Recently divorced from the charismatic but deeply unreliable playboy Dexter Haven (Grant), Philadelphia heiress and full-time ice-maiden Tracy Lord (Hepburn) is about to tie the knot again. Her next groom, George (Howard), is the respectable, considerate type but frankly a little on the dull side. Nose slightly out of joint and ever sceptical, Haven arrives for the classy ceremony with two reporters from Spy magazine in tow, Macaulay Connor (Stewart) and Liz Imbrie (Hussey). Together the trio set out to find a scandal and throw a rather large spanner in the society works.
George Cukor's masterly adaptation of Philip Barry's popular theatrical farce nestles snugly in the pantheon of wise-cracking favourites among such perennial classics as "Bringing Up Baby" and "His Girl Friday". Donald Ogden Stewart's smart and sassy dialogue is handled with customary élan by Cukor, whose assured direction is informed by a natural understanding of timing to create a comic cocktail that nonetheless makes several serious observations about class aspiration.
Grant, Stewart, and Hepburn deliver impeccable performances, with sterling support coming from Hussey's feisty, guileful snooper. Dusted down and given musical numbers as "High Society" in 1956, stick with this eminently enjoyable original.
"The Philadelphia Story " is on BBC2 at 2.55pm, Saturday 10th February 2001.