Movie Mirrors Index

High Society

(1956 c 107')

En: 7 Ed: 6

Adapted from Philip Barry’s play and the 1950 movie Philadelphia Story into a Cole Porter musical, a wealthy divorcée is about to wed, but her ex-husband still loves her while a pair of reporters get to know her too.

         In a limousine Louis Armstrong (himself) and his band sing “High Society Calypso.” They are welcomed to a palatial house by C. K. Dexter-Haven (Bing Crosby). Little Caroline Lord (Lydia Reed) calls Dexter and tells him it is time. Caroline talks to Tracy Samantha Lord (Grace Kelly) about her coming wedding and new husband. Tracy asks her mother Mrs. Seth Lord (Margalo Gillmore) if Dexter came back. Dexter is enjoying the music of the Armstrong band. Dexter calls Tracy “Sam” and notices she has lost weight. She is upset and accuses him of interfering with her wedding. He says he is still in love with her. She says he could have become a serious composer, but he became a “juke-box hero.” Tracy hurries away, and Caroline comes in and hugs Dexter. Caroline is not crazy about George either.

         George Kittredge (John Lund) arrives in a station wagon and kisses Tracy, who asks if he minds Dexter. George says Dexter never earned her. Caroline asks Dexter if he plans to marry again. He sings “Little One” as he embraces her. Armstrong says it is the right song but the wrong girl.

         Mrs. Seth Lord gets a call from Uncle Willie (Louis Calhern) who has arranged for two reporters from Spy magazine to cover Tracy’s wedding or they may publish an article about her husband. She agrees to the blackmail. Tracy comes in and tells Caroline not to invite Dexter into her house until she is married and gone. Mrs. Lord tells her daughter about the reporters coming. Tracy prefers to see an article about her father; but her mother persuades her to do it for her and George. Tracy says she will give them a story.

         A taxi brings reporters Mike Connor (Frank Sinatra) and Liz Imbrie (Celeste Holm), and they are escorted into the south parlor. Mike closes the door, and she takes photos. Mike uses the phone and tells Mrs. Lord he is the “voice of doom.” Caroline dances in wearing a dress, and she says she grew up in Paris. She plays the piano and sings. Tracy comes in speaking French and makes Caroline go out. She introduces herself in English while over-dramatizing. Mike explains his father named him McCauley because he taught English history. Tracy urges Mike to write novels, and she asks if Mike and Liz are going together. Tracy goes out in the same overblown style. Mike says they are being taken for a ride. Tracy comes back with her mother. The reporters ask about Mr. Lord but get no answers.

         Tracy takes Mike and Liz to meet George, who is fixing drinks. Dexter comes in and kisses Mrs. Lord. Caroline joins them too. Mike asks Dexter about his songwriting. Mike asks Tracy how she met Mr. Kittredge. Dexter tells George he is not looking well as the three pose for pictures. Dexter advises George to help Tracy mature. Dexter notices Tracy’s diamond ring and asks George if he mined it. Tracy greets Uncle Willy as if he were her father. Dexter calls him Papa too. Tracy knocks Liz’s camera on the floor, breaking it. Liz says she has a spare. They all drink. Dexter sees Seth Lord (Sidney Blackmer) and calls him Uncle Willy. He is perplexed as Tracy introduces him as such.

         Liz and Mike confer and admire the silver, and they sing “Who Wants To Be a Millionaire?” Outside by the pool Dexter brings Tracy a gift. He advises her how difficult her marriage will be. She sits and puts her feet in the pool. He calls her a “virgin goddess.” He suggests she learn to accept human frailty. He thanks her for their first few weeks together and wishes her good luck. He walks away, and she unwraps the model sailboat and puts it in the pool.

         In a sailboat at sea Dexter asks skipper Tracy when they eat. She brings a tray and kisses him. As they sit together, he sings “True Love.” She lays down and puts her head in his lap and sings with him. They kiss.

         George wakes Tracy from her reverie. He asks her why she is playing with a model. She says it is the “True Love” she sailed with Dexter. George says she is untouched by her first marriage. He sees her as pure and on a pedestal, but she says she wants to be loved. Seth Lord and his wife come out and talk to George, who says he has to change and runs off. Seth complains that Tracy is presenting him as Uncle Willy. Tracy quarrels with him, and Mrs. Lord defends her ex-husband. He explains his philandering as a reluctance to grow old. He hopes for affection from a daughter. He says Tracy has everything but an understanding heart. She says that is an awful thing to say. Mrs. Lord says he does not mean it. They leave her alone, and she asks what is wrong with everyone.

Tracy drives a sports-car and tells Mike to get in. He asks where they are going, and she says the graveyard. She shows him the graveyard of the rich—large homes that are being sold for taxes. He asks what she does that is worthwhile. She replies by snubbing his job. He says he does not like being taken for a ride. He asks what she does besides collect husbands. He says she is 26 and has no children. She says she endures arrogant reporters. She shows him the mansion Uncle Willy owns but is giving away. They go in, and she says they are getting ready for her bachelor party. She takes Mike into the library which has a hide-away bar. He asks her to call him Mike. She says she was raised on a pedestal to be a high priestess. She is a relic to be sold for taxes. She pours drinks for them. Mike sings “You’re Sensational” as she pours herself another drink. He takes her hand and is about to kiss her, but she goes out.

