The Philadelphia Story

Movie review by
Ellen MacKay, Common Sense Media
The Philadelphia Story Movie Poster Image
'40s screwball romance still charms; lots of drinking.
  • NR
  • 1941
  • 112 minutes

Parents say

age 10+
Based on 3 reviews

Kids say

age 4+
Based on 4 reviews

A lot or a little?

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

Positive Messages

Tracy is told she's unfeminine for having high moral standards -- women are expected to tolerate alcoholism and adultery. 

Positive Role Models & Representations

Tracy is the classic Hepburn character of strong will and sharp tongue. Characters often appear drunk, are constantly drinking. An older man is revealed to be a serial adulterer who pursues younger women. 

Violence

A domestic quarrel is shown between a husband and wife that ends with the husband putting his hand on his wife's face and shoving, causing her to fall to the floor. Reference later made, by the young girl of the family, to his "cruelty and drunkenness." Some fistfights, played for laughs. 

Sex
Language

Very mild innuendo; one of the characters talks of how privacy no longer exists, except "only in bed, and sometimes not even there." 

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

A young girl refers to a man's "cruelty and drunkenness." This same girl tries to get a cocktail made for her as her adult family members drink in their home. Tracy gets very drunk, kisses another man the night before her wedding, and goes for a midnight swim with him. Characters drink, get drunk, and can't recall exactly what they did the night before when they wake up hung over. Talk of alcoholism, of the challenges of getting treatment, especially in the 1940s. Cigarette and pipe smoking. 

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that The Philadelphia Story is a 1940 comedy in which Katherine Hepburn must choose, on the night before her wedding, between her husband-to-be and two suitors, including her ex-husband. This is a very funny comedy of manners, beautifully performed and directed, with lots of snappy-smart 1940s-style dialogue. However, it's a bit risque, and the class politics may be lost on younger kids. Many of the characters drink throughout the movie and are shown drunk, leading to consequences regarded by some characters as "shameful," resulting in blacked-out hangovers. Characters smoke cigarettes, cigars. A domestic quarrel is shown between a husband and wife that ends with the husband putting his hand on his wife's face and shoving, causing her to fall to the floor. Kids might be confused by the outdated gender roles. Parents should know that alcoholism, divorce, adultery, and lechery are made light of.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byGen2916 April 9, 2008

Great actors combine to create this wonderful film

When you mix Katherine Hepburn, Cary Grant, and James Stewart you get this wonderful romantic comedy! Although it does show quite a bit of drinking, overall th... Continue reading
Adult Written byyuri13 October 19, 2015

Quite overrated but still great!!

A witty romantic comedy with a refined, intelligent dialogue and sharp performances, especially Hepburn and Stewart, although I feel reluctant to accept the sex... Continue reading
Teen, 15 years old Written bymongofa May 27, 2010

Great Cukor film for everybody

Star- studded cast, light-hearted. Young kids might find it boring, though.
Kid, 10 years old June 29, 2009
Awesome

What's the story?

A classic screwball comedy, THE PHILADELPHIA STORY follows the love life of spitfire socialite Tracy Lord (Katherine Hepburn), who divorces her husband C.K. (Cary Grant) and, a few years later, is getting ready to marry tightly wound -- and moneyed -- George Kittridge. A crisis is averted when a tabloid story about Tracy's womanizing father is stopped, but this means that reporter Mike Connor (Jimmy Stewart) gets access to Tracy's wedding nuptials. Soon, a confused Tracy finds herself torn between George, the irresistibly attractive Mike, and devilishly handsome C.K., who still holds a torch for his former wife.

Is it any good?

The dialogue is sly and witty (although pretty adult), the story tightly wound and beautifully spun, and there are plenty of funny pratfalls. While Hepburn is unquestionably the star of this screwball romance, Cary Grant is irrepressibly charming, and Jimmy Stewart steals the show when he turns into an amorous drunk (he won a Best Actor Oscar for this role).

There's also a serious side to The Philadelphia Story. As Tracy prepares herself for her second marriage, she is sternly lectured by her ex and her dad, and told that a woman should be unconditionally forgiving, understanding, and loving in the face of her husband's alcoholism and her father's sexual indiscretions. Overall, this is a smart and ambitious comedy, one that states that there's more to a wedding than the materialistic aspects, and more to life than good manners and fine appearances. The love story is complex and delightful, and plenty of silly subplots keep things moving.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how gender roles have evolved since The Philadelphia Story was made.

  • Katherine Hepburn often played characters who were strong-willed and sharp-tongued. Who are some other examples of actors who are known for playing a certain type of personality? 

  • This is a classic movie, featuring three of Hollywood's best-known and best-loved performers: Katherine Hepburn, Cary Grant, and Jimmy Stewart. Besides their performances, what are some other aspects that make this movie "classic"? 

Movie details

For kids who love classics

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