Filmsite Movie Review
Adam's Rib (1949)
Pages: (1) (2) (3)
Plot Synopsis (continued)

That Evening

When Amanda arrives home that evening, she finds her husband seated alone in their living room reading the newspaper and finishing up a full tumbler of drinks. As she approaches, she hides a gift-wrapped package behind her back, and then sits next to him and puts her feet up on the coffee table. When she holds out the gift for him, he gets up and leaves without a word. She follows him into the dark hallway into the kitchen, where he cuts a slice of bread from a loaf in the bread box, adds cheese from the refrigerator to the dry slice, and walks out of the kitchen - without ever acknowledging her entreaties: "You real mad? Or is this a tease? Or what? Real mad. Shouldn't we talk about it? Don't you want to hear my side?" She pursues him into the bedroom where he persists in ignoring her pleas and turns away: "Don't you want to talk to me? What is it? Did I go too far? If you think I did, then I'm sorry. Can't I apologize? Didn't you ever go too far?"

After leaving her again, he sits down in his dressing room and continues to move away from her toward the bathroom. She is confounded by his extreme reaction: "'re making a mountain out of something that isn't even a ant hill let alone a mole-hill, a hill of beans..." Finally, in the walk-in closet (and in the living room), as he packs his bag with clothes and desk papers, he explodes with what has upset him - her disregard for the sanctity and rule of the law, her casual manipulation of the legal system, and her disrespect for their marriage contract. Acutely embarrassed by the spectacle in court that day, he wants out of the marriage, now that his wife has become a passionately-ruthless competitor:

...I see something in you I've never seen before and I don't like it. As a matter of fact, I hate it...Contempt for the law, that's what you've got - it's a disease, a spreading dis -... You think the law is something that you can get over or get under or get around or just plain flaunt. You start with that and you wind up in the...Well, look at us! The law is the law, whether it's good or bad. If it's bad the thing to do is to change it, not just to bust it wide open. You start with one law, then pretty soon it's all laws, pretty soon it's everything - then it's me. You've got no respect for me, have you?...What is marriage? Tell me, that...It's a contract, it's the law. Are you going to outsmart that the way you've outsmarted all other laws? That's clever, that's very clever. You've outsmarted yourself and you've outsmarted me and you've outsmarted everything. You get yourself set on some dim-witted cause and you go ahead regardless. You don't care what it does to me or does to you - or does to anybody. And you don't care what people watching think of us. Well, I'll tell you what they think of us. They think we're a couple of uncivilized nuts. Uncivilized! Just what blow you've struck for women's rights or what have you, I'm sure I don't know - but you certainly have fouled us up beyond all recognition. You'll split us right down the middle...I've done it all the way I said I would. Sickness, health, richer, poorer, better or worse. But this is too worse - this is basic! I'm old-fashioned. I like two sexes! And another thing. All of a sudden I don't like being married to what is known as a 'new woman.' I want a wife, not a competitor! Competitor! Competitor! If you want to be a big he-woman, go ahead and be it, but not with me!

At their front door after he stubbornly refuses to forgive her, she roughly pushes him toward the door in a violent outburst. After glaring at her with defiance, he purposely slams the door - in a chain reaction, the force knocks down the mirror, upends Amanda, turns over a tall vase of flowers and a lamp, which causes the automatic phonograph to start playing a recording of Kip's song. Twice, she furiously slams the broken door shut, and leaps up the stairs - two at a time. Their marriage has been torn asunder with tense violence, and they become estranged. The circus incident in the court is illustrated in the newspaper: "ASST. D.A. RISES TO NEW HEIGHTS - UP IN THE AIR! Husky Woman Witness Does Acrobatic Act With Aid of Prosecution."

In the courtroom, both attorneys give their closing arguments. Amanda's final summation to the jury states her belief in "equality before the law":

...and so the question here is equality before the law - regardless of religion, color, wealth, or as in this instance, sex...Law, like man, is composed of two parts. Just as man is body and soul, so is the law letter and spirit. The law says, 'Thou shalt not kill.' Yet men have killed and proved a reason and been set free. Self-defense - defense of others, of wife, of children and home. If a thief breaks into your house and you shoot him, the law will not deal harshly with you. Nor, indeed should it. So here you are asked to judge not whether or not these acts were committed, but to what extent they were justified.

