Feature: The Story Behind “The Philadelphia Story”

Seventy years after its release, it remains the greatest Philadelphia movie ever — an intoxicating cocktail of snappy dialogue and delightful characters perfectly capturing the old-money Main Line. But the tale of how “The Philadelphia Story” came to be — from Kate Hepburn’s steely determination to save her own career to Hope Montgomery Scott’s earthy joie de vivre — is as rich as anything that made it onto the screen

But perhaps the overriding reason The Philadelphia Story resonates so strongly, even today, is that it paints a portrait of the Main Line that, if not completely accurate either then or now, vividly taps into our collective curiosity about the lives of the people who reside on the other side of the iron gates. The Biddles and Cadwaladers have given way to the Tabases and Luries, but we’re still fascinated by all of them. And we still long to be invited to their parties.

Maybe the Main Line isn’t really so different now, anyway. Early in the film, as she and her mother catalog her gleaming array of wedding presents, Tracy complains about the boorish behavior of her father, who has tossed her mother aside for a showgirl. “We both might face the fact that neither of us has proved to be a very great success as a wife,” Mother Lord responds resignedly. Tracy wraps an arm around her, bucking her up. “We just picked the wrong first husbands, that’s all,” she says.