The Philadelphia Story (1940) is a source of endless gems of dialog and image and enviable lives and moral stances. And goddesses. And human beings. And the Academy Award nominated performance of the beautiful, smart, and scrumptious second banana character and actress who is the woman of moment in this blog — Ruth Hussey.
It is important to note that the movie The Philadelphia Story is based on a play of the same name about “the Privileged Class enjoying its privileges” that was crafted for the woman, Katharine Hepburn, who portrays the character, Tracy Lord, who occupies the central space in this narrative. It was built ON her frame, so to speak. Kate will feature (and has indeed been featured) in rapturous prose from me with great frequency. But this is not her day. Today — the Hussey.
She was born Ruth March in Providence, Rhode Island in 1914 and died Ruth Hussey Longenecker at age 91 in 2005 after 60 years of marriage to talent agent George Longenecker. She attended Brown University and the University of Michigan; modeled for the Powers agency; played on Broadway (including originating the role of Mary Matthews in State of the Union, a role later played by Katharine Hepburn in the film version, see http://ibdb.com/production.php?id=1742); performed in numerous movies with A-list actors, and appeared in television occasionally in the 1950s through 1970s.
This is a woman whose rootedness, education, quick wit, and shimmery beauty animated every role she played.
Ruth Hussey was nominated for an Academy Award for her role as Liz Imbrie in the movie that is the current object of our affection and attention. And now .. we quote from the artistic creation. Because that’s what we do.
Liz Imbrie, photographer sent to cover a Philadelphia society wedding, and C.K. Dexter Haven, ex-husband of and still carrying a torch for the imminent bride, have been assembling facts that document the jerk-i-tude of Imbrie’s boss (Sidney Kidd) who holds some dirty laundry about the bride-to-be’s father. Liz works with and carries her own torch for Macaulay (Mike) Connor, writer, who has been having his own flirtation with the imminent bride Tracy Lord. Early the morning of the wedding, Liz and C.K. re-enter the Lord mansion.
Liz: Well, home after a hard day’s blackmailing. When are you going to telephone Kidd?
C.K.: In time to get him here for the wedding.
C.K.: A sort of wedding present, if it works.
Liz: If it works.
C.K.: I could still tear it up.
Liz: No. Mike’s only chance to ever become a really fine writer is to get fired.
C.K.: You’re a good number, Liz.
Liz: Oh, I just photograph well. I’m certainly out of focus now.
C.K.: Why don’t you take a swim?
Liz: A swim?
C.K.: Sure. Tracy and I always took a swim after a party.
Li: Did you?
Liz: Bet it was fun. I’ll have to try it with Mike sometime.
C.K.: Liz, why don’t you marry him?
Liz: You really want to know?
Liz: He’s still got a lot to learn. I don’t want to get in his way for a while.
C.K.: It’s risky though, Liz. Suppose another girl came along in the meantime?
Liz: I’d scratch her eyes out, I guess. That is, unless she was going to marry somebody else the next day.
Philadelphia Story (1940). Liz Imbrie and C.K. Dexter Haven
© Martha Wade Steketee (December 3, 2009)