I like old movies in general, and I loved Desk Set in particular, so I was already predisposed to watch Adam’s Rib. What really sold it though as the movie I was going to watch next was learning in a video review that it was co-written by Ruth Gordon. Now Harold and Maude, which Ruth Gordon stars in, is one of my favorite movies of all time, one so awesome I’m afraid to comment on it for being certain I couldn’t possibly do it justice, but I had no idea Gordon was also a writer, not to mention of a movie as well known as Adam’s Rib. Needless to say, I was instantly intrigued.
Adam’s Rib tells the story of two lawyers–Adam and Amanda Bonner–who are married to each other and who wind up on opposite sides of the same court case in which a woman is tried for the attempted murder of her husband, whom she catches cheating red handed. Ms. Bonner argues that she was only trying to protect what was her own (i.e., her family) and after all no real harm was done anyway, thus the “attempted” part. Mr. Bonner, on the other hand, is having none of it. If this sounds like it was tailor made for Spencer and Hepburn, it’s because it was. “The film,” notes it’s Wikipedia entry, “was written specifically as a Tracy-Hepburn vehicle (their sixth film together) by friends of the couple, Garson Kanin and Ruth Gordon.”
Gordon and Kanin received a Best Screenplay nomination for it in in 1950, and the film is in seven top lists on icheckmovies.com, including ones from the National Film Registry and AFI. Still, it’s hard to imagine its doing quite so very well with anyone else cast in the lead roles. It’s a comedy, yes, but it only works that way because Hepburn and Spencer are so good we forget the underlying gender equality issues that are rather clumsily put away. Mr. Bonner is correct in his contempt for his wife’s exploitation of the case and use of it simply as an opportunity for grand standing, albeit all for a good cause. In making this point explicitly clear, the film treads a tight rope: Mr. Bonner must hold the moral high ground without entirely deflating his wife’s victory. Still, Hepburn and Tracy are splendid in it and able to pull it off.
Extra stuff I couldn’t fit in:
Best line in the film: Early on, Katherine Hepburn points out the double standard her secretary uses when applying judgement toward infidelity for men and women. The secretary responds that she doesn’t make the rules, to which Katherine says, “Oh yes, you do. We all do.”
And finally, I can’t resist including these pics from Ruth Gordon’s and Katherine Hepburn’s Wiki entries:
Katherine Hepburn. Wow. Just wow. What a striking looking woman.
And Ruth Gordon looks exactly what I would expect Maude to have looked like in her younger days!