In a "revealing experiment" to reverse the couple's sex stereotyped roles, she asks the jury to imagine the defendant Mrs. Attinger as a home-protecting man, to picture "slick home-wrecker" Miss Caighn as a predatory wolfish man (with short dark hair and a mustache), and to fantasize that Mr. Attinger is a woman (with blonde hair). The camera shows the action through the eyes of the jurors - each of the three characters are momentarily transformed. She defends the "unwritten law," passionate-lover defense that allows a man to break the law to save his home by killing his wife when caught in bed with a lover. And she argues that the wife Doris [and by extension all women] is entitled to the same defense and justice in the courts that a man receives, whatever that justice may be:

An unwritten law stands back of a man who fights to defend his home. Apply this same law to this maltreated wife and neglected woman. We ask you no more - Equality!...Consider this unfortunate woman's act as though you yourselves had each committed it. Every living being is capable of attack if sufficiently provoked. Assault lies dormant within us all. It requires only circumstance to set it in violent motion. I ask you for a verdict of not guilty. There was no murder attempt here - only a pathetic attempt to save a home.

Adam's closing summation begins on an inauspicious note. His statement that "the arguments advanced by the counsel for the defense were sound - mere sound" doesn't produce expected laughter. He loses his composure and begins to mix up syllables: "Ladies and Joontlemen of the Jerry, that is to say, Gentlemen of the Jury." After stating that every crime should be punished: "No one can feel safe living in a community when there are reckless and irresponsible neurotics wandering about its thoroughfares armed with deadly weapons - you must deal with criminals as though they were...," Amanda objects to his characterization of the defendant as a criminal. Adam makes further muddled thoughts after being rattled: "in any Lourt of Caws, in any Court of Caws..." but finishes his arguments:

Was she trying to kill her husband and Beryl Caighn or both? I smile. I find it a little difficult to proceed in this case without bursting into laughter at the utter plinsicity of the answer and the puny excuse, well after the fact, that she was merely trying to frighten them. Simplicity! I resent - I resent any neighbor who takes the law into her own hands and places a special interpretation upon it, just for herself.

He self-righteously snatches Doris' hat from her head, demeaning her "performance" as a "coached" witness - "a sweet-face - crowned by a tenderly trimmed bonnet." He demands that his purchase receipt for the hat be entered into evidence as "People's Exhibit No. 12."

By the end of the trial when the Attinger Verdict is announced and the "'Love Triangle' Defendant" learns her fate, Amanda has won an acquittal for her client - "a small but important step in woman's march toward equality and justice." Mayhem breaks out in the courtroom as photographers take pictures of Doris - with her estranged husband, her children ("babies"), and Beryl (instructed to look like she's giving Warren back to his wife). As Adam looks at his wife and they walk off in different directions, however, there are no signs of familiarity, forgiveness or reconciliation.

That Evening

Absent-minded, feeling "overbearing" and pre-occupied with thoughts about the whereabouts of her husband and whether he will call, Amanda spends the evening for companionship with Kip in his apartment. To take advantage of Adam's absence, Kip romantically tries to woo and seduce her as a "beautiful barrister" and keeps filling her outstretched drink glass with champagne. She justifies her own courtroom independence and victory in a summation of what makes marriages work:

Marriage - what it's supposed to be. What makes it work or perfect?...Balance, equality, mutual everything! There's no room in marriage for what used to be known as 'the little woman.' She's got to be as big as the man is...Sharing - that's what it takes to make a marriage, keep a marriage from getting sick of all the duties and responsibilities...and, and troubles. Listen, no part of marriage is the exclusive province of any one sex.

Thinking only of her husband, she commiserates with Kip and worries about her marital future with Adam: "Win the case and lose my husband. Well, maybe it's a test. Maybe if we weather this, we'll be better together, and if we don't...?" Kip advises her about her marital choice while romancing her:

Lawyers should never marry other lawyers. This is called inbreeding, from which comes idiot children and more lawyers...Lawyers should marry piano players or song-writers - or both. How would you like to give me a little kiss?

