High Society (1956)

Movie review by
Andrea Beach, Common Sense Media
High Society (1956) Movie Poster Image
Charming, boozy musical remake has less screwball humor.
  • NR
  • 1956
  • 111 minutes

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

You can't be a decent human being unless you learn to have compassion for others and allow them to be less than perfect. When you're mean to someone, you don't just hurt them, you hurt those who care about both of you. Sexist messages that a husband is lord and master of his wife and that wives should put up with infidelity and not take it personally.

Positive Role Models & Representations

No real bad guys, everyone is pretty decent. But all the main characters are also pretty selfish, each in their own way.

Violence

A light punch in the face knocks a man down.

Sex

A few kisses and some light caressing.

Language

"Hussy." "Making love" doesn't mean having sex, it means telling or showing someone your romantic feelings for them.

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Alcohol appears in almost every scene, sometimes as a normal part of getting together and celebrating and sometimes as a way for people to cope with their emotions. Some drunken behavior, mostly played for comedy. One musical number features drinking and slurring the words of the song. A few characters have hangovers and regrets the next morning, and drink more alcohol as a remedy. Lots of smoking, too, by main and background characters.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that High Society (1956) is a musical remake of the slapstick classic, The Philadelphia Story. Kid appeal is a little lower with this version because the zany, slapstick shenanigans are gone. Great as the songs are, Cole Porter classics and Louis Armstrong's upbeat jazz probably won't hold kids' attention as much as the physical comedy of the original. It doesn't skimp on the booze, either. Alcohol's in almost every scene, and is even a key part of a musical number. It could be a good way to start a conversation about how movies and TV glamorize alcohol, and how or whether attitudes have changed over time. Lots of smoking, too. Expect some sexism in attitudes about women's roles in marriage, like how the husband is lord and master, and not taking your husband's cheating on you personally.

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What's the story?

The day before her wedding to self-made millionaire George, HIGH SOCIETY socialite Tracy Lord (Grace Kelly) finds none other than her ex-husband Dexter (Bing Crosby) hanging around the house. Back in town for a jazz festival, Dexter freely admits he's still in love with Tracy. Meanwhile, magazine reporter Mike Connor (Frank Sinatra) arrives to cover the wedding festivities. As Mike gets to know Tracy, he starts falling for her, hard. Now Tracy's being pulled in at least three directions. We know love will triumph in the end, but whose?

Is it any good?

Classic Hollywood charm, a fantastic musical soundtrack, a crazy love triangle (or maybe more of a square?), and legendary talent. High Society’s got all that in spades. Frank Sinatra shows teen idols how it’s done with "You’re Sensational." Bing Crosby swings with Louis Armstrong, especially hot in "Now You Has Jazz." A fun and funny script will engage viewers between songs. Grace Kelly, in her last movie before she married a real-life prince, is unfortunately a little uneven. But her beauty and elegance shine. There’s a lot to love here.

Don’t look for madcap shenanigans, though. If you’ve seen The Philadelphia Story, you’ll find most of that stuff’s been replaced by musical numbers. And even though it’s a musical, this version of the story is much lower key than the Grant/Hepburn/Stewart classic. So kids might find it, and the adult themes, a little too understated to hold their interest. But if you or your kids love musicals, or if you’re fans of Hollywood’s golden era, this one’s a must-see.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about all the drinking in High Society. How do movies and TV make drinking seem fun or cool? What do they (or don't they) say about the dangers and consequences?

  • How about the smoking? What do we know about the dangers now that they didn't know in 1956?

  • Which song or songs do you like best? Why?

Movie details

Themes & Topics

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For kids who love musicals

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