Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Was 'Adam's Rib' Hepburn and Tracy's Best?

I don't know if "Adam's Rib," which premiered 65 years ago today, was the best of the Spencer Tracy–Katharine Hepburn movies.

Tracy and Hepburn made nine movies, after all.

But the American Film Institute ranked it higher than any of their other movies — #22 overall.

They played a variety of roles in their movies. In this one, they played married lawyers who had to oppose each other in court. Hepburn was defending a woman accused of shooting her husband. Tracy was the prosecuting attorney. The defendant was played by Judy Holliday in only her second credited movie. Her husband was played by Tom Ewell, who went on to star in "The Seven–Year Itch" on both stage and screen.
Amanda (Katharine Hepburn): What I said was true, there's no difference between the sexes. Men, women, the same.

Adam (Spencer Tracy): They are?

Amanda: Well, maybe there is a difference, but it's a little difference.

Adam: Well, you know as the French say...

Amanda: What do they say?

Adam: Vive la difference!

Amanda: Which means?

Adam: Which means hurrah for that little difference.

Seems Ewell's character had been itching in "Adam's Rib," too. That is why Holliday shot him. She believed he had been having an affair, and she opened fire on him when he was with his girlfriend, but she wasn't a very good shot and only managed to strike his shoulder. She was distraught, not responsible for her actions.

Well, that was Hepburn's argument.

Hepburn's defense really was ahead of its time — it was, essentially, the battered wife syndrome. Well, not so much battered as abused — as in emotional, not physical or sexual, abuse. Hepburn argued that Holliday had been forced to act as she did because of Ewell's poor treatment of her.

Tracy thought Holliday was guilty of attempted murder — then found out he had been assigned the case. Normally, that would be cause for celebration, but Tracy immediately realized it would mean a pretty unpleasant home life until the trial was over.

Therein lay the plot of "Adam's Rib." I'm sure you can guess many of the jokes. It could have been a routine comedy except for the professional approaches of Hepburn and Tracy.
Amanda: No part of marriage is the exclusive province of any one sex.

Even obvious jokes were enjoyable when they were delivered by Hepburn and Tracy, though. "Adam's Rib" may not have been an Oscar–worthy movie — unlike other movies they made together — but it delivered on entertainment. In fact, there are those who consider it a classic of the romantic comedy genre.