High Society (1956)

“Just take that scenery floating by, we’re now approaching Newport, Rhode I..”

This song by Louis Armstrong opens High Society, the musical adaptation of The Philadelphia Story. This is one movie loved by every single one of my whole family. Usually it’s just me who’s into classic Hollywood, but everyone in my family knows and loves High Society.

Maybe this is why it’s the first classic movie I remember seeing on TV. My family watched the video a lot when I was a kid, and I vividly remember the scene between Frank Sinatra and Grace Kelly in the bar, where he sings “You’re Sensational” to her.  It’s pretty ironic because that’s my least favorite scene in the movie.

High Society also stars Bing Crosby. It’s the story of an heiress (Kelly) who’s about to get married, but her ex-husband (Crosby) is still in love with her, and he happens to be her next-door neighbor. A couple of reporters (Sinatra and Celeste Holm) are assigned to cover the wedding, and complications arise when Sinatra and Kelly get flirtatious. But things are eventually resolved, naturally. And it all happens in one day! I do love movies that happen in a day.

The highlights of the film are obviously the musical numbers: “Who Wants To Be A Millionaire” (did they base the game show on this song?):

“Now You Has Jazz”;

and the most fun number of all – “Well Did You Evah”,  a duet between Crosby and Sinatra. Seriously, if you haven’t seen it yet, you have to check it out.

Sinatra nearly loses it at one point and almost laughs out loud with champagne in his mouth, and you can just see how he barely keeps it together.

I remember as a child when I saw this movie, I didn’t understand what was going on, but I knew Grace Kelly as a princess and I thought she always was, so I guess I thought she was a princess here too. Her dress in her engagement party was and still is my ultimate dream dress – that lacy, ethereal gown was just gorgeous. Also her wedding dress. Oh, and that dress she wore when she first met the reporters. So basically her whole wardrobe.

The Philadelphia Story is totally different, even though High Society copies some dialogue word for word. The two movies are separate entities, and you can enjoy both on their own merits. I mean, on the one hand you have Cary Grant, Katharine Hepburn and James Stewart, and here you have Crosby, Sinatra and Kelly. It’s win-win, really. High Society is like the champagne of movies. Frothy, light, but delicious!