Spencer Tracy, with his confident and relaxed screen presence, paints Adam as a man quite comfortable with his wife's force and ambition. But Adam grows upset with Amanda as the media spotlight finds the case and magnifies it into a cause for women's rights. He accuses Amanda with disregard for the law, reminding her that no one, man or woman, has the right to take the law into their own hands, and that Amanda is using the case for her own selfish purposes. The script is careful not to polarize Adam's interests. He reveres the law and has no special affection for Doris' husband. In opposing him, Katherine Hepburn manages to retain her signature strength while also portraying Amanda as a loving wife who fears the damage her marriage may sustain because of the case and its publicity. Amanda alleges that Doris is doomed to an unfair trial because the general public irrationally feels male infidelity is much more permissible than female infidelity.
The courtroom becomes a spectacle when Amanda puts a circus strong-woman on the stand and asks her to lift Adam. Tracy rises to the occasion, with an angry outburst that is empowered by his otherwise calm and restrained performance. Despite their marital bliss before the case, Adam admits that he likes "two sexes" and doesn't care for having a wife who is a "new woman" and a "competitor". This rare outpouring causes Amanda to realize just how personally Adam is taking the trial, and that it could result in their divorce.
Ruth Gordon and Garson Kanin deserve special recognition for creating a balanced on-screen battle in what has always been a controversial debate - gender equality. Amanda's plight is shaded by her experiences as a woman, and Adam is presented as a man who admits to always trying to hear her side of the story. That their marriage was a happy one before the trial is an indication of the equality they had achieved together. Amanda is, in fact, equal to Adam in both the career and financial worlds. To create a sparring partner for Amanda, Gordon and Kanin could easily have presented a misogynist, or even a lovable but cantankerous traditionalist. They were wiser to portray Adam as a man who simply refused to see the case as one for gender equality, but for vigilantism.
As directed by George Cukor, Adam's Rib features a great many long takes that play uninterrupted. Even during moments of action, like the scene in which both Bonners are getting dressed for dinner, Cukor utilizes minimal staging and camera movement. The camera points directly across the Bonners' bedroom, with her dressing room off frame left and his off frame right. They shout at each other, poking their heads into the frame, occasionally walking through the frame and back again. And later, when Adam discovers Kip and Amanda together, the ensuing fight is framed similarly, with the camera looking down the apartment hallway, characters popping into frame from the left or right and back again. This isn't to say Cukor doesn't move his camera much. There are several decisive camera movements, but Cukor's sparing use of them, and his tendency to rely more on well-composed master angles gives the film an elegant, traditional Hollywood style. The film also benefits from a lively score by Mikos Rozsa and a catchy Cole Porter tune, "Farewell Amanda". Jean Hagen, unforgettable for her comic turn in Singin' in the Rain, again demonstrates her talent for comedy as the "other woman".
Cukor must have realized that with Tracy and Hepburn on screen, all the camera really had to do was follow them, frame them, and let the sparks fly.
The screenplay and the actors' off-screen romance are gifts to the film. We feel for both of them, and believe in what both are trying to achieve. It is rare that a film about difference and equality plays so fairly to all parties involved, and also rare that such a sensitive subject can retain its comic appeal. But for all the film says about equality, Adam's Rib ultimately serves to remind us that when it comes to Hepburn and Tracy, there is no equal. - Scott Schirmer
- Adam's Rib (1949) **** 2/17/2005 12:00:00 AM by JoeKarlosi
Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn make fireworks in this cute film about a well-to-do married couple who both happen to be lawyers. Hepburn is a die-hard Woman's Rights supporter, so when a ditzy lady is charged with shooting her husband after catching him being unfaithful, Kate decides to take her case and defend her. The trouble is, old-fashioned husband Tracy is already penciled in as the prosecuting attorney. Let the Battle of the Sexes begin!
The script sets up a great opportunity to have Tracy and Hepburn sparring with one another during every phase of the trial, as well as at home every night after they've spent each day trying to outwit each other. As a comedy, there aren't any huge belly-laughs, but it's a charming enough little take on the differences between men and women which also manages to make the point that, in many ways, the sexes aren't really all that different when all is said and done.
**** out of ****
- "I Love Licorice" 11/6/2005 12:00:00 AM by bkoganbing
Feminist attorney Katharine Hepburn has a new cause. She freely admits to doing a bit of ambulance chasing to get the case of Judy Holliday who shot her husband Tom Ewell after catching him in a love nest with floozy Jean Hagen.
