Thursday, August 23, 2018

When Eve Spanned-Katharine Hepburn And Spencer Tracy’s “Adam’s Rib” (1949)- A Film Review

When Eve Spanned-Katharine Hepburn And Spencer Tracy’s “Adam’s Rib” (1949)- A Film Review

DVD Review

By Associate Editor Alden Riley

Adam’s Rib, starring Katharine Hepburn, Spencer Tracy, written by Ruth Gordon and Garson Kanin, directed by George Cukor, 1949

Recently the film editor of this blog (and of the on-line American Film Gazette) Sandy Salmon mentioned to me after I had reviewed the current version of the film Wonder Woman that strong women’s roles currently seem to bend over backward to prove that the women are not man-eaters (he used another phrase but since this is a user-friendly site I will refrain from using the expression but you can get the drift). He noted that I had also made that point in my review and then suggested that I go back to the 1930s and 1940s for my next review and check out how strong, independent women’s roles were handled by prominent female actors then. Since I was not all that familiar with older films not having grown up in the 1950s like he and former film editor Sam Lowell had when such films would form the core of Saturday afternoon retrospective matinees at the independent theaters they attended where the owners wanted to cut costs by showing such fare rather than the current expensive to show productions Sandy mentioned some female lead names to get me going. Among others like Barbara Stanwyck, Rosalind Russell and Bette Davis he mentioned the lead female role the film under review, Adam’s Rib, one Katharine Hepburn. After viewing a few examples I decided on this film since the storyline kind of fit in with the idea Sandy was trying to draw me to-these very independent women could strut their stuff without the appearance of threatening men but also without kowtowing either. And with a nice sense of style and grace too.

The story line here is admittedly a little goofy as a plot to display womanly independence but we will ignore than since the role played by Hepburn, Amanda, overrides that weakness. An overwrought can’t shoot straight New York housewife decided that she had had enough with her philandering husband and decided to put the fear of God in him by following him to his little love nest uptown. There she goes rooty-toot-toot on said husband and his paramour wounding the husband. The ensuing story made the headlines in all the Gotham newspapers and caught the eye of solo private attorney Amanda Bonner, the “Eve” of the rib. She decided that the duel standard about men getting away with straying from home and hearth scot free while women are branded with the scarlet letter needed a good airing out in court where the action will play out. She volunteered her services to the distract housewife. Problem: Adam Bonner, yes, the Adam of the rib, Amanda’s husband, played by Spencer Tracy, is a fellow lawyer working as an Assistant District Attorney. Guess who got assigned the case? Yes the battle of the sexes is on.  

Needless to say the battle between the sexes over the case leads to a split, a temporary split, between the pair once Amanda makes Darwin’s monkey out of Adam in court by pointing out the duel standard but also pointing out some very relevant points about woman’s equality before the law-and before society. A worthy champion despite the tensions between her and Adam.

Amanda carried her case with grace and style, enough so that she was able to win an acquittal for the distraught housewife. Well done. Maybe not so well done was that lingering even at that time need to dress up the plot with some romantic added scenes between the pair with Amanda distressed over Adam’s coolness toward her which were a bow to the times when such conventions were necessary in romantic comedies. Still I see what Sandy (and before him Sam) meant when they say strong woman like Ms. Hepburn could carry the day without being man-eaters-and without pulling punches.   

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