Monday, August 25, 2014

High Society (1956) - 6 stars out of 10

High Society (1956) - 6 stars out of 10

“High Society” is an enjoyable film but it will always live in the shadow of “The Philadelphia Story.”  This musical remake of the Cary Grant/Katharine Hepburn/Jimmy Stewart classic never had a chance of surpassing its predecessor, even with a catchy Cole Porter score and three superstars of its own.  It is often remembered as Grace Kelly’s final film.  This must have been a dream for her after playing the role of Tracy on stage in a production of “The Philadelphia Story.”  She performs with elegance and warmth but lacks the attitude of Katharine Hepburn that is now associated with the character.  The same goes for Frank Sinatra, whose singing is great and acting is enjoyable but he just couldn’t match the Oscar-winning performance of Stewart.  Bing Crosby suffers the same fate, not only because his performance falls short of Cary Grant, but also because he is an awkward 27 years older than Grace Kelly.  While we’re at it, I did not care for Celeste Holm as Liz Imbrie, particularly after seeing Ruth Hussey’s Oscar-nominated performance in the same role.  It is hard not to draw comparisons because “The Philadelphia Story” is simply so much better.  My favorite part of the film is the featuring of Louis Armstrong.  Similar to Duke Ellington in “Anatomy of a Murder,” I feel like this preserves Satchmo on film forever with his unique singing style and amazing personality.  From a singing perspective, the movie is great.  With three leads that are this talented, each song is better than the last.  From a script perspective, I understand that some things had to be changed to create an excuse for the musicians to be there, but I think that it weakened the story.  And those slow moments that keep “The Philadelphia Story” from being perfection?  They’re still there.  “High Society” is a good film that should be seen by all musical junkies but, if given a chance between these two films, you know which one I’d recommend.

[Pictured: Three Hollywood legends on one screen]

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