Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Adam's Rib

Six months ago, I wrote that if I were going to recommend a Spencer Tracy/Katharine Hepburn movie, the first one I'd recommend would probably by Adam's Rib. It's airing on TCM overnight tonight at 1:45 AM ET.

Tracy and Hepburn play married lawyers Adam and Amanda Bonner. Their work and marriage is brought into conflict when young Doris Attinger (Judy Holliday) learns that her husband (Tom Ewell) is cheating on her; this leads Doris to try to shoot him. She's naturally arrested, and winds up with Amanda as an attorney. Amanda has decided to take the case for political reasons: as we learned in The Divorcée 20 years earlier, it's OK for the man to sleep around, but not the woman. And Amanda wants to change this attitude. So, she comes up with a novel defense that basically says Doris was justified: if it had been the husband shooting a cheating wife, public opinion would have less of a problem.

So far, so good. Unfortunately, Adam isn't just a lawyer; he's a prosecuting attorney. And he is given the task of prosecuting the Attinger case. (In real life, this likely wouldn't happen, but we're talking Hollywood here. Since when have they cared about reality?) Adam takes the case despite the fact that it will create tension at home. Amanda, meanwhile, decides to make the case as much of a circus as she can. Along the way, though, she gets a bit of attention from their neighbor, composer David Wayne, which leads Adam to think his wife might be cheating....

Adam's Rib is witty, if at times a bit predictable by today's standards. This is thanks in no small part to a script by Ruth Gordon and Garson Kanin. But Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn are also helped enormously by the great supporting cast. Not that they need help, but it can't hurt to have people like Holliday or, as the woman she finds with her husband, Jean Hagen.

Adam's Rib has made it to multiple DVD box sets, so you should have no difficulty finding it.

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