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This Review Reveals Minor Details About the Plot.

Lucky Rebound

The Philadelphia Story (1940) on IMDb

Plot Overview

As their marriage ends, C.K. Dexter Haven (Cary Grant) loses an iron and Tracy Lord (Katharine Hepburn) loses her standing. Two years later he reads in the society pages that his ex is about to marry nouveau riche George Kittredge (John Howard.) Dexter is assigned by his employer Spy Magazine publisher Sidney Kidd (Henry Daniell) to introduce reporter Macaulay “Mike” Connor (James Stewart) and photographer Elizabeth “Liz” Imbrie (Ruth Hussey) to the bride's family, posing as friends of an absent brother, to cover the wedding of the year. Tracy is forced to accept them as house­guests so the magazine won't publish a scandalous story about her father and show­girl Tina Marra.

A mixture of family, newshounds, exes and wannabes, lubricated by champagne and enticed by a swimming pool, turn a late night party into a surprise the wedding guests weren't prepared for. But, hey, the show must go on.


Which translation is God's word?

Our English Bible was translated into the Revised Standard Version (RSV) whose “first edition of the New Testament … appeared 11 February 1946” (Light­foot, 191.) “The Philadelphia Story” was released in 1940 and could well be a preparation for the rollout of this new version. In the movie Dexter declares, “How are the mighty fallen!” regarding his ex's predicament that would seem to put the kibosh on her marrying his rival. It left the guests high and dry. This is a direct quote from psalmist David in the Bible regarding his rival King Saul who had fallen in battle: (2Sam. 1:24-25) “Ye daughters of Israel, weep over Saul, who clothed you in scarlet, with other delights, who put on ornaments of gold upon your apparel. How are the mighty fallen in the midst of the battle!” That statement produced trepidation in Tracy as she begins to remember her antics of the previous night. The plot seems to explore different potential reactions from another Bible version.

What we have in the movie, from the King James Version (KJV), is what's found in, (Isaiah 66:2) “For all those things hath mine hand made, and all those things have been, saith the LORD: but to this man will I look, even to him that is poor and of a contrite spirit, and trembleth at my word.” Let's take these four criteria one at a time, starting with God's pleasure in our acknowledging that ultimately every­thing was made by God, especially the Bible, which is God's word not the word of man.

Historian George F. Willison describes the birthing of the King James Version (KJV): “Acting upon the Millenary Petition, the king called the Hampton Court Conference early in 1604. … ¶The conference achieved next to nothing in the way of reform though it incidentally accomplished … authorization of a new translation of the Bible …, eventuating seven years later in the King James Version, one of the towering monuments in our literature, a poetic master­piece that has colored the thought and speech of the English-speaking world more than three centuries” (46–52).

It's still widely regarded, though the English tried to do it one better. Bible collector Donald L. Blake writes: “The Revised Version was completed in 1885 and later included the American edition's [American Standard Version] 1901 revisions. … Scholars embraced the [English] Revised Version, but the general public clung to the established and familiar King James Version. … ¶Those who support the superiority of the 1611 King James Version … over other versions … bear witness to its enduring legacy as England's most famous literary achievement” (220).

Lightfoot continues the saga: “The beginning of the Revised Standard Version goes back to the year 1929. With the expiration of the copy­right of the American Standard Version, a new committee of scholars … decided that a new revision should be made. … By the summer of 1943 the nine members of the New Testament group … had completed their work” (191). It was in the works when this 1940 movie was released. As for attributing a Bible to God, the enduring history of the KJV would still hold that place in peoples' hearts, while the very copyright of the RSV would make it seem like some­one else's intellectual property.

The second criterion, “Him that is poor,” applies well to those who carry the KJV. Supply and demand. So many copies have been printed that they're available free or on the cheap. Our movie delves into economics. George Kittredge started as a coal miner and worked his way up to general manager of Quaker State Coal. Reporter “Mike” and photographer “Liz” wanted to work as a poet and a painter respectively but had to take positions at Spy to put bread on the table. Our movie acknowledges economic necessities. I've been poor and known poor who really needed dirt cheap Bibles, and these poor are acknowledge by God in the verse in Isaiah. The movie also acknowledges that a publisher is going to act on his own economic interests. It is evident he's not going to be making any money off poor people toting around their old KJV Bibles. But give him a new trans­lation to market and it's a different story.

