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HIGH SOCIETY (director: Charles Walters; screenwriters: John Patrick/based on Philip Barry’s play The Philadelphia Story; cinematographer: Paul Vogel; editor: Ralph E. Winters; music: Cole Porter; cast: Bing Crosby (C.K. Dexter-Haven), Grace Kelly (Tracy Lord), Frank Sinatra (Mike Connor), Celeste Holm (Liz Imbrie), John Lund (George Kittredge), Louis Calhern (Uncle Willie), Sidney Blackmer (Seth Lord), Margalo Gillmore (Mrs. Seth Lord), Lydia Reed (Caroline Lord), Louis Armstrong (Himself); Runtime: 107; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Sol C. Siegel; MGM; 1956)
“The original story is bumbled but Cole Porter’s original score is a welcome addition.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

A musical adaptation of Philip Barry’s 1939 hit Broadway play The Philadelphia Story, which was first made into a feature film by MGM in 1940 and was directed by George Cukor. A miscast Bing Crosby and Frank Sinatra are cast in the Cary Grant and James Stewart roles respectively. The original story is bumbled but Cole Porter’s original score is a welcome addition, as is the sparkling VistaVision color and all the handsome costumes. It lacked the original’s fizz, as the cast is unexceptional (except for Celeste Holm), who seem to be only going through the motions of being zany and joyous—no one has really caught the screwball comedy fever pitch intended by this outrageous play. Nevertheless audiences were thrilled to see rivals Bing and Frank together for the first time in a movie, and they sing a duet called “Well, Did You Evah.” That song was an old Porter song and the only one that wasn’t original that made it into the pic (was first performed by Betty Grable in the 1939 Broadway musical “DuBarry Was a Lady”). Other good tunes include Bing singing “I Love You, Samantha” and “True Love,” Frank singing ‘Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?’, and Louis Armstrong singing the title song in a calypso style and doing wonders with other catchy Porter tunes. The rest of the tunes are the following: “Little One,” “You’re Sensational,” “Now You Has Jazz” and “Mind If I Make Love to You?”. Director Charles Walters (“Lili”/”Easter Parade”/”Summer Stock”) was a trained dancer and did both the choreography and direction. It’s scripted by John Patrick. The story pivots around the wedding plans of the beautiful, confused and wealthy ice princess socialite Tracy Lord (Grace Kelly).

The blue blood scene switches from Philly to Newport, Rhode Island and the estate of the priggish George Kittredge (John Lund), whom socialite Tracy Lord is set to marry. Tracy’s ex-husband, millionaire song writer C. K. Dexter-Haven (Bing Crosby), Tracy’s next door neighbor, arranges for Louis Armstrong’s band to use his lavish home as a rehearsal hall for their appearance at the Newport Jazz Festival. It happens to be on the same weekend as Tracy’s wedding. Spy Magazine writer Mike Connor (Frank Sinatra) and photographer Liz Imbrie (Celeste Holm) arrive to get exclusive coverage of the ceremony, after agreeing not to run a story about Tracy’s father Seth (Sidney Blackmer) running off with chorus gal which would cause a family scandal. Louis Calhern plays the eccentric womanizer Uncle Willie and Margalo Gillmore and Lydia Reed play Tracy’s mother and younger sister Caroline respectively. Caroline does all she can to bring Dexter and Tracy back together, as she’s not taken with the stuffy Kittredge.

Dexter is still in love with Tracy and hopes to disrupt the marriage and win back Tracy. While Liz loves Mike and hopes to snag him. How Tracy in one weekend flits about between Kittredge, Mike and Dexter is the source of the comedy.

It was Grace Kelly’s last picture before marrying Prince Rainier of Monaco and retiring from showbiz.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”