Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||George Cukor|
|Produced by||Lawrence Weingarten|
|Written by||Ruth Gordon|
|Music by||Miklós Rózsa|
|Cinematography||George J. Folsey|
|Edited by||George Boemler|
|Distributed by||Loew's Inc.|
Adam's Rib is a 1949 American romantic comedy film directed by George Cukor from a screenplay written by Ruth Gordon and Garson Kanin. It stars Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn as married lawyers who come to oppose each other in court. Judy Holliday co-stars as the third lead in her second credited movie role. The music was composed by Miklós Rózsa, except for the song "Farewell, Amanda", which was written by Cole Porter.
The film was well received upon its release and is considered a classic romantic comedy, being nominated for both AFI's 100 Movies and Passions lists, and coming in at #22 on the AFI's 100 Years...100 Laughs.
Doris Attinger (Judy Holliday) follows her husband (Tom Ewell) with a gun one day, suspecting he is having an affair with another woman (Jean Hagen). In her rage, she fires wildly and blindly around the room and at the couple multiple times. One of the bullets hits her husband in the shoulder.
The following morning, married lawyers Adam and Amanda Bonner (Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn) read about the incident in the newspaper. They argue over the case. Amanda sympathizes with the woman, particularly noting the double standard that exists for men and women regarding adultery. Adam thinks Doris is guilty of attempted murder. When Adam arrives at work, he learns that he has been assigned to prosecute the case. When Amanda hears this, she seeks out Doris and becomes her defense lawyer.
Amanda bases her case on the belief that women and men are equal, and that Doris had been forced into the situation through her husband's poor treatment of her. Adam thinks Amanda is showing a disregard for the law, since there should never be an excuse for such behavior. Tension increasingly builds at home as the two battle each other in court. The situation comes to a head when Adam feels humiliated during the trial when Amanda encourages one of her witnesses, a woman weightlifter, to lift him overhead. Later, Adam, still angry, storms out of their apartment. When the verdict is returned, Amanda's plea to the jury to "judge this case as you would if the sexes were reversed" proves successful, and Doris is acquitted.
That night, Adam sees Amanda and their neighbor Kip Lurie (David Wayne), who has shown a clear interest in Amanda, through the window. He breaks into the apartment, pointing a gun at the pair. Amanda is horrified, and says to Adam, "You've no right to do this – nobody does!" Adam feels he has proven his point about the injustice of Amanda's line of defense. He puts the gun in his mouth. Amanda and Kip scream in terror. Then Adam bites a large piece off the gun and chews it, happily. It is made of licorice. Amanda is furious with this prank, and a three-way fight ensues.
Now in the midst of a divorce, Adam and Amanda reluctantly reunite for a meeting with their tax accountant. Going through their expenses for the year, they talk about their relationship in the past tense. They talk about the farm they own and recall burning the mortgage. Tears begin to roll down Adam's cheeks, and, astonished and touched, Amanda gently bundles her sobbing husband out of the office and to the farm. While they are getting ready for bed—an antique, curtained four poster—Adam announces that he has been selected as the Republican nominee for County Court Judge. Amanda perches on the edge of the bed and jokes about running for the post as the Democratic candidate. Adam replies, no she won't, because then he would cry. He demonstrates how easily he can turn on the waterworks, remarking that men can do it too, they just don't think to. Amanda says that just goes to show that there is no difference between the sexes...Well, maybe there is a little difference. ”You know what the French say,” Adam declares “ ' Vive la difference!'...'Hurray for that little difference!' “ as he jumps onto the bed and closes the curtains.
- Spencer Tracy as Adam Bonner
- Katharine Hepburn as Amanda Bonner
- Judy Holliday as Doris Attinger
- Tom Ewell as Warren Attinger
- David Wayne as Kip Lurie, songwriter and piano player
- Jean Hagen as Beryl Caighn
- Hope Emerson as Olympia La Pere
- Eve March as Grace
- Clarence Kolb as Judge Reiser
- Emerson Treacy as Jules Frikke
- Polly Moran as Mrs. McGrath
- Will Wright as Judge Marcasson
- Elizabeth Flournoy as Dr. Margaret Brodeigh
- Snub Pollard as Man in courtroom (uncredited)
- Ray Walker as Photographer (uncredited)
- Marvin Kaplan as Court Stenographer
The film was written specifically as a Tracy-Hepburn vehicle (their sixth film together) by Garson Kanin and Ruth Gordon, married writers who were friends of the couple. In an article Garson Kanin wrote for the October/November 1989 issue of Memories: The Magazine of Then and Now, he noted “that Judy Holliday initially turned down her role in the film because she is called 'fatso' in the script.”  He also said that the story of Adam's Rib was based on the lives of Ruth Gordon's friends, Dorothy and William Dwight Whitney, and actor Raymond Massey. The Whitneys were lawyers who ended up divorcing and marrying their respective clients in the high-profile divorce of Massey and his wife of 10 years, actress Adrienne Allen. Massey married his attorney, Dorothy Whitney, in 1939; their marriage lasted until her death in 1982. Allen married her lawyer, William Dwight Whitney, who died in 1973. Kanin and Gordon saw great potential in the idea of married lawyers as adversaries, and the plot for Adam's Rib was developed. Other titles for the film were Love is Legal and Man and Wife. The MGM front office quickly vetoed the latter as dangerously indiscreet.
