Adam’s Rib (1949)

Seventy-two years ago today, the film Adam’s Rib premiered. It’s great, but how could it not be with Cukor directing Tracy, Hepburn, and Holliday? Give yourself a little gift of watching this soon.

In 1992, the film was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant”.

Title: Adam’s Rib
Directed by: George Cukor
Written by: Ruth Gordon and Garson Kanin
Produced by: Lawrence Weingarten
Starring: Spencer Tracy as Adam Bonner, Katharine Hepburn as Amanda Bonner, Judy Holliday as Doris Attinger, Tom Ewell as Warren Attinger, David Wayne as Kip Lurie, Jean Hagen as Beryl Caighn, Hope Emerson as Olympia La Pere, Eve March as Grace, Clarence Kolb as Judge Reiser, Emerson Treacy as Jules Frikke, Polly Moran as Mrs. McGrath, Will Wright as Judge Marcasson, Elizabeth Flournoy as Dr. Margaret Brodeigh, Marvin Kaplan as court stenographer, Will Stanton as taxicab driver (uncredited), Ray Walker as photographer (uncredited)
Cinematography: George J. Folsey
Edited by: George Boemler
Music by: Miklós Rózsa
Production Company: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
Distributed by: Loew’s Inc.
Release Date: November 18, 1949
Running time: 101 minutes
Country: United States
Language: English
Budget: $1,728,000
Box office: $3,947,000

Doris Attinger follows her husband with a gun in Manhattan one day, suspecting he is having an affair with another woman. In her rage, she fires wildly and blindly around the room and at the couple multiple times. One of the bullets hits her husband in the shoulder. His lover escapes unscathed.

The following morning, the married New York lawyers Adam and Amanda Bonner read about the incident in the newspaper. Adam is an assistant district attorney, while Amanda is a solo-practicing defense attorney. They argue over the case. Amanda sympathizes with the woman, particularly noting the double standard that exists for men and women regarding adultery. Adam thinks Doris is guilty of attempted murder. When Adam arrives at work, he learns that he has been assigned to prosecute the case. When Amanda hears this, she seeks out Doris and becomes her defense lawyer.

Amanda bases her case on the belief that women and men are equal, and that Doris had been forced into the situation by her husband’s adultery and emotional abuse. Adam thinks Amanda is showing contempt for the law, since there should never be any excuse for such criminal behavior. Tension increasingly builds at home as the two battle each other in court. The situation comes to a head as Adam feels humiliated during the trial when Amanda encourages one of her witnesses, a woman weightlifter, to lift him overhead. Later at home that evening, Adam still angry, gives Amanda an ear full; he doesn’t want to be married to a liberated “new woman.” Having just packed his bags, he storms out of their apartment. When the verdict is returned, Amanda’s plea to the jury to “judge this case as you would if the sexes were reversed” proves successful, and Doris is acquitted.

That night, Adam, who has left their upper-floor apartment, looks through its window and sees the silhouettes of his wife Amanda and their neighbor Kip Lurie, a popular singer, songwriter and piano player who has shown a keen interest in Amanda all along, and repeatedly taunted Adam, as the two of them seem to be dancing and drinking together. Adam breaks into the apartment enraged, pointing a gun at the pair. Amanda is horrified and says to Adam, “You’ve no right to do this – nobody does!” Adam feels he has proven his point about the injustice of Amanda’s line of defense. He puts the gun in his mouth, as Amanda and Kip scream in terror. Then Adam bites a large piece off the gun and chews it. It is made of licorice. Amanda is furious with this prank and a three-way fight ensues.

Now in the midst of a divorce, Adam and Amanda reluctantly reunite for a meeting with their tax accountant. Going through their expenses for the year, they talk about their relationship in the past tense. They talk about the farm they own and recall burning the mortgage. Tears begin to roll down Adam’s cheeks. Astonished and touched, Amanda gently bundles her sobbing husband out of the office and to the farm. That night, while they are getting ready for bed — in an antique, curtained four poster — Adam announces that he has been selected as the Republican nominee for County Court Judge. Amanda perches on the edge of the bed and jokes about running for the post as the Democratic candidate. Adam replies, no she won’t, because then he would cry. He demonstrates how easily he can turn on the tears, remarking that men can do it too, they just don’t think to. Amanda says that just goes to show that there is no difference between the sexes…Well, maybe there is a little difference. “You know what the French say,” Adam declares ‘Vive la différence!’…’Hurray for that little difference!'” as he jumps onto the bed and closes the curtains.

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