The Philadelphia Story appears in an aspect ratio of 1.37:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. The transfer worked very well, especially given the movie’s age.
Sharpness worked well overall. A few interiors could seem a smidgen soft, but the majority of the film appeared well-defined and accurate.
Jagged edges and moiré effects caused no problems. Edge haloes remained absent, and with a layer of fine grain, I suspected no issues with digital noise reduction.
Black levels seemed nicely deep and dark, and contrast was appropriately displayed. The movie showed a good silvery look, and shadow detail was also concise and developed.
Source flaws failed to become an issue. The transfer eliminated those defects and left this as a clean presentation. I felt very happy with this appealing transfer.
As for the film’s PCM monaural soundtrack, it replicated the original material with positive quality. Dialogue seemed fine for its era, and was relatively crisp and well-defined with no signs of edginess or problems related to intelligibility.
The movie featured a fairly spare score, but when we heard music, it was acceptably broad and clear. The material presented little low end but the dynamics were fine for a track of this vintage.
Though effects were similarly dated, they seemed adequately clean and realistic, and no aspects of the mix displayed signs of distortion. Background noise failed to become an issue. All in all, the audio worked fine for its age.
How did this Criterion Blu-ray compare with those of the 2005 DVD? Audio seemed clearer and a little smoother, while visuals appeared tighter, cleaner and richer. While the old DVD fared pretty well, the Blu-ray easily topped it.
The Criterion set mixes old and new extras, and we start with an audio commentary from film historian Jeannine Basinger. From 2004, she presents a running, screen-specific discussion that gets into the film’s roots as a stage production, its success in that format, and changes made for the movie.
Basinger also offers succinct looks at the lives and work of many significant cast and crewmembers along with various production details and particulars of the filmmakers’ styles. Basinger keeps up a good pace as she tosses out useful comments from start to finish. This is a strong track that deepens our understanding of the flick.
A new documentary, In Search of Tracy Lord runs 22 minutes, nine seconds and offers notes from playwright Philip Barry’s granddaughter Miranda, author Donald Anderson, and Edgar and Hope Scott’s granddaughter Janny.
“Search” discusses the life and career of Philip Barry as well as elements related to Philadelphia Story. It becomes a fairly involving program.
During the 18-minute, 53-second A Katharine Hepburn Production, we hear from filmmakers David Heeley and Koan Kramer. They offer an overview of Hepburn’s career and turn this into an efficient program.
Next we find three episodes of The Dick Cavett Show. The first two focus on Hepburn; from October 1973, they last 1:08:53 and 1:08:59, respectively. Shot in May 1978, a third broadcast features George Cukor (15:02).
That’s a whole lotta Kate, and the Hepburn episodes provide a wealth of information. Despite Hepburn’s reticence to do TV interviews, she proves chatty and engaging, so these programs add a lot to this release.
The much shorter Cukor reel seems less valuable, but it still becomes a nice addition. The filmmaker delivers a good collection of memories – enough that I wish the show lasted longer.
After this we find a June 14, 1943 broadcast of Lux Radio Theatre. Hosted by Cecil B. DeMille, it goes for 59 minutes, 26 seconds and features Loretta Young, Robert Taylor and Robert Young as our three leads.
While that’s a talented cast, they don’t really fit the parts. Hepburn, Stewart and Grant captured the roles so well that it becomes difficult to hear others play the characters.
The radio actors also lack the light tone necessary for this project, so the production feels more dramatic than it should. This becomes a fun curiosity but it’s not a great listen.
In addition to the film’s trailer, we find a Restoration Demonstration. In this six-minute, 25-second, we hear from Criterion technical director Lee Kline and restoration artist Alyson D’Lando. Clips like this can be self-congratulatory, but this one offers some good information.
Finally, the package rounds out with a Booklet. It includes photos, credits and an essay by critic Farran Smith Nehme. The booklet finishes the set well.
Note that the 2005 SE DVD includes a lot of components that don’t reappear here. While we get the DVD’s audio commentary, we lose documentaries about Hepburn and Cukor as well as two other radio adaptations. While the new extras are good, it’s a shame the Blu-ray doesn’t become “one-stop shopping” for all released bonus materials.
Much of The Philadelphia Story still seems fresh and energetic. The movie has some period flaws, but it benefits from excellent acting by a terrific cast. The Blu-ray offers very good picture, era-appropriate audio and a nice roster of supplements. Given the high quality of the movie presentation, this becomes the best version of Story to date.
To rate this film visit the SE review of THE PHILADELPHIA STORY