High Society (1956 film)

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High Society
High society1956 poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Charles Walters
Produced by Sol C. Siegel
Written by John Patrick
Based on The Philadelphia Story
1939 play 
by Philip Barry
Starring
Music by Cole Porter
Cinematography Paul Vogel
Edited by Ralph E. Winters
Production
company
Distributed by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
Release dates
  • July 17, 1956 (1956-07-17)
Running time 111 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $2,762,000[1]
Box office $8,258,000[1]

High Society is a 1956 American musical comedy film directed by Charles Walters and starring Bing Crosby, Grace Kelly, and Frank Sinatra. The film was produced by Sol C. Siegel for Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, and shot in VistaVision and Technicolor, with music and lyrics by Cole Porter. Based on the play The Philadelphia Story by Philip Barry, with a screenplay by John Patrick, the film is about a successful popular jazz musician who tries to win back the affections of his ex-wife, who is preparing to marry another man. The jazz musician encounters additional competition from an undercover tabloid reporter, who is also in love with his ex-wife, who now must choose between three very different men. High Society was the last film appearance of Grace Kelly, before she became Princess consort of Monaco.

Plot[edit]

The highly successful jazz musician C.K. Dexter Haven (Bing Crosby) was divorced from wealthy Newport, Rhode Island socialite Tracy Samantha Lord (Grace Kelly), but remains in love with her. She, however, is about to get married to a bland gentleman of good standing, George Kittredge (John Lund).

Spy magazine, in possession of embarrassing information about Tracy's father, sends reporter Mike Connor (Frank Sinatra) and photographer Liz Imbrie (Celeste Holm) to cover the nuptials. Tracy begins an elaborate charade as a private means of revenge, pretending that her Uncle Willy (Louis Calhern) is her father Seth Lord (Sidney Blackmer) and vice versa.

Connor falls in love with Tracy. She must choose between three very different men in a course of self-discovery.

Cast[edit]

Production[edit]

The film stars Bing Crosby, Grace Kelly, Frank Sinatra, Celeste Holm, John Lund, Louis Calhern, Sidney Blackmer, Margalo Gillmore, and Lydia Reed, along with Louis Armstrong as himself. As name-checked by Crosby in the song 'Now You Has Jazz', where each musician takes a small solo, Armstrong's band include: Edmond Hall (clarinet), Trummy Young (trombone), Billy Kyle (piano), Arvell Shaw (bass), and Barrett Deems (drums).

This film featured Kelly's final role before she became Princess of Monaco; it was released three months after her marriage to Prince Rainier III. Grace Kelly wore the Cartier engagement ring given to her by Rainier in the movie.[2] Sinatra was 40 and Crosby 53 while playing the love interests of Kelly, who was only 26 during the filming. According to Sinatra biographers George Jacobs and William Stadiem, Crosby kept his distance from Sinatra during the production and remained strictly professional when Sinatra desired companionship, and that it "killed" Sinatra to think that Crosby considered himself a higher class singer. They state that Sinatra was fascinated with Grace Kelly like many of her previous co-stars and that he would have loved to have had an affair with her but feared rejection and embarrassment in front of Crosby.[3]

Musical numbers[edit]

Armstrong and Kelly on the set of High Society, from the New York World-Telegram.

Producer Sol C. Siegel paid Porter $250,000 for his first original film score in eight years;[4] it introduced a couple of pop standards, including "True Love" and "You're Sensational". Not only did Sinatra and Crosby collaborate for the first time,[4][5] but behind the scenes two master orchestrators—Conrad Salinger and Nelson Riddle—melded their arrangements under the baton of Johnny Green. Armstrong and his band get a couple of standout moments and Kelly has her only role in a musical.

  1. "Overture"
  2. "High Society Calypso" - Armstrong & his band
  3. "True Love" - C.K., Tracy
  4. "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?" - Mike, Liz
  5. "I Love You, Samantha" - C.K.
  6. "You're Sensational" - Mike
  7. "Well, Did You Evah!" - C.K., Mike[5][6]
  8. "Little One" - C.K.
  9. "Now You Has Jazz" - C.K., Armstrong & his band, individually introduced by name
  10. "Mind if I Make Love to You?" - Mike

A soundtrack was released in the year of the film's release and was a major success in both America and the United Kingdom. It has been said[citation needed] that one of the main reasons star Sinatra was drawn to the film was a mock-tipsy duet with his boyhood idol Crosby on Well, Did You Evah!, a song from an earlier Cole Porter show, DuBarry was a Lady, re-adapted and added at the last minute when it was noted that the two singers didn't have a duet to perform in the film. The title of the song Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? gained new significance a half-century later as the title of a global game show franchise. I Love You, Samantha has also become a jazz favorite for improvisations.[citation needed]

