The Philadelphia Story

Director's Influence on The Philadelphia Story

George Cukor was known for his light touch with comedy and his ability to coax wonderful performances out of his actors, and both of these strengths are on full display in The Philadelphia Story, a quintessential romantic comedy of the early 20th century. In fact, he was picked especially by his friend Katharine Hepburn, who owned rights to the story and decided that he was best suited to bring it to life onscreen. Hepburn had already worked with Cuckor on A Bill of Divorcement, Little Women, Sylvia Scarlett, and Holiday and the two were great friends.

The Philadelphia Story turned out to be well-suited for Cukor, who thrived on exploring the themes of female subjectivity and the contrast between the public and the private. Tracy Lord's wealth and her navigation of the press's interest in her private life in The Philadelphia Story is in line with Cukor's investment in pulling back the curtain and thinking about how the private and the public intersect, particularly among the rich and famous. Himself a gay man in a time when being gay often meant prosecution and arrest, Cukor explored the high-stakes ramifications of an exposed personal life through the lens of his characters. Richard Brody of The New Yorker writes of Cukor, "For Cukor, the division between the public and the private was crucial and terrifying; he lived as a sort of public performer, maintaining just enough illusion to remain a safe-for-public-view version of himself that he, too, could bear."

The film was a great success, in large part due to George Cukor's direction. He directs his star-studded cast to comic perfection and his use of long takes allow the viewer to see the characters go through intense psychological movements and changes throughout the course of a scene, without the distraction of quick cuts. For his work, Cukor was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Director.