Criterion three is, “And of a contrite spirit.” Contrite means penitent, sorry for one's sins. The word itself derives from a Greek word meaning 'to rub', likely it's from the itchy sack­cloth penitents wore in Bible days. Nowadays, the KJV dialect rubs some people the wrong way, but to us penitents who use this version, it's a reminder there's some­thing better than our sorry lives. Here's the dialogue in the Wayne Library:

Librarian: “What is thee wish?” Macaulay Connor: “I'm looking for some local b— what'd you say?” Librarian: “What is thee wish?” Macaulay Connor: “Um, local biography or history.” Librarian: “If thee will consult with my colleague in there.” Macaulay Connor: “Mm-hm. Dost thou have a washroom?” [the librarian points] Macaulay Connor: “Thank thee.”

Philly still has a robust Quaker presence. As I mentioned in another paper in 1611 of KJV translation, English was going through a transitional stage in which one's betters were addressed simply by ‘you’—except for the Quakers who didn't believe in classes so still spoke of you as ‘thee’ or ‘thou’. They still speak that way up to the 1950s and beyond. Connor imitates them, per (Rom. 12:16) “Be of the same mind one toward another. Mind not high things, but condescend to men of low estate. Be not wise in your own conceits.” He and the users of the KJV condescend to the use of phrase­ology of the meek and of the poor man's Bible.

This movie introduces us to a new word, the nautical term yare. It means 'easy to handle.' That describes the boat of the honey­mooning couple but not the bride on it. It does not hurt us to learn a new nautical term or a new Bible word, for that matter. A new translation being “wise in your own conceits,” however, tends to limit its vocabulary to words its slow readers would already know. It misses the richness of expression easily attainable with a dictionary or through exposure.

“And trembleth at my word.” That describes the trepidation Tracy experiences when she's told she has “fallen.” It's not superstition as some critics of the KJV-only camp assign to them. She had no qualms against violating the superstition that the bride is not to be seen by the groom prematurely on their wedding day. The plot, thus, seems to suggest that God is happier with us continuing with the King James Version rather than embracing the RSV that was about to be rolled out.

Production Values

” (1940) was directed by George Cukor. Its screenplay was written by Donald Ogden Stewart based on the Broadway play “The Philadelphia Story,” by Philip Barry. It stars Cary Grant, Katharine Hepburn, and James Stewart. Jimmy Stewart won his only Best Actor Oscar on this one. Cary Grant is his usual relaxed self. Katherine Hepburn succeeds in doing odious turned softie at the end. Supporting actors are rounded out by Young, Nash, Halliday and Weidler. The young actress, Virginia Weidler, who plays Tracy's siser Dinah Lord (16) is utterly charming.

This movie was rated: Certificate: United States: Passed (National Board of Review), United States: Approved, United States: (TVG (TV rating.) “The Philadelphia Story” was a rare transition par excellence of Broadway to Hollywood.

Review Conclusion w/ Christian Recommendation

It's a biting commentary on high society and the press. It will keep you on your toes in twists and turns. It's easy to watch and a delight to experience. Kudos to one of Hollywood's greats.

Movie Ratings

Action factor: Decent action scenes. Suitability for children: Suitable for all ages. Video Occasion: Fit For a Friday Evening. Suspense: Keeps you on the edge of your seat. Special effects: Average special effects. Overall movie rating: Five stars out of five.

Works Cited

Scripture is taken from the King James Version. Pub. 1611, rev. 1769. Software, Print.

Blake, Donald L. A Visual History of the King James Bible. Grand Rapids: BakerBooks, 2011. Print.

Lightfoot, Neil R. How We Got the Bible. New York: MJF Books, 2003. Print.

Willison, George F. Saints and Strangers. New York: Reynal & Hitchcock, 1945. Print.