Problem is that of all the cases that he could have been assigned, Spencer Tracy, Hepburn's husband and assistant District Attorney, he got assigned to prosecute Holiday. I guess Spence felt a little of what Bogey felt when Ingrid Bergman came back into his life in Casablanca.
Men down through the ages have certainly had the right to shoot the lovers of their wives when caught, why not women argues Hepburn. The case gets quite a bit of notoriety and of course it puts a strain on the marriage.
But the plot is sure the right vehicle for a lot of great lines and situations. This is Spence and Kate at their very best. Of the comedies they did, this is my favorite, just like State of the Union is my favorite among the more serious films.
Probably Adam's Rib's best known scene is when defense witness Hope Emerson picks up Spencer Tracy in a visual attempt to show feminine prowess and power. Even after seeing it several times you still will laugh yourself silly.
For Adam's Rib, George Cukor denuded Broadway of stars to play in support of Tracy and Hepburn. Making film debuts were David Wayne, Tom Ewell, Judy Holliday, and Jean Hagen.
Wayne is particularly funny and if Adam's Rib was made today, he'd certainly be more explicitly gay. He's the next door neighbor of Spence and Kate and some of the cracks Tracy aims in his direction would be considered downright homophobic. But let's face it, Wayne is an obnoxious scamp and that bit of vengeance that Tracy wreaks upon him and Hepburn in the climax involving licorice is a great cinematic moment.
Adam's Rib is Tracy and Hepburn at the very top of their game and I think folks who are not necessarily fans of their's would be amused.
- Pleasant mid century skirmish in the sexual wars 1/26/2000 12:00:00 AM by DeeNine-2
(Note: Over 500 of my movie reviews are now available in my book "Cut to the Chaise Lounge or I Can't Believe I Swallowed the Remote!" Get it at Amazon.)
Two New York lawyers, husband Adam Bonner (Spencer Tracy) and wife Amanda Bonner (Katharine Hepburn), work out the marital tension and fight the sexual wars in the courtroom on opposite sides of a wife (Judy Holliday) shoots cheating husband (Tom Ewell) case. Adam's masculinity is seemingly challenged and his sense of justice offended by his wife's insistence on showing how smart she is while furthering her feminist agenda at the expense of the law. Will their public confrontation destroy their marriage, or will it ultimately make the bond stronger?
This still plays mainly because of the charisma of Hepburn and Tracy and the fine chemistry they create together. The script by Garson Kanin and Ruth Gordon is shallow and profound by turns, yet ultimately witty and pleasing. Judy Holliday as the lower middle-class Doris Attinger (on her way to her signature role in Born Yesterday (1950)) and David Wayne, as the song-writing neighbor who adores Amanda, shine in supporting roles. George Cukor's direction is clear, crisp and always focused. In the end we can see that Adam can be as feminine as Amanda can be masculine. The bit where Tracy cries real tears to win her back and then tells her, "We all have our tricks" is classic. It's his clever answer to her outrageous courtroom theatrics. Memorable as it illuminates their contrasting personalities is the early scene where the unsophisticated Doris is interviewed by Yale law school grad Amanda.
As a political movie, was Adam's Rib ahead of its time as a vehicle for feminist expression, or was it just another apology for male chauvinism, or was it balanced and fair? I'll give you a hint: the title is ironic. One of the things that made the Tracy/Hepburn romance work so well for so long was the creative balance they maintained in the battle of the sexes. The script by Kanin and Gordon carefully continues that profoundly true equilibrium.
- Cheeky magnetic romp saying far more than was thought back in the day. 3/4/2008 12:00:00 AM by hitchcockthelegend
Adam's Rib turned out to be a delightfully cheeky romp with a kicker sense of humour, all acted out with ease by Spencer Tracy & Katherine Hepburn. I love how the film veers from the courtroom right into their marital home and becomes not just about a battle of wills, but a battle of the sexes as well, much fun watching this famous couple go at each other, both at work and at home. The film benefits greatly from the appearance of the lovely Judy Holliday in her breakthrough role, and it amused me greatly to see David Wayne playing a shifty character as I remember him fondly from the Twilight Zone episode Escape Clause in 1959. 8/10