14 Facts About The Philadelphia Story

James Stewart, Ruth Hussey, John Howard, Katharine Hepburn, and Cary Grant in The Philadelphia Story (1940).
James Stewart, Ruth Hussey, John Howard, Katharine Hepburn, and Cary Grant in The Philadelphia Story (1940).
Warner Home Video

Katharine Hepburn was as much a personality as she was an actress, and The Philadelphia Story is the quintessential depiction of both. Here is where Kate's public persona—haughty, patrician, and fiercely independent—came to be defined. But it's also one of the best showcases of her considerable acting talent, alongside great performances by fellow legends Cary Grant and Jimmy Stewart. What else is there to know about this sophisticated comedy classic, which premiered on December 26, 1940? Let's eavesdrop and find out.

1. The character of Tracy Lord was loosely based on a real person.

The character of Tracy Lord was inspired by Helen Hope Montgomery Scott (1904-1995), a beautiful socialite whose family had been Philly royalty for generations. (Vanity Fair called her "the unofficial queen of Philadelphia's WASP oligarchy.") Her husband, railroad heir Edgar Scott, had been friends with playwright Philip Barry since their days at Harvard, and the Scotts and Barrys often socialized. Barry used some of Helen's exploits during the 1920s and '30s as inspiration for Tracy Lord's free-spirited ways. Mrs. Scott had no problem with the play, saying, "I thought it was great fun, but I really didn't pay much attention. I don't really think Tracy Lord was like me, except that she was very energetic and motivated."

2. The Philadelphia Story’s Tracy Lord was written for Katharine Hepburn.

Katharine Hepburn and James Stewart in The Philadelphia Story (1940)
Warner Home Video

Philip Barry had been a friend of Hepburn's since she (and Cary Grant) starred in the movie version of his play, Holiday (1938). When Barry became aware of Hepburn's desire to recalibrate her career (see next item), he began tailoring the Tracy Lord character to suit her. The finished version created a persona for Hepburn that audiences would adore for the rest of her life: independent, sharp-tongued, icy, but ultimately vulnerable.

3. Before The Philadelphia Story, Katharine Hepburn spent a few years as “box office poison.”

It's hard to believe given her legendary status today, but after a string of flops in the 1930s, Hepburn was considered "box office poison." That was an official designation, by the way; a 1938 survey of theater owners labeled her as such, along with such luminaries as Fred Astaire, Greta Garbo, Mae West, Joan Crawford, and Marlene Dietrich. (The theater owners weren't wrong about those stars' movies not being big sellers lately, though perhaps it wasn't very nice of them to publish a list like that.)

4. The Philadelphia Story was a hit on Broadway first, with Katharine Hepburn starring.

The actress was so intent on rebuilding her Hollywood cachet that she left movies and returned to the stage. The Philadelphia Story, written as a comeback vehicle for her, opened on Broadway on March 28, 1939 and ran for a year. Ever the trouper, Hepburn performed for several months in the nationwide tour as well, appearing onstage as Tracy Lord even after the movie version was in theaters. (She had shrewdly foregone a salary for the Broadway production and taken 10 percent of the gross instead, netting her $150,000—about $2.6 million in 2016 dollars.)

5. Howard Hughes helped get The Philadelphia Story made.

The American film producer and record flight pilot Howard Hughes. About 1930
Howard Hughes, circa 1930.
Austrian Archives/Imagno/Getty Images

The not-yet-completely-insane tycoon was Hepburn's friend (and former lover), and he ponied up some of the money for the stage production as well as the movie rights. He doesn't get all the credit, though: Hepburn pitched in plenty of her own money (box office poison or not, she was loaded), as did the Theatre Guild and Barry, the playwright.

6. Clark Gable and Spencer Tracy were Katharine Hepburn’s first choice of co-stars for The Philadelphia Story.

It would have been her first film with Tracy, an actor she admired, but he was unavailable. Instead, their first (of nine) movies would be Woman of the Year (1942), followed by a love affair that would last the rest of his life. As for Gable, he may have had a scheduling conflict, but there was probably another reason he didn't play C.K. Dexter Haven in The Philadelphia Story: the film's director, George Cukor, had been fired from Gable's Gone with the Wind, and the two did not get along.

7. Cary Grant had two surprising demands before he’d sign onto The Philadelphia Story.

One, he wanted top billing, even though Hepburn's character was the protagonist and Stewart's character had more dialogue. Two, he wanted a salary of $137,500, to be paid directly to the British war relief effort.

8. The Philadelphia Story’s screenwriter was given very specific instructions.

Donald Ogden Stewart (no relation to Jimmy), a successful Broadway playwright who'd come to Hollywood in the late 1920s, had actually adapted a Philip Barry play into a Katharine Hepburn movie once before: Holiday, in 1938. But his job of turning The Philadelphia Story into a screenplay was made more difficult by a peculiar demand from MGM producer Joseph L. Mankiewicz. He gave Stewart an audio recording of a live performance of the play so he could hear the audience response, and told him to make sure the same laughs all made it into the movie. Stewart felt "restricted" by this, to say the least, but he managed to mostly comply. When he accepted the Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay, Stewart said, "I have no one to thank but myself!"

