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The Philadelphia Story: The Criterion Collection (1940) - Blu-ray Review

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The Philadelphia Story: The Criterion Collection (1940) - Blu-ray

3 starsHi-Ho Silver! 

There aren’t many films as flawless in tone, performance, and spirit as The Philadelphia Story.  From beginning to end, director George Cukor’s film is perfectly balanced with charm and wit and, of course, its three main stars – Kathleen Hepburn, Cary Grant, and James Stewart – are perfectly suited for the style and the swagger it so loudly proclaims.  This is an unrushed production and it works miracles in creating a mood that is as immortal as it is fun and zippy. 

As expected, Criterion Collection’s release of the movie on 1080p is a spectacular item of great cinematic splendor.  Its confidence – with a close to 2 hour running time – is highlighted with a new attentiveness to the details in the wardrobes and the sets as one socialite finds her own free-spirit challenged by a double-shot of charisma when both her ex-husband and a tabloid journalist arrive to document and disrupt her new wedding plans to a hard-working member of the New Rich. 

Hepburn, whose performance in this romantic comedy broke the “curse” that had surrounded her with disappointing box office numbers, brings to life her prideful character of Tracy Lord with a dignified zip and appeal, yet lacks – as her father puts it – an understanding heart.  She divorced her first husband – Grant’s C.K. Dexter Haven (such a great name!) – for drinking too much and now, with his return on the eve of her new marriage, is challenged by Stewart’s wit and insight in his characterization of reporter Connor.

With Ruth Hussey and Roland Young filling their supporting roles with memorable parts, The Philadelphia Story lands squarely on its feet as the charmer that it is.  The banter – drunken or not – between Grant and Stewart is both warm and witty; it is also especially engaged, making each man work for the attention they so richly deserve.  A little over halfway through the black-and-white film, every piece of conflict comes together with a one-on-one discussion about how horrible John Howard’s character of George Kittredge actually is. 

The film is sharp and absolutely nails its entire story.  The characters live and breathe and the dialogue is simply superb.  Adapted by Donald Ogden Stewart and overseen by Hepburn herself in a move to get the poisonous label removed from her name, The Philadelphia Story is what happens when Hollywood gets the formula right.  We have romance and wit and one heck of a story that still resonates with audiences as yet another snob brings one socialite to her knees.  If her arrogance is her problem, then intellect is his undoing.

It can’t be anything like love, can it?  With this release, the Criterion Collection is proud to reprint The Philadelphia Story for its HD debut.  A classic film lives and breathes again!

The Philadelphia Story: The Criterion Collection (1940) - Blu-ray

MPAA Rating: Unrated.
112 mins
: George Cukor
Donald Ogden Stewart
Cary Grant, Katharine Hepburn, James Stewart
: Comedy | Romance
Broadway's howling year-run comedy hit of the snooty society beauty who slipped and fell - IN LOVE!
Memorable Movie Quote: "Be whatever you like, you're my redhead."
Theatrical Distributor:
Official Site:
Release Date:
January 17, 1941
DVD/Blu-ray Release Date:
November 7, 2017
Synopsis: When a rich woman's ex-husband and a tabloid-type reporter turn up just before her planned remarriage, she begins to learn the truth about herself.

The Philadelphia Story: The Criterion Collection (1940) - Blu-ray


Blu-ray Details:

Home Video Distributor: Criterion
Available on Blu-ray
- November 7, 2017
Screen Formats: 1.37:1
: English SDH
English: LPCM Mono
Discs: Blu-ray Disc; single disc
Region Encoding: Locked to Region A

The new 4K digital restoration, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack, is a beauty of black-and-white photography.  The grain level is perfect.  The details are crisp and there’s no flaw in the 1080p picture.  It. Is. Golden.  Dirt and debris have been removed from the fine-grain presentation.  The black-and-white film is shadow-heavy and the transfer holds thick lines in place.  Nothing bleeds.  It is surprisingly clean given the age of the film, without any over-processing lending the picture an artificial appearance.  The film is still allowed to breathe and retains a level of grain that ensures an authentic and credible appearance.  Even the darkest of scenes are rarely problematic, with the blacks proving extremely solid and lighter grays visually stunning.  The original monoaural soundtrack has been remastered for its LPCM Mono track.



  •  The feature length commentary for the film is provided b film scholar Jeanine Basinger.  It was originally recorded in 2005.

Special Features:

Criterion provides fans with an 18-page booklet and an essay by critic Farran Smith Nehme.  The supplemental items on the disc itself also include a new documentary about the origins of Hepburn’s character of Tracy Lord.  There’s also a look at Hepburn’s role in the development of the movie, plus two full episodes of The Dick Cavett Show.  We get a broadcast version of the radio play, plus a restoration demonstration, a look at Cukor on The Dick Cavett Show, too.

  • Restoration Demonstration (7 min)
  • In Search of Tracy Lord (23 min)
  • A Katharine Hepburn Production (19 min)
  • Hepburn on The Dick Cavett Show (69 min)
  • Hepburn on the The Dick Cavett Show (69 min)
  • George Cukor on The Dick Cavett (15 min)
  • Lux Radio Theatre (60 min)

The Philadelphia Story: The Criterion Collection (1940) - Blu-ray

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