American History30 Aug 2009 12:26 am
Hollywood legend Cary Grant, named the 2nd Greatest Male Film Star of All Time by the American Film Institute, starred in many of the classic screwball comedies of the era, including Bringing Up Baby (1938) with Katharine Hepburn, His Girl Friday (1940) with Rosalind Russell, Arsenic and Old Lace (1944) featuring Priscilla Lane, and Monkey Business (1952). However, the movie role that really solidified his career was The Philadelphia Story (1940), with Katharine Hepburn and James Stewart, which set the stage for his most famous screen persona: the irresistible albeit unreliable man, formerly married to an equally intelligent and strong-willed woman who divorces him and then comes to realize that he is ultimately the only man for her.
The Philadelphia Story, and the subgenre of comedy that it spawned, is now affectionately referred to as the “comedy of remarriage.” This genre was given its moniker by Stanley Cavell in his book, “Pursuits of Happiness: The Hollywood Comedy of Remarriage.” At the time, the repressive Hays Code, imposed upon all Hollywood production, banned any overt references to illicit sex or adultery. As such, the comedy of remarriage gave filmmakers carte blanche to introduce racier content into their movies, but portraying leading characters who divorced, flirted while single and then got back together with their former spouse by the end of the film. Thus, Hollywood studios were able to circumvent the censors while seemingly reinforcing the ideals of traditional marriage. In his book, Cavell argues that this genre represented a crowning achievement for Hollywood, and that it paved the way for the modern emphasis on mutual love-as opposed to class, religious and/or family interests-as the foundational basis for marriage in America.
Leave a Reply
You must be logged in to post a comment.