In the same article, Kanin recalls how Cole Porter refused to write a song for “Madelaine,” as Hepburn's character was originally named. Her name was changed to "Amanda,” and all was well. In June 1949, Hollywood Reporter wrote that Porter and MGM agreed to donate all profits from sales of the song "Farewell Amanda" to the Runyon Cancer Fund.
Although set in New York, Adam's Rib was filmed mainly on MGM's stages in Culver City, Los Angeles. “According to contemporary sources, some filming took place on location in various parts of New York City, including the Women's House of Detention at Greenwich Avenue and Tenth Street, where, in the film, "Doris Attinger" is taken after shooting her husband, and at Ruth Gordon and Garson Kanin's farm at Newton, Connecticut.”
According to TCM.com, “ Modern sources indicate that Hepburn deliberately allowed Holliday to steal the scenes in which they appeared together so that Holliday could show off her talent to Columbia executives, who were resisting the idea of casting her in a film version of the role she originated in Born Yesterday. ”
Hepburn and Kanin encouraged Judy Holliday to play the role of Doris in the movie, which was used by Columbia Pictures president Harry Cohn as a screen test for the re-creation on film of her Broadway success in Kanin's play Born Yesterday. Receiving positive notices for Adam's Rib, Holliday was cast in the 1950 film version of Born Yesterday, for which she won the Academy Award for Best Actress.
It has been noted that there are unusually long takes in several scenes of the film, scenes where the camera does not move for minutes at a time. Most of these scenes show the principal characters arguing.
Variety staff reviewing the film on December 31, 1949, praised the “...bright comedy success, belting over a succession of sophisticated laughs...This is the sixth Metro teaming of Tracy and Hepburn, and their approach to marital relations around their own hearth is delightfully saucy. A better realization on type than Holliday's portrayal of a dumb Brooklyn femme doesn't seem possible.”
On review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, Adam's Rib has a "Fresh" score of 100% based on 26 reviews, with an average rating of 8.1/10; the consensus for the film says: "Matched by Garson Kanin's witty, sophisticated screenplay, George Cukor, Spencer Tracy, and Katherine [sic] Hepburn are all in top form in the classic comedy Adam's Rib."
Leonard Maltin gives the film 4 out of 4 stars, describing it as “One of Hollywood's greatest comedies about the battle of the sexes, with peerless Tracy and Hepburn supported by movie newcomers Holliday, Ewell, Hagen, and Wayne.”
Awards and honors
The film is recognized by American Film Institute in these lists:
- Adam's Rib at the American Film Institute Catalog
- The Eddie Mannix Ledger, Los Angeles: Margaret Herrick Library, Center for Motion Picture Study.
- "Adam's Rib (1949) - Notes - TCM.com". Turner Classic Movies. Retrieved January 27, 2020.
- Pace, Eric (September 20, 1993). "Adrianne Allen, 86, A British Specialist In Light Comedies". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved January 27, 2020.
- Kanin, Garson (1971). Tracy and Hepburn: An Intimate Memoir. New York: Viking. pp. 154–155. ISBN 0-670-72293-6.
- The Worldwide Guide to Movie Locations by Tony Reeves. The Titan Publishing Group. p. 12  Archived June 25, 2015, at the Wayback Machine
- Higham, Charles; Greenberg, Joel (1968). Hollywood in the Forties. London: A. Zwemmer Limited. p. 163. ISBN 978-0-498-06928-4.
- "Top Grossers of 1949". Variety. January 4, 1950. p. 59.
- "Adam's Rib". Variety. January 1, 1950. Retrieved January 27, 2020.
-  "Adam's Rib (1949) - Rotten Tomatoes". Retrieved May 29, 2017.
- "Turner Classic Movies - TCM.com". Turner Classic Movies. Retrieved January 27, 2020.
- "National Film Registry" Archived April 19, 2012, at the Wayback Machine. Library of Congress, accessed October 28, 2011.
- "AFI's 100 Years...100 Laughs" (PDF). American Film Institute. Retrieved July 17, 2016.
- "AFI's 10 Top 10: Top 10 Romantic Comedy". American Film Institute. Retrieved July 17, 2016.