High Society (1956)

“I will not have my wedding spoiled by intruders!”

High Society Poster

Synopsis:
The day before her marriage to a boring millionaire (John Lund), an exacting heiress (Grace Kelly) must deal with the presence of both her jazz-playing ex-husband (Bing Crosby) and a Spy Magazine reporter (Frank Sinatra) and photographer (Celeste Holm), who intend to cover the nuptials in exchange for not printing a revealing article about Kelly’s philandering father (Sidney Blackmer).

Genres:

Response to Peary’s Review:
Peary writes that “even if you didn’t know this pleasing musical was a remake of The Philadelphia Story, you’d still guess that Grace Kelly (in her last screen role) was basing her spoiled society girl on something Katharine Hepburn did”. Yet I would argue that Kelly admirably holds her own in a role tailor-made for her patrician sensibilities; indeed, the “criminally beautiful” Kelly — who “is dressed to match the sets” of this “nice-looking film” — “turns in an acceptable comedic performance”, and in some ways is almost better suited for the story than Hepburn (who, as noted by Peary in his review of TPS, “never seems like a prig or someone who will accept only perfection”). Peary posits that “the major problem is that Kelly is so energetic that Crosby, 25 years her senior, seems much too old for her” — but I disagree; in fact, I actually find it easier to imagine that the uptight character of “Tracy Lord” (Hepburn/Kelly) would have a problem with Crosby’s easy-going jazz musician than with Cary Grant’s alcoholic (perhaps because we never actually see evidence of the latter issue in TPS). Meanwhile, Sinatra and Holm make a suitable impact in the roles originated by James Stewart and Ruth Hussey — and while the narrative has been watered down quite a bit, the film “moves at a brisk pace” and contains “many musical highlights”. As Peary notes, “Cole Porter songs serve for memorable duets by Crosby and Kelly (their hit ‘True Love’), Crosby and Sinatra (‘Did You Evah?’), Crosby and Louis Armstrong (‘Now You Has Jazz’), and Sinatra and Holm (‘Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?’)” — in addition to “Sinatra sing[ing] Kelly an emotional… ‘You’re Sensational'”. While this one isn’t quite a classic like its predecessor, it’s a surprisingly enjoyable remake, and remains worthy viewing in its own right.

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • Grace Kelly as Tracy Lord
    High Society Kelly
  • Some fun performances of Cole Porter songs — including “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?” and “Well, Did You Evah”
    High Society Millionaire
    High Society Did You Evah

Must See?
No, though it’s recommended.

(Listed in 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die)

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One Response to “High Society (1956)”

  1. Not a must.

    Certainly not one of Porter’s best scores – though ‘True Love’ and ‘Did You Evah?’ are memorable. Otherwise, this is a practically insufferable film and simply a lousy musical. But then, I’ve never liked ‘The Philadelphia Story’ much either – why should we care about the problems of these people?; none of the characters are all that interesting. Even as a comedy, it’s not that amusing. (And the oddest addition here is Sidney Blackmer as Kelly’s dad – he seems rather out-of-place as a type, and it’s a little jarring, as you envision him more clearly in what would arguably become his most memorable role: Roman Castevet in ‘Rosemary’s Baby’.)

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