This movie had been recommended to me several times and was the inspiration for one of my mum’s favourite films, High Society, so it was high time I got round to watching it. It’s not so much a “screwball comedy” as it is a comedy of manners, witty, urbane and, most of all, humane, treating its characters as real and fallible people who, for the most part, mean well.
We first met CK Dexter Haven (Cary Grant) and Tracy Lord (Katharine Hepburn) as their recent marriage spectacularly falls apart with them fighting (literally) on the doorstep as Dexter moves out. We then move to the office of a scandal-sheet editor a few months later as he gives instructions to reporter Macaulay Connor (Jimmy Stewart) and photographer Elizabeth Imbrie (Ruth Hussey) to attend Tracy’s new wedding, this time to an upwardly-mobile but dull businessman, George. Their ‘in’ to this society event will be pretending to be friends of Tracy’s brother, conveniently absent in South America, and their vouchsafe for this will be – Dexter.
There are twists and laughs but we pretty know where this is going to end up right from the beginning; The important thing is that these people are likeable and there is great fun getting there. The class and sexual politics have dated a little but not that much and it is instructive to note that Hepburn’s character has more wit and intelligence than we see in pretty much any modern mainstream Hollywood fare – and when would we now see a heroine who was not a virgin and got so drunk as to be unsure whether she’d had a one-night stand with a newly-met acquaintance? Bridesmaids may signal a change in this, but I wouldn’t hold my breath.