         Armstrong says they need a change of pace, and he plays the trumpet. Dexter hears the music and sings “I Love You Samantha.” Armstrong says they are getting warm now. Mike tells Liz they are not so bad when you get to know them. Uncle Willy tells Liz he was looking for her. Seth Lord comes over and tells them who he is. He threatens to sue their editor for anything derogatory. Tracy comes in and pretends to greet everyone with enthusiasm. She dances with George, and he asks if she wants to sit down. Uncle Willy thanks the orchestra and introduces Louis Armstrong’s band and Dexter, and they sing “Now You Has Jazz.” Tipsy Tracy dances with Uncle Willy. Dexter cuts in and dances with the bride. She asks if he is coming to her wedding, and he says no. Dexter dances her outside, and he asks to kiss the bride. She kisses him, and George calls her name. George tells Dexter he will not the block the wedding tomorrow. George takes Tracy back inside as she says “I’m sensational.” Because she is making a spectacle, he takes her to another room. He tells her to lie down and rest. She asks him to lie down with him. He acts offended and walks out.

         In the ballroom Liz is dancing with Uncle Willy. Mike finishes a drink and goes in the library for a drink. Dexter is there and tells him how to find the bar. Mike tells him he should never have let her get away. Mike knows he is still in love with her. Mike asks if she still knows that. Mike and Dexter sing “Well, Did You Evah.” Mike is getting drunker, and Dexter has one too. They march out but come right back for another drink.

         Tracy opens a window and climbs out. Mike asks where she is going. He suggests they go over the wall. They lounge on a patio and hear a telephone from her bedroom. She says Mike is insulting, and she will marry sweet, old George. Uncle Willy tells Dexter he is looking for Tracy, and Dexter suggests the garden. George asks where Tracy is. Dexter suggests he call her again. Dexter offers to take Liz home, and she is pleased. On the patio Mike dances with Tracy. She suggests they go swimming in the moonlight. They dance a rumba, and he sings “Mind If I Make Love to You.” They embrace and kiss. He says she is made of flesh and blood. He asks if it could be love. She asks him to put her in his pocket. She jumps in the pool.

         Dexter says Liz is in love with Connor, and he asks why she does not marry him. She says he still has a lot to learn. Dexter finds Tracy’s jewelry on a lounge chair. George comes over and says he still has not found Tracy. They hear Tracy. Mike is carrying her, and both are dressed in robes and are drunk. George says he does not believe Mike’s story about her jumping in the pool. Dexter advises George not to jump to conclusions. George asks Dexter if he thinks it is innocent. George says Dexter has sophisticated ideas because he had things too easy all his life. Mike opens the door. George goes to hit him, but Dexter knocks Mike down first and tells George she was his wife first. Dexter picks up Mike off the floor and apologizes.

         Later in the day Mike tells Liz she is quite a gal, and she already heard that from Dexter. Uncle Willy in a top hat has a hangover. He says Caroline has been calling him to come over there. Mrs. Lord says Tracy may marry that newspaper man. Dexter arrives and takes coffee. Tracy comes out and is shocked by the sunlight. She asks if they like her dress, and Uncle Willy compliments her. She tells Dexter to go home. He says not until he gets her eyes open. She asks whose watch she has. She tells Uncle Willy she had her jewelry stolen at his house. Dexter returns them to her and suggests she take a swim to open her eyes. He advises her to have Caroline tell her about her dream. Tracy sits down and finds her shoes. Mike comes out and says good morning. He says he enjoyed the last part of the party especially. He calls her darling, and she tells him not to say anything. He asks if she has regrets about last night, and she asks why she should. He says he lost his watch, and she gives it to him. She found it by her bed. Mike asks Dexter for a drink, and he directs him where to find one. Dexter hands a drink to Tracy. She apologizes to Dexter. He mentions George, and she says she has to tell him too. She asks what George said. Dexter says he was shaken. He asks her how she liked his wedding present. They remember the yacht, and he says he is going to sell it and build a “True Love II.” She cries and says he is well rid of her. Liz and Mike come over and say they are resigning from Spy magazine. He says Tracy can have the article as a wedding present. George arrives and tells Tracy to get rid of the others so he can talk to her. She says they already know. George asks for a full explanation. Tracy says she has none. Dexter tells George to decide in a hurry. Mike tells George that their affair consisted of two kisses and a swim. He says he deposited her on her bed and left. She asks why she was abandoned and if it was because she was unattractive. Mike says she was drunk, and there are rules about such things. She is grateful and tells George her virtue is still in tact because of Mike. George suggests they can drop the whole subject. Tracy says she does not want him to marry her because she is worthy. George urges Dexter to leave, and he says he is big enough to overlook her indiscretion. Tracy says he is too good for her. George says he will not beg. George blames Dexter and his class, and he marches off. An organ starts playing the wedding march, and they spring into action. Tracy says she will make the special announcement. She opens the door and tells them to stop the music. She announces that her fiancé cancelled the wedding. She turns to Dexter, and he tells her to announce a wedding to make up for the one they could not attend before. Tracy makes those announcements, and closes the door and asks Dexter if he is sure. Tracy tells her father that she loves him, and he escorts her down the aisle. Mike dries Liz’s eyes and says the idea is contagious. Liz says she wants to grab him. Dexter stands next to Tracy, and the Armstrong band plays a jazz version of “Here Comes the Bride.”

         This musical comedy entertains well while portraying the life-style of the wealthy who have problems fending off the bad publicity their celebrity attracts. A self-made man who expects his bride to be pure even though she is divorced and who shows contempt for the rich is satirized as a prig.

Copyright © 2010 by Sanderson Beck

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