When you think of The Philadelphia Story, your first thought is likely of Katharine Hepburn. Who can blame you? Hepburn had a stunningly powerful cinematic presence, and The Philadelphia Story is without a doubt her film – playwright Philip Barry wrote it for her, after all. However, in order for the movie to be successful, Hepburn needed to be matched with two actors who wouldn’t be totally devoured by her. On Broadway, she had Van Heflin and Joseph Cotten (can I travel back in time to see that?); on film, she wanted Clark Gable and Spencer Tracy, but what she got was just as wonderful: Jimmy Stewart and Cary Grant.
As Mike Connor, the jaded reporter who becomes enchanted by Hepburn’s socialite Tracy Lord, Stewart won the Academy Award for Best Actor. Hepburn was nominated for Best Actress and Ruth Hussey, playing Stewart’s quick-witted photographer girlfriend Liz, found herself nominated for Best Supporting Actress. The odd man out here is Cary Grant, a statement that feels so wrong to type. Not only was Grant ignored by the Academy, his performance in The Philadelphia Story isn’t often given the recognition that it merits.