The Story (continued)
The Philadelphia Story (1940)
Things are very complicated. Tracy has three men confronting her that she must choose from: her charming ex husband Dexter, her well-mannered, aspiring fiancee George, and her present love Mike. And she also feels that she has been a "disappointment" to her father. When Mike Connor steps out onto the terrace with Tracy, she asks about the mark on his chin and learns that he "stuck it out too far." He wants to know if she is all right after drinking a "flock of wine." She responds that she feels fine: "I guess we're lucky both to have such good heads." Mike has come to review and to try to straighten out exactly what happened during their innocent, wedding-eve swim and drinking binge the previous evening. He upsets her further by affectionately calling her "darling":
Tracy: I had a simply wonderful evening. I hope you enjoyed it too.
Mike: I enjoyed the last part of it.
Tracy: Really? Why especially the last?
Mike: Well, Tracy, are you asking me?
Tracy: Oh, you mean the swim!...(They laugh together nervously) I did swim, and so forth, didn't we? Mike -
Mike: Oh, Tracy, darling...
Tracy: Mike -
Mike: What can I say to you? Tell me, darling.
Tracy: Not anything - don't say anything. And especially not 'darling.'
Mike: Then you're going through with it, huh?
Tracy: Through with what?
Mike: The wedding.
Tracy: Why, why shouldn't I?
Mike: Well, I made a funny discovery. And in spite of the fact that somebody's up from the bottom, he can still be quite a heel. And even though somebody else is born to the purple, he-he can still be a very nice guy. Boy - I-I'm just repeating what you said last night.
Tracy: I said a lot of things last night, it seems.
Mike: Okay, no dice. Also, no regrets about last night, huh?
Tracy: Why should I have?
Mike: Oh Tracy, you're wonderful.
Tracy: You don't know what I mean! I'm asking you - tell me straight out - tell me the reason why I should have - have! (But she changes her mind) No - don't.
Dexter brings an alarmed Tracy a strong drink (a "stinger") as a remedy - it supposedly "removes the sting." Tracy is reminded of the awful things she has done to her ex-husband: "Oh Dexter, I've done the most terrible thing to you!" Dexter doubts that she really means him - she must be thinking of George. Distressed, she asks: "What am I going to do?" Tracy rises when reminded that she must talk to George before the wedding: "I've got to tell him." Even though it is considered "bad luck," Tracy phones George to talk to him, discovering that he has already sent over a note in the morning, and that he also knows about everything regarding the night's happenings - and so does everyone else!: "Was he here too?...Good golly, why didn't you sell tickets?"
Sitting in front of her wedding cake, Tracy is upset and reaches out to take hold of Dexter's hand, and thanks him for helping her to accept herself:
Tracy: I'm such an unholy mess of a girl...But never in my life, not if I live to be a hundred, will I ever forget how you tried to stand me on my feet again.
Dexter: You - you're in great shape.
Dexter asks for an acknowledgment for his wedding present (a symbol of their previous relationship), and Tracy becomes concerned that he is thinking of selling the boat:
Tracy: It was beautiful - and sweet, Dex.
Dexter: Yes, yes. She was quite a boat, the True Love, wasn't she?
Tracy: Was, and is.
Dexter: My, she was yar.
Tracy: She was yar alright. I wasn't, was I?
Dexter: Not very. Oh, you were good at the bright work, though.
Tracy: I made her shine. Where is she now?
Dexter: I'm gonna sell it to Ruth Watrous.
Tracy: You're gonna sell the True Love, for money?
Dexter: Sure...Oh well, what's it matter? When you're through with a boat, you're through. Besides, it was only comfortable for two people. Unless you want her.
Tracy: No, no I don't want her.
Dexter: Well, I'm designing another one anyway, along more practical lines.
Tracy: What'll you call her?
Dexter: I thought the True Love II. What do you think?
Tracy: Dexter, if you call any boat that, I promise you I'll blow you and it out of the water. I'll tell you what you can call her if you like...in fond remembrance of me, the Easy Virtue.
