Katharine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy in Adam's Rib (1949)



(director: George Cukor; screenwriters: Ruth Gordon/Garson Kanin; cinematographer: George J. Folsey; editor: George Boemler; music: Miklos Rozsa; cast: Spencer Tracy (Adam Bonner), Katharine Hepburn (Amanda Bonner), Judy Holliday (Doris Attinger), Tom Ewell (Warren Attinger), David Wayne (Kip Lurie), Jean Hagen (Beryl Caighn), Clarence Kolb (Judge Reiser), Hope Emerson (Olympia La Pere); Runtime: 101; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Lawrence Weingarten; MGM; 1949)

“It lost some of its luster with time, but it’s still amusing.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

This is the sixth teaming of Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn; they would end up making nine films together (Woman of the Year, Keeper of the Flame, Without Love, The Sea of Grass, State of the Union, Adam’s Rib, Pat and Mike, Desk Set, and Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner). This sophisticated ‘battle of the sexes’ comedy is deftly directed in black-and-white by George Cukor (“Pat and Mike”/”The Philadelphia Story”/”Keeper of the Flame”); the husband-wife team of Ruth Gordon and Garson Kanin turn in the smart bristling screenplay. It lost some of its luster with time, but it’s still amusing. The story was loosely inspired by the real-life legal case of a husband-wife lawyer team of William and Dorothy Whitney, who after the divorce proceedings for their clients (actors Raymond Massey and Adrianne Allen), divorced and then married their respective clients.

Ditzy blonde Brooklyn housewife and mother of three youngsters, Doris Attinger (Judy Holliday), has had it with her cheating office worker husband Warren (Tom Ewell) and arms herself with a small revolver and follows him on the subway as he leaves work. She trails him to the apartment of his lover Beryl Caighn’s (Jean Hagen) Manhattan apartment and wildly shoots at him, leaving him wounded. The next morning in their Connecticut residence, Manhattan Assistant District Attorney Adam Bonner (Spencer Tracy) and his defense lawyer wife Amanda (Katharine Hepburn), an ideal upper-middle income urbane couple, read the newspaper story and have different views. Adam is paternal and chauvinistic arguing it’s criminal what the wife did, while Amanda rails against a double standard that doesn’t give a woman equal rights–claiming if it was reversed and the man got revenge with a pistol there would be no criminal charges filed. When Adam is assigned to prosecute the case, Amanda maneuvers to represent Amanda pro bono and fight it as a feminist issue–much to the displeasure of Adam. The fight takes place inside and outside the courtroom, as it becomes personal.

Kip (David Wayne), a cynical piano playing friend and neighbor of the Bonners, has a crush on Amanda and irritates Adam by so openly siding with his wife. He also wrote a song for her entitled “Farewell, Amanda.” The song was written by Cole Porter while on an ocean cruise and was called “Bye, Bye, Samoa.” Porter when asked by Kate to write a song for the film just changed the title; he also donated all profits from the song to the Damon Runyon Cancer Fund.

The film features the wonderful debuts of New York-based stage actors Jean Hagen, Tom Ewell, and David Wayne. Judy Holliday, who had the starring role of the dumb blonde in the Broadway version of Born Yesterday, basically auditioned for the movie role in this film. With Kate’s help, she manages to steal this pic and thereby won the movie role for Born Yesterday (1950). Judy had minor parts in three minor films in 1944, and this pic signaled her triumphant return to Hollywood.


REVIEWED ON 10/31/2006 GRADE: A-