Release[edit]

Critical reception[edit]

From the trailer, Kelly and Sinatra

Opening on July 17, 1956, High Society garnered mixed reviews, often being compared as a lesser offering to The Philadelphia Story, a previous adaptation of the same play starring Cary Grant in the Crosby part, Katharine Hepburn in the Kelly role, and James Stewart in an Oscar-winning turn as the reporter played in the remake by Sinatra. Variety noted: "Fortified with a strong Cole Porter score, film is a pleasant romp for cast toppers Bing Crosby, Grace Kelly and Frank Sinatra. Their impact is almost equally consistent. Although Sinatra has the top pop tune opportunities, the crooner makes his specialties stand up and out on showmanship and delivery, and Kelly impresses as a femme lead."[citation needed]

Bosley Crowther of The New York Times described it as "flimsy as a gossip-columnist's word," missing "the snap and the crackle that its un-musical predecessor had."[7] According to Time, in spite of its "Who's Who cast" the film is "simply not top-drawer"; a "good deal of the screenplay seems as dated today as the idle rich...[Kelly] lacks the gawky animal energy that Katharine Hepburn brought to the 1939 play and the 1941 movie, [Crosby] saunters through the part rather sleepily, without much of the old Bing zing[, and] Sinatra plays the reporter like a dead-end kid with a typewriter."[4]

Box office[edit]

At the North American box office, High Society was a success. It was one of the 10 highest grossing films of 1956 in the US and Canada earning $5,602,000, and $2,656,000 elsewhere, resulting in a profit of $1,148,000.[1]

Accolades[edit]

High Society received two Oscar nominations, but the tally might have been higher if not for one of the more famous Academy Award gaffes in its history. High Society was nominated in the 1956 Academy Awards for Best Motion Picture Story, even though the movie was based on the 1940 movie The Philadelphia Story and thus was not eligible in that category; additionally, the nominated writers, Elwood Ullman and Edward Bernds, did not write this particular movie. After some investigation, it was discovered that Ullman and Bernds did indeed write a movie called High Society—a 1955 Bowery Boys movie.

According to the book Inside Oscar, Steve Broidy, president of The Bowery Boys home studio Allied Artists, told the press, "This just proves what we've known all along—that the Bowery Boys series couldn't have lasted this long if not for the fine writers." The joking in the press aside, Ullman and Bernds sent a telegram to the Academy Award Board of Governors, acknowledging the error and requesting their names be removed from the final ballot. While the request was granted, their nomination does stand on the official record.[8]

29th Academy Awards
  • Nominated: Best Music, Song: True Love
  • Nominated: Best Music, Scoring of a Musical Picture
Writers Guild of America Awards

Broadway adaptation[edit]

More than forty years following the film's release, it was adapted for the stage as a Broadway musical with several Porter songs from other sources added to the score. The Broadway production opened on April 27, 1998 at the St. James Theatre, where it ran for 144 performances.[11]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c The Eddie Mannix Ledger, Los Angeles: Margaret Herrick Library, Center for Motion Picture Study .
  2. ^ "Grace Kelly’s Engagement Ring". The Royal Post. 13 October 2011. Retrieved 26 December 2013. 
  3. ^ Jacobs, George; Stadiem, William (2004). Mr. S: The Last Word on Frank Sinatra. Pan Macmillan. p. 74. ISBN 978-0-330-41229-2. 
  4. ^ a b c "Cinema: The New Pictures". Time. August 6, 1956. Retrieved 2011-08-05. 
  5. ^ a b Gilliland, John (1969). "Show 22 - Smack Dab in the Middle on Route 66: A skinny dip in the easy listening mainstream. [Part 1]" (audio). Pop Chronicles. Digital.library.unt.edu.  Track 3.
  6. ^ Well Did You Evah from Bing Crosby Hit Songs-131-140 at the Internet Archive. Retrieved 2011-08-05.
  7. ^ Bosley Crowther (August 10, 1956). "No Philadelphia Story, This: 'High Society' Lacks Hepburn Sparkle". The New York Times. Retrieved 2011-08-05. 
  8. ^ < name="InsideOscar" group=InsideOscar>Wiley, Mason. Inside Oscar. New York: Ballantine Books. pp. 273–274. ISBN 0-345-40053-4. 
  9. ^ IMBd Retrieved 2012-8-6.
  10. ^ "Writers Guild Awards". Writers Guild of America. Archived from the original on 2012-12-05. Retrieved 2011-08-05. 
  11. ^ High Society at the Internet Broadway Database

External links[edit]