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Monday, January 25, 2016

HIGH SOCIETY -- Movie Review by Porfle

Wrapping up Grace Kelly's career in fine style is her final film, HIGH SOCIETY (1956), MGM's musical remake of THE PHILADELPHIA STORY which starred Cary Grant, Katharine Hepburn, and James Stewart.

The film was rushed into production since Grace was already preparing to marry Prince Rainier and leave showbiz forever, and her cinematic swan song ended up breaking box office records upon release.

As "Tracy Lord", Grace is back to being a pampered rich girl, only moreso--she's on pins and needles planning her upcoming wedding to some stiff named George Kittredge (John Lund) whom we know doesn't have a chance in hell because Tracy's cutely tomboyish li'l sister Caroline (Lydia Reed, pretty much a Virginia Weidler clone) doesn't like him and prefers Tracy's easygoing ex-husband C.K. Dexter-Haven, or "Dexter" (Bing Crosby), whom Tracy rejected because, among other negligible reasons, he chooses that awful lowbrow jazz over serious music.


One of those hyperactive romantic comedies brimming with "comic complications", HIGH SOCIETY tries so hard to be lighthearted it tends to be lightheaded at some times, and turgid at others.

Bing, of course, comes off as smooth as molasses and just as thick--it's fun watching him try to be "breezy." He does have that voice, though, and we can't blame even the great Louie "Satchmo" Armstrong (he and his band serve as the story's Greek chorus) for wanting to jam along with it.

Grace, meanwhile, has that coltish quality Peter Bogdanovich was aiming for when he cast Cybill Shepherd in AT LONG LAST LOVE (although in Cybill's case the word "horsey" might be more apt), breathlessly reciting wisecracks and pithy exclamations while hitting all her marks as though running the bases. She isn't quite "funny" as much as she's simply formidable, although when things veer more toward the dramatic she handles herself with aplomb.

Helping to round out the stellar cast are Frank Sinatra and Celeste Holm as correspondents for a cheap gossip rag who've been allowed to cover the wedding lest a damning story about Tracy's father Seth (Sidney Blackmer) be printed. They, too, are obviously meant to be together, so of course Frank will fall for Tracy while Celeste fends off the advances of Tracy's elderly Uncle Willie (Louis Calhern).

In turns amusing and tiresome, HIGH SOCIETY is a harmless way to pass some time in between worthwhile moments such as Bing and Grace dueting on "True Love", the hit song that earned them both gold records. The Cole Porter score itself isn't one of his most stellar achievements--the song and dance interludes seem rather shoehorned in at times--but it's kind of fun anyway. The same can be said for the film as a whole.

Read our review of the GRACE KELLY COLLECTION


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