9. The Philadelphia Story resulted in Jimmy Stewart's only competitive Oscar.

The beloved actor had been nominated for Best Actor the year before, for Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, and would be nominated another three times after this. But The Philadelphia Story was his only lifetime win, surprising those (including himself) who thought Henry Fonda deserved it for The Grapes of Wrath. (Some observers felt it was Stewart's compensation for not getting the Mr. Smith win.) In 1995, Stewart won an Honorary Oscar.

10. Jimmy Stewart got shafted on The Philadelphia Story, salary-wise.

As mentioned, Cary Grant got $137,500. Hepburn got $75,000 for acting, plus $175,000 to sell the play's movie rights (which Howard Hughes had helped her buy before the play even opened), plus a percentage of the box office. And poor old Jimmy Stewart? He got $3000 a week, which amounted to $15,000.

11. The finished version of The Philadelphia Story includes some ad-libbing from Jimmy Stewart and Cary Grant.

Cary Grant, Katharine Hepburn, and Jimmy Stewart in The Philadelphia Story (1940)
Warner Home Video

When a drunken Macaulay Connor shows up at C.K. Dexter Haven's place to chat, Stewart decided to play it loose and improvise a hiccup before beginning to speak. Grant, caught off-guard, smiled slightly and quipped, "Excuse me," probably assuming Cukor would call "Cut!" and they'd redo it. But Cukor liked the natural, playful interaction between the two and kept it in.

12. The Philadelphia Story broke some box office records.

In 1940, Radio City Music Hall was "the nation's No. 1 movie house" (according to TIME magazine), the world's largest (6000 seats), and a useful yardstick for determining how successful a movie might be. When The Philadelphia Story opened there the day after Christmas 1940, it quickly drew the longest lines in the theater's eight-year history, selling a record 110,168 tickets in the first four days. It went on to play there for six weeks, beating a record set by Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.

13. Yes, The Philadelphia Story got Katharine Hepburn’s "box office poison" label removed.

Hepburn made The Philadelphia Story as a way of getting off that "box office poison" list, and it worked. Harry Brandt, the Manhattan theater owner who'd said it on behalf of his industry, wrote shortly after the film was released: "Come on back, Katie, all is forgiven."

14. The Philadelphia Story’s main cast reprised their roles for a radio performance.

The film was adapted into a 60-minute radio play in 1942, and a 30-minute one in 1947. Hepburn, Grant, and Stewart all came back for both versions. Hey, when you find a role you love, it's hard to let go.

Additional sources:
DVD commentary and features American Film Institute

10 Products for a Better Night's Sleep

Amazon/Comfort Spaces
Amazon/Comfort Spaces

Getting a full eight hours of sleep can be tough these days. If you’re having trouble catching enough Zzzs, consider giving these highly rated and recommended products a try.

1. Everlasting Comfort Pure Memory Foam Knee Pillow; $25

Everlasting Comfort Knee Pillow
Everlasting Comfort/Amazon

For side sleepers, keeping the spine, hips, and legs aligned is key to a good night’s rest—and a pain-free morning after. Everlasting Comfort’s memory foam knee pillow is ergonomically designed to fit between the knees or thighs to ensure proper alignment. One simple but game-changing feature is the removable strap, which you can fasten around one leg; this keeps the pillow in place even as you roll at night, meaning you don’t have to wake up to adjust it (or pick it up from your floor). Reviewers call the pillow “life-changing” and “the best knee pillow I’ve found.” Plus, it comes with two pairs of ear plugs.

Buy it: Amazon

2. Letsfit White Noise Machine; $21

Letsfit White Noise Machine

White noise machines: They’re not just for babies! This Letsfit model—which is rated 4.7 out of five with nearly 3500 reviews—has 14 potential sleep soundtracks, including three white noise tracks, to better block out everything from sirens to birds that chirp enthusiastically at dawn (although there’s also a birds track, if that’s your thing). It also has a timer function and a night light.

Buy it: Amazon

3. ECLIPSE Blackout Curtains; $16

Eclipse Black Out Curtains

According to the National Sleep Foundation, too much light in a room when you’re trying to snooze is a recipe for sleep disaster. These understated polyester curtains from ECLIPSE block 99 percent of light and reduce noise—plus, they’ll help you save on energy costs. "Our neighbor leaves their backyard light on all night with what I can only guess is the same kind of bulb they use on a train headlight. It shines across their yard, through ours, straight at our bedroom window," one Amazon reviewer who purchased the curtains in black wrote. "These drapes block the light completely."

Buy it: Amazon

4. JALL Wake Up Light Sunrise Alarm Clock; $38

JALL Wake Up Light Sunrise Alarm Clock

Being jarred awake by a blaring alarm clock can set the wrong mood for the rest of your day. Wake up in a more pleasant way with this clock, which gradually lights up between 10 percent and 100 percent in the 30 minutes before your alarm. You can choose between seven different colors and several natural sounds as well as a regular alarm beep, but why would you ever use that? “Since getting this clock my sleep has been much better,” one reviewer reported. “I wake up not feeling tired but refreshed.”

