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High Society

High Society

Tracy Lord is a recently divorced Newport socialite whose upcoming marriage with upper-crust stiff George Kittredge is making the headlines. Mike Connor is a reporter set to cover the wedding and C.K. Dexter-Haven is her ex-husband, ostensibly there to attend the Newport Jazz Festival, but who evidently still carries a flame for her. Tracy's high-class demeanor has nary a crack in it until Connor gets her drunk and the two of them take a midnight swim.

High Society (1956) is a musical adaptation of The Philadelphia Story, Philip Barry's 1939 hit Broadway play which was first made into a feature film by MGM in 1940, directed by George Cukor. (Other Cukor-Barry adaptations include Holiday and The Animal Kingdom.) For this film the location was moved to Newport, Rhode Island, to take advantage of the Newport Jazz Festival. Louis Armstrong appears as himself here, as he often did during this period. Cole Porter wrote several new songs for the film; the sole exception, Sinatra and Crosby's duet "Well Did You Evah," was first performed by Betty Grable in the 1939 Broadway musical "DuBarry Was a Lady."

The director, Charles Walters, was a trained dancer and was among the first to do both choreography and direction at the same time, most notably in the musical Good News. Although he did all the numbers for High Society, at that point in his career he usually did only the "star" numbers or "intimate book" numbers. For example, he choreographed all of Judy Garland's numbers in Summer Stock (1950).

In spite of a rumored rivalry between Frank Sinatra and Bing Crosby, the two worked together very amicably during the shoot. Crosby and Kelly had previously starred together in 1954's The Country Girl, for which Kelly won an Oscar for Best Actress, and they even dated periodically. Crosby, who sang "True Love" to Grace Kelly aboard a ship in High Society, later named his own fishing boat "True Love." Whatever Crosby's feelings might have been, this was Grace Kelly's last picture before marrying Prince Rainier of Monaco and retiring from the acting business altogether.

Saul Chaplin and Johnny Green received Academy Award nominations for Best Score and Porter's song "True Love" received a nomination for Best Song. In a rare case of Oscar confusion, Edward Bernds and Elwood Ullman were nominated for Best Motion Picture Story. They withdrew the nomination, as they had been nominated mistakenly for a Bowery Boys picture of the same title and NOT the high-profile MGM musical.

Director: Charles Walters
Producer: Sol C. Siegel
Screenplay: John Patrick (based on Philip Barry's play The Philadelphia Story)
Cinematography: Paul Vogel
Editing: Ralph E. Winters
Music: Cole Porter (music and lyrics)
Principle Cast: Bing Crosby (C.K. Dexter-Haven), Grace Kelly (Tracy Lord), Frank Sinatra (Mike Connor), Celeste Holm (Liz Imbrie), John Lund (George Kittredge), Louis Calhern (Uncle Willie).
C-107m. Letterboxed. Close captioning. Descriptive video.

by James Steffen



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