Journo Film: The Philadelphia Story (1940)


The Philadelphia Story is one of the best romantic comedies ever made. The all star cast of James Stewart, Cary Grant and Katherine Hepburn makes this film an absolute treat for fans of the silver screen.

The film follows the attempts of Macaulay Connor (Mike to his friends) played by James Stewart to cover the impending marriage of socialite, Hepburn. Stewart works for a magazine who want him to write a feature from inside the wedding, to do so he must go undercover as a guest. However his only way into the lives of this rich Philadelphia family is through Cary Grant as the incredibly named C. K. Dexter Haven, Hepburn’s ex-husband.

What ensues is not so much a love triangle but a love polygon, with Hepburn, Grant and Stewart at the centre along with Hepburn’s soon to be husband and Stewart’s photographer.

The film is s delight from start to finish. A particular highlight of the film is Cary Grant’s laconic and love-lorn recovering alcoholic. Whenever he saunters into a scene and drawls at Hepburn in his trans-Atlantic accent he proves just why he was one of Hollywood’s most enduring screen presences playing leading-man roles throughout his 30-year career.

The Philadelphia Story, quite rightly, is remembered as one of the best romantic comedies of all time. It is not particularly remembered as a film about journalism.

What can a journalist learn from the film?

To be honest there really isn’t much that a journalist can learn from The Philadelphia Story.  The actual story and the magazine really only serve as devices to set up the romantic comedy plot. However, there are maybe a couple of pieces of advice buried in the film.

Firstly the film seems to suggest that getting too emotionally involved with the subject of your story, even though it may lead to some comedic moments, might create a fair few complications along the way. Jimmy Stewart’s character also seems to have very little care for his work as a magazine writer, he much prefers short story writing. Even though a career in journalism was often favoured by out of work authors looking to pay the rent these days it takes too much time and effort to succeed in the industry so it probably isn’t worth it.

Finally if you’re an undercover photographer, don’t break your camera!

Let me know what you think of the film by tweeting your thoughts to @nickjhp and use the hash-tag #JournoFilms.


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