Buy it: Amazon

5. Philips SmartSleep Wake-Up Light; $200

Philips SmartSleep Wake-Up Light

If you’re looking for an alarm clock with even more features, Philips’s SmartSleep Wake-Up Light is smartphone-enabled and equipped with an AmbiTrack sensor, which tracks things like bedroom temperature, humidity, and light levels, then gives recommendations for how you can get a better night’s rest.

Buy it: Amazon

6. Slumber Cloud Stratus Sheet Set; $159

Stratus sheets from Slumber Cloud.
Slumber Cloud

Being too hot or too cold can kill a good night’s sleep. The Good Housekeeping Institute rated these sheets—which are made with Outlast fibers engineered by NASA—as 2020’s best temperature-regulating sheets.

Buy it: SlumberCloud

7. Comfort Space Coolmax Sheet Set; $29-$40

Comfort Spaces Coolmax Sheets
Comfort Spaces/Amazon

If $159 sheets are out of your price range, the GHI recommends these sheets from Comfort Spaces, which are made with moisture-wicking Coolmax microfiber. Depending on the size you need, they range in price from $29 to $40.

Buy it: Amazon

8. Coop Home Goods Eden Memory Foam Pillow; $80

Coop Eden Pillow
Coop Home Goods/Amazon

This pillow—which has a 4.5-star rating on Amazon—is filled with memory foam scraps and microfiber, and comes with an extra half-pound of fill so you can add, or subtract, the amount in the pillow for ultimate comfort. As a bonus, the pillows are hypoallergenic, mite-resistant, and washable.

Buy it: Amazon

9. Baloo Weighted Blanket; $149-$169

Baloo Weighted Blanket

Though the science is still out on weighted blankets, some people swear by them. Wirecutter named this Baloo blanket the best, not in small part because, unlike many weighted blankets, it’s machine-washable and -dryable. It’s currently available in 12-pound ($149) twin size and 20-pound ($169) queen size. It’s rated 4.7 out of five stars on Amazon, with one reviewer reporting that “when it's spread out over you it just feels like a comfy, snuggly hug for your whole body … I've found it super relaxing for falling asleep the last few nights, and it looks nice on the end of the bed, too.” 

Buy it: Amazon 

10. Philips Smartsleep Snoring Relief Band; $200

Philips SmartSleep Snoring Relief Band

Few things can disturb your slumber—and that of the ones you love—like loudly sawing logs. Philips’s Smartsleep Snoring Relief Band is designed for people who snore when they’re sleeping on their backs, and according to the company, 86 percent of people who used the band reported reduced snoring after a month. The device wraps around the torso and is equipped with a sensor that delivers vibrations if it detects you moving to sleep on your back; those vibrations stop when you roll onto your side. The next day, you can see how many hours you spent in bed, how many of those hours you spent on your back, and your response rate to the vibrations. The sensor has an algorithm that notes your response rate and tweaks the intensity of vibrations based on that. “This device works exactly as advertised,” one Amazon reviewer wrote. “I’d say it’s perfect.”

Buy it: Amazon

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The Surprising Characters on Friends Who Were Originally the Show's Main Couple

Everyone was enthralled by Ross and Rachel's romantic drama—but how would you feel about Monica and Joey's?
Everyone was enthralled by Ross and Rachel's romantic drama—but how would you feel about Monica and Joey's?
Getty Images

When you think of Friends, your mind probably goes to all the hilarious one-liners, such as Joey's "How you doin'?", or all the romantic relationships in the show, most importantly Ross and Rachel's. We watched the pair's love story blossom since their first kiss back in season two, and the couple is widely regarded as one of the best in TV history.

Well, there was another couple planned that didn't make the cut. Just as Lisa Kudrow and Matt LeBlanc wanted their characters Phoebe and Joey to get together, showrunners planned for Monica and Joey to be an item. And they weren't just going to be a fling—the two were originally the Ross and Rachel of the show.

Vulture reports that Friends creators David Crane and Marta Kauffman initially had Monica and Joey coupling up, explaining:

"It would’ve unfolded like this: Joey, a 'perpetual horndog,' would’ve eventually been lured and 'tamed' by Monica as he continued to climb up in the world of acting. Crane, however, found himself 'bored' by this version of Joey; he retooled Joey to be a funnier and warmer character within the friend group, and dropped the romance with Monica altogether."

Would've been weird, right? According to Entertainment Weekly, it wasn't just Crane who didn't like the idea. LeBlanc himself, who played Joey, wasn't into his character trying to pursue Monica, not wanting to play someone who was perceived as creepy and hit on everyone.

It seems Joey went through some serious revisions before Friends became what it is today, and it's probably for the best. He doesn't end up married in the end, but at least Monica gets her happily ever after moment with Chandler.

[h/t Vulture]