While she is distracted about her own marital predicament, Kip proceeds to profess his love for his "convenient" across-the-hall neighbor: "Mrs. Bonner, I love you. I love lots of girls and ladies and women, and so on, but you're the only one I know why I love. And do you know why?...Because you live right across the hall from me. You're mighty attractive in every single way, Mrs. Bonner, but I'd probably love anybody who lived right across the hall from me. It's so convenient. Is there anything worse than that awful taking a girl home and that long trek back alone? Want to trade kisses? That's equal."

After spying on them through the window from across the street, Adam enters Kip's apartment with the elevator operator's pass key, catching them in an innocent embrace-tryst. In a perfect re-enactment of the Attinger case, he assaults them with a pistol to protect and defend his marriage: "I'm not nutty. Not any more than the average. You said it yourself today, didn't ya? You said anyone is capable of attack if provoked. You bet. Including me. Yes." To teach them a lesson, he threatens to shoot: "Him first, then comes you." Amanda is forced to contradict the principle of her courtroom defense - that he doesn't have the right to kill, no matter what the provocation is:

Stop it, Adam. Stop it! You've no right! You can't do what you're doing! You've no right!

Regaining his self-respect, triumphant and satisfied with her admission ("music to my tin ear"), Adam has heard what he wanted to hear - "that no one has a right to break the law - that your client had no right." Amanda and Kip are horrified when he raises the pistol to his open mouth as if he is going to blow his brains out. But Adam takes a bite into the muzzle of the licorice gun: "Licorice, mmmm. If there's anything I'm a sucker for, it's licorice."

Fooled, Amanda believes his tactics are "despicable, vile, dirty, low, worthless, corrupt, mean, rotten, dirty, contemptible, little, petty, gruesome, contemptible." The camera remains outside the apartment as a shouting and slugging match ensues off-stage. In the hallway, Amanda retaliates: "You haven't humiliated anyone with the possible exception of yourself. You've just revealed yourself for what you are. Just couldn't bear to be bested by a woman - isn't that it?...All you want to be is top dog. Trying to degrade me..."

The next time Amanda and Adam meet is in the office of Jules Frick, their Certified Public Accountant, where they straighten out their joint financial matters. One check is for their "last payment on the farm" after a six year period, and the accountant discusses the deductibility of interest payments. Unexpectedly, tears well up in Adam's eyes and stream down his cheeks as he recalls that they own it "free and clear." Amanda is moved by his emotions and realizes that they could get to the farm "in time for dinner" and "see the dogs." They are reconciled, put their bitterness behind them, and leave the bewildered tax accountant with instructions to "sign our names, give 'em all the money, sign anything...the more taxes we pay, the better we like it, see?"

and That Night

At the farm that evening, Adam mentions that he may run as the Republican candidate for the County Court Judgeship. Pleased that she approves, he moves off-camera and begins singing "Farewell Amanda." Meanwhile, she gets out the bonnet, puts it on her head, turns out the bedroom light, and summons him to the bed where she waits. When she asks, "Have they picked the, uh, Democratic candidate yet?" he abruptly stops singing. He joins her at bedside and assures her that she won't run "because I'd cry and then you wouldn't." Adam admits that he deliberately cried with "real" tears in the accountant's office to get her back: "...I can turn 'em on any time I want to. Us boys can do it, too, you know. It's just that we never think to." When she doesn't believe him, he easily and effectively demonstrates his own, wily masculine strategem of generating tears - helping them along with sniffles. He can be her equal - to match her appearance, he places a hat on his head.

In the final classic lines of the film, both reach a mutual understanding and finally admit that there is really only one small and fundamental difference between the sexes:

Amanda: All right, but, but what does that show? What have you proved?
Adam: It shows the score.
Amanda: Shows that what I said was true. There's no difference between the sexes. Men, women. The same.
Adam: They are, huh?
Amanda: (retreating) Well, maybe there is a difference. But it's a little difference.
Adam: Well, you know as the French say.
Amanda: What do they say?
Adam: Vive la difference.
Amanda: Which means?
Adam: Which means: 'Hurray for that little difference!'

Adam stands up on the bed and draws the bed curtain hanging on that side of the bed.

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