Dexter: Shut up, Red! I can't have you thinking things like that about yourself.
Tracy: Well, what am I supposed to think when I - Oh I don't know. I don't know anything any more.
Dexter: That sounds very hopeful, Red. That sounds just fine.
Tracy's mother hands her the note from Kittredge, and it is announced that Sidney Kidd is at Dexter's house, reading the scandal report. Things are near "the deadline" as Tracy reads George's words outloud to Dexter, Mike, and Liz:
My dear Tracy: I want you to know that you will always be my friend, but your conduct last night was so shocking to my ideals of womanhood...that my attitude toward you and the prospect of a happy and useful life together has been changed materially. Your breach of common decency...
Coming in from the garden in a slightly belligerent mood, George interrupts the reading and criticizes her for revealing his words in public. She explains that she is among friends: "It's only a letter from a friend. They're my friends too." She goes on with the letter:
...certainly entitles me to a full explanation before going through with our proposed marriage. In the light of day, I am sure that you will agree with me. Otherwise, with profound regrets and all best wishes, yours very sincerely...
The bride-to-be gently responds to George's demand for an explanation of her previous evening's conduct. She vows that nothing compromising happened:
Yes, George, I quite agree with you - in the light of day and the dark of night, for richer, for poorer, for better, for worse, in sickness and in health - and thank you so very much for your good wishes at this time...I wish for your sake, as well as mine, I had an explanation, but unfortunately I've none. You'd better just say, 'Good riddance,' George.
George denounces her, feeling that he has a right to be angry: "On the very eve of your wedding, an affair with another man." Finally, Mike speaks up, confirming that nothing happened:
Kittredge, it may interest you to know that the so-called 'affair' consisted of exactly two kisses and a rather late swim...All of which I thoroughly enjoyed, and the memory of which I wouldn't part with for anything... After which I deposited Tracy on her bed in her room, and promptly returned down here to you two - which doubtless you'll remember.
Looking at Mike all the time during the explanation, Tracy is astonished and suddenly turns on him - angrily demanding to know why he didn't advance on her. He replies that he didn't want to take advantage of her when she was drunk:
Tracy: Why? Was I so unattractive, so distant, so forbidding, or something - that - ?
George: Well, this is fine talk, too.
Tracy: I'm asking a question.
Mike: You were extremely attractive, and as for distant and forbidding, on the contrary. But you also were a little the worse - or the better - for wine, and there are rules about that.
Tracy: Thank you, Mike. I think men are wonderful.
George fails to see humor in the situation, even though Liz wisely remarks: "We all go haywire at times and if we don't, maybe we ought to." When Tracy admits that she had a little too much to drink, George is ready to forgive and forget if she will promise never to touch "the stuff" again. Tracy declines his offer and rejects her fiancee, even though apparently nothing happened the previous evening:
George: A man expects his wife to ...
Tracy: (interrupting) ...behave herself, naturally.
Dexter: (agreeing) To behave herself naturally.
She expects that her beau wouldn't jump to hasty conclusions about her escapade with Mike, and use his "imagination" to conclude the worst - that she was guilty of immoral behavior. She had hoped that George, at least, would have thought the best of her:
George: If it hadn't been for that drink last night, all this might not have happened.
Tracy: Apparently nothing did. What made you think it had?
George: Well, it didn't take much imagination!
Tracy: Not much, perhaps, but just of a certain kind.
George: It seems you didn't think anything too well of yourself.
Tracy: That's the odd thing, George. Somehow I would have hoped that you'd think better of me than I did.
George: I'm not going to quibble, Tracy. All the evidence was there!
Tracy: And I was guilty. Straight off. That is, until I was proved innocent.
The guests begin to arrive for the wedding, including Mr. Kidd. The publisher sends the "strangest message" regarding his defeat: "Tell Haven he wins. Tell him I'm licked." George appears satisfied with Tracy's innocence and proposes to go ahead with the wedding: "Let's let bygones be bygones. What do ya say?" But Tracy admits that they are not suited for each other and makes a decisive split from him:
Yes, and goodbye George...You're too good for me, George. You're a hundred times too good...And I'd make you most unhappy, most - That is, I'd do my best to.
