Adam's Rib (1949)
Hepburn Enjoys Ribbing Tracy
First of all, I should like to say that I think the arguments advanced by the counsel for the defense were sound... MERE sound! - Adam Bonner
Of the 9 movies which Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn made together "Adam's Rib" is often regarded as one of the best. And who I am to disagree as the comedy which sparks from the screen as Tracy and Hepburn play married lawyers on different sides of a court case is brilliant. There is something about the naturalness between Tracy and Hepburn, the wickedness to how they not only wind each other up but also flirt which makes "Adam's Rib" so much fun. Yet at the same time it explores what happens to a loving couple when they find themselves at odds professionally. As such whilst "Adam's Rib" will have you laughing it has a point which never gets lost in all the hilarity.
Adam and Amanda Bonner (Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn) are a happily married couple but when Doris Attinger (Judy Holliday) shoots her wayward husband they find themselves at loggerheads. As Assistant District Attorney Adam finds himself in charge of the prosecution case and so incensed by the unfair treatment of Doris, Amanda who is also a lawyer takes on the Defence case. As the husband and wife goes to war in the courtroom it soon starts to affect their relationship outside of work as tensions begin to rise.
Taking the lead from the true story of husband and wife William Dwight Whitney and Dorothy Whitney who found themselves representing opposing parties in a court case "Adam's Rib" is very much a movie about the comedy of a couple at war with each other. The lead up to this has a feminist angle as we watch Amanda Bonner enraged by the two faced system which will prosecute Doris Attinger for trying to shoot her philandering spouse when he gets a pat on the back for having an affair. But whilst this court case and the unjust legal system which has one rule for one and one for another is central "Adam's Rib" is more about how being at professional odds leads to trouble in a happy marriage. And whilst it's played for laughs the reality of the situation is not hidden as we watch Amanda and Adam's relationship spiral down towards a sort of animosity.
But whilst "Adam's Rib" has a story and a point it is very much a comedy. From the loving scenes before Adam and Amanda go to war in the court as they lovingly call each other by pet names through to the way they wind each other up in the courtroom it is full of funny scenes. From big scenes such as when their neighbour Kip tries to wind Adam up during a showing of a holiday film through to small moments such as the flirting underneath the courtroom tables. It is most definitely a movie packed with funny scenes and most of them work because it is real life lovers Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn delivering them. It makes it all the more natural be it when they are flirting or arguing and you sort of sense that the flirtatious antagonism which we watch on the screen is how they were in real life.
"Adam's Rib" is not just a success because of Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn as it also features a variety of actors on fine form. Judy Holliday is wonderful as Doris playing it half as a dumb blond but also finding the emotion of the character betrayed by a spouse, although the scene where she reads the gun manual before bursting in on her husband and her lover is so funny. Tom Ewell who doesn't have much to do still manages to make the few scene he has hilarious as does Jean Hagen as his lover Beryl. And whilst his character of Kip is intentionally annoying David Wayne is brilliantly over the top as the Bonner's neighbour with a thing for Amanda.
What this all boils down to is that "Adam's Rib" is a great fun movie which features Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn probably at their best. It has scene after scene of comedy as we watch Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn flirt and antagonise each other but at the same time it never loses focus on the point of the movie.
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