US Release Date: 07-17-1956
Directed by: Charles Walters
- Bing Crosby, as
- C.K. Dexter-Haven
- Grace Kelly, as
- Tracy Samantha Lord
- Frank Sinatra, as
- Mike Connor
- Celeste Holm, as
- Liz Imbrie
- Louis Armstrong, as
- John Lund, as
- George Kittredge
- Louis Calhern, as
- Uncle Willie
- Margalo Gillmore, as
- Mrs. Seth Lord
- Lydia Reed, as
- Caroline Lord
- Gordon Richards, as
- Dexter-Haven's Butler
- Richard Garrick as
- Lords' Butler
Bing Crosby and Frank Sinatra in High Society.
As far as remakes go, Hollywood seems to only have two directions to go in. They either copy the original so closely that nothing is surprising like the Psycho remake or they change the story so much that it really does not resemble the original at all. The successful 1999 remake of The Mummy has only basic similarities with the original.
The best remake I have ever seen is High Society. It is a remake of the wonderful 1939 film The Philadelphia Story starring Katherine Hepburn, Cary Grant and Jimmy Stewart. The reason this movie stands out as a remake exception is that it uses both ideas above. It follows the original's plot quite closely. Yet, High Society is a different film because unlike the original, it is a musical.
High Society stars Grace Kelly in the Hepburn role, Bing Crosby in the Grant part, and Frank Sinatra taking on the part that Stewart won an Oscar for. Grace Kelly plays Tracy, a spoiled rich girl, who is about to marry a man she does not love. Her ex-husband (Crosby) comes back to town under the guise of a jazz festival to secretly sabotage the wedding in hopes that she will remarry him. The plot is further complicated when a reporter (Sinatra) arrives to cover the wedding and also falls in love with Tracy.
The plot has plenty of humor and fine dialogue, but the stand out parts to me are the songs. Crosby and Sinatra each get to croon a ballad. Crosby sings 'Little One' to Tracy's infatuated little sister, and Sinatra gets a tipsy Tracy hot and bothered by singing 'Mind if I Make Love To You?' However the best parts of the soundtrack are the duets. Sinatra and Crosby's 'Well Did You Ever', Crosby and Louis Armstrong doing a Jazz/Swing number that is the closest Crosby ever got to doing a rock n roll song. Even Kelly sounds nice when she contributes to 'True Love' with Crosby.
An entertaining film all round. If it has any faults is that it was made in the conservative 50's and thus some of the vague sexual references seem down right archaic. Crosby calls Kelly a virgin goddess and Kelly snaps back, 'Stop using those foul words!' Or when Tracy's father tells Tracy that if she had been a nicer daughter he would not have had to have an affair. Huh? What this film could use is a good remake.
Grace Kelly and Frank Sinatra in High Society.
As Eric stated above, this is one of the best remakes in Hollywood history and an all around delightful movie. It certainly helps that the original version is one of the best-written comedies ever. In a lot of ways all they did was add songs. Most of the best lines from the first movie have been left intact. The casting of Crosby and Sinatra together was a brilliant move, as was the choice of Cole Porter to write the score. With the addition of the great Satchmo this is truly one of the most enjoyable musicals you will ever see. And though Grace Kelly (in her final film appearance) is quite good she doesn't hold a candle to Katharine Hepburn's Tracy Lord. Also Crosby and Sinatra, as great as they are in the musical numbers, cannot replace Cary Grant and Jimmy Stewart..
One of my favorite scenes is where Tracy Lord and her kid sister decide to have a little fun with the reporter and photographer (the incredible Celeste Holm). They exaggerate their roles as spoiled rich girls with hilarious results. Playing the piano, doing ballet and speaking French with affected mannerisms. Again this scene is lifted almost exactly from the original. Still it is a well-done, very funny moment in the movie.
The only point Eric makes which I disagree with is his complaint about the archaic dialogue. On the contrary, isn't this exactly how these people would speak? Even though Tracy may not be shocked by 'virgin Goddess' a well brought up girl of her generation should pretend to be anyway. As for her father's remark, indeed he probably believed what he said to be true. Although we can clearly see it for what it is, a lame excuse for his philandering. I agree that an updated remake is a good idea, but at the same time cannot fault this one for the language of the times.
So, though not quite as funny as The Philadelphia Story, High Society very nearly makes up for this with wonderful songs and three of the best singers and/or musicians of all time.
Frank Sinatra and Bing Crosby in High Society.
I only have one problem with this otherwise great movie. How can Grace Kelly pick boring, pipe smoking, stay at home Bing Crosby, when she has the chance to go off with swinging Frank Sinatra!?!
As to the archaic language, I definitely agree with Eric. Being shocked by the phrase 'Virgin Goddess' seems incredibly implausible, especially since the phrase comes from her ex-husband with whom she has shared much more than mere words. Why should she feel the need to act shocked in front of him? Another cringe inducing bit of dialogue occurs when Tracy asks her fiancée, 'Does it bother you that Dexter was once my Lord and Master?' I doubt you would find many wives, even in the 1950s, who would refer to their husbands as their Lord and Master. As for the father's excuse for his affair, maybe it's my 21st century sensibility, but doesn't that comment smack of incest?
That aside, I just wish to add my agreement to my brother's opinion that this is a great movie. Love the cast, love the comedy, and most of all I love the songs. Any flaws in the dialogue are more then made up for by these wonderful songs. I still own and listen to the soundtrack.
Photos © Copyright MGM (1956)