Director: George Cukor
Cary Grant, Katherine Hepburn, James Stewart, Ruth Hussey, John Howard, Roland Young, John Halliday, Virginia Weidler.
Best Actor (Stewart), Best Screenplay
Best Picture, Best Actress, Best Supporting Actress, Best Director
High Society (1956)
Director: Charles Walters
Bing Crosby, Grace Kelly, Frank Sinatra, Celeste Holm, John Lund, Lewis Calhern, Sidney Blackmer, Louis Armstrong, Lydia Reed
Best Music Original Song (True Love)
In a running theme; we play the game, which is better?We need to first start off and establish from the get go that Philadelphia Story and High Society are both excellent movies, both worthy of your viewing. In fact, some might even consider Philadelphia Story an all time classic. Winner of multiple Oscars and nominated for a few more, Philadelphia Story carries with it a lot of gravitas, in the movie making industry. All the actors could have been lead actors and carried a movie by themselves by the time this movie was made and when you combine a top line Director, like George Cukor you can see why it has the reputation it does. Which is why what we here at Classic Era Movies might surprise you with what we have to say on which is the better...
High Society is the better of the two (at least in our opinion)
Before you start throwing rocks, let's compare the two.
High Society Trailer
The Philadelphia Story Trailer
Two movies only sixteen years apart is unusual for a remake, since most have multiple decades pass before a remake is even attempted. These movies, while close in time, seem ages apart. The Philadelphia Story portrays a time of prim and proper, and more subdued. It seems more old fashion, especially when you compare it with High Society, which appears more modern and filled with energy. the differences are slight, in some cases, but drastic in others. The music contributes so much to the High Society version in a quality that the songs and performances are top notch, you have to take that into consideration when comparing the two.
While some might argue that the Philadelphia Story had superior acting, once the decision was made to make it a musical, you have to find two talented leading men who can not only carry the story, but carry a tune. The casting of Bing Crosby and Frank Sinatra could have not been more perfect for the roles. While Katherine Hepburn's performance was sublime, after watching High Society can you picture anyone other than Grace Kelly playing that role. This was before she became known as Princess Grace (going into retirement at the conclusion of this picture), she wore her actual engagement ring from the Prince of Monaco in the movie. In a scene she shines her ring as to show the size and beauty for the audience to see. Before magazines and gossip columnists were able to exploit her private life, she gained the freedom by taking control and flaunting her ring in front of the camera, with a wink and a nod, and thereby taking the reigns herself by taking control of her new private life. Her performance was both comedic, sentimental, she commanded the screen like that of her predecessor.
And have we even mentioned the presence of Louis "Satchmo" Armstrong? His performance, though brief, helped modernize the remake with jazz. In an example of art imitating life, Louis Armstrong's character teaches jazz to the uptight aristocratic characters in the film, his presence in the cast allowed movie goers who would not have been the type to seek out a jazz club and find this music in the first place to be introduced to it for the first time.
One thing the director of high society, Charles Walters, smartly did was to know which elements of the original to keep almost line for line. it is wonderful to see a director and group of writers resist the temptation of punching up dialogue and making unnecessary changes to an otherwise perfectly written script in Philadelphia Story. You will notice while watching the two how must of the witty dialogue is still line for line the same and delivered with a perfect comedic banter just like the original.
There is more to compare between the two, but I have to ask.... Which one do YOU think is better?