George backs out of the marriage and storms out, disgusted with Tracy and Dexter and their "whole rotten class." In celebration, Dexter grabs at candles set on a table for the wedding reception, pretending they are hand bells while he sings and plays a tune. Liz and Mike dance in the background, twirling toward Tracy's direction.
But what is Tracy to do? All the assembled wedding guests are seated and waiting, and the Wedding March begins to play, but there is no groom. Hastily, Mike eagerly offers himself to Tracy to be the bridegroom in Kittredge's place, if she'll have him. [His negative, prejudicial views of the "rich and mighty" have taken an abrupt about-face, attained with "a little patience."] The camera glances quickly at Liz's and Dexter's stricken faces. After a moment's hesitation, she gently declines his offer and then looks toward Liz. She returns Mike to the arms of Liz, knowing that he belongs to her:
No, Mike. Thanks but, mm-mm. Nope...Because I don't think Liz would like it. And I'm not sure you would. And I'm even a little doubtful about myself. But I am beholden to you, Mike. I'm most beholden.
Knowing of George's decision to cancel the wedding, Tracy's father and mother come to her support and suggest making a "very simple announcement" to all the guests. Tracy decides to make her own announcement - she is through with being helped out of predicaments: "I won't be gotten out of anything anymore, thanks." In the wedding finale, Tracy throws open the door of the living room and hesitantly faces her guests (with Dexter standing behind her). She is flustered, but explains that "there's been a slight hitch in the proceedings."
I've made a terrible fool of myself - which isn't unusual. And my fiancee, my fiancee that was, that is, he thinks we'd better call it a day. And I quite agree with him.
When Tracy appeals to Dexter to help her, he dictates lines for her to say that she repeats. She is delightfully stunned when he suggests that they remarry in a repeat nuptial - she adds the words "beautifully" to his prompted words and grabs his hand behind her back:
Two years ago, you were invited to a wedding in this house and then I did you out of it by eloping to Maryland...which was very bad manners... But I hope to make it up to you by going beautifully through with it now as originally and most beautifully planned.
She suddenly rediscovers that her ex-husband truly loves her. She asks the guests to keep their seats for a minute, closes the door, and then turns to Dexter. He suggests a solution to her dilemma by proposing to take George's place:
Tracy: Dexter, are you sure?
Dexter: Not in the least. But I'll risk it. Will you?
Tracy: You bet! You didn't do it just to soften the blow?
Dexter: No, Tracy.
Tracy: Nor to save my face?
Dexter: No. It's a nice little face.
Tracy: Oh, Dexter, I'll be 'yar' now. I'll promise to be 'yar' now.
Dexter: Be whatever you like. You're my redhead.
Mike is "honored" to be Dexter's best man, and Liz is appointed "matron of honor." Before the ceremony and the replaying of the Wedding March, Tracy beams toward her father: "Never in my life have I been so full of love before."
The film's finale emphasizes how she has discovered her own humanity and cured herself of emotional and intellectual blindness during the wedding ordeal:
Tracy: (To her father) How do I look?
Mr. Lord: Like a queen - like a goddess.
Tracy: And do you know how I feel?
Mr. Lord: How?
Tracy: Like a human. Like a human being.
Mr. Lord: Do you know how I feel?
Mr. Lord: Proud.
During the procession with Tracy on her father's arm, Dinah takes all the credit: "I did it. I did it all." Uncle Willie exclaims: "I feel as though I'd lived through all of this before in another life." The film ends with Mr. Kidd taking snapshots with a miniature camera of the wedding party at the altar - startling them with the loud click. All the principal characters are caught freeze-framed in the same pose in a photograph printed in SPY Magazine, glaring back at Kidd and in the direction of the click.
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AMC Filmcritic's Review of The Philadelphia Story