High Society (1956)
“A New High In The Movie Sky.”
High Society (1956)
Director: Charles Walters
Cast: Bing Crosby, Grace Kelly, Frank Sinatra
Synopsis: Jazz artist C.K. Dexter Haven is still hung up on his ex-wife and neighbor, socialite Tracy Samantha Lord , however Tracy is engaged to another man.
Back in the day, it wasn’t uncommon for Hollywood to throw together a pair of romantic leads whose comparative ages made them more suited for the parts of father and daughter, but the casting of Bing Crosby (Holiday Inn, Road to Bali) and Grace Kelly (Dial M for Murder, Rear Window) must surely be one of the most glaring mismatches from its era. Not only is Crosby too old for Kelly, he’s clearly miscast in the part of C. K. Dexter Haven, the former husband of wealthy young socialite Tracy Lord (Kelly), for whom he still openly carries a rather large torch. While it’s true that Crosby and Kelly had played a married couple in The Country Girl, the situation in that movie was such that, although their difference in ages was still a problem, it was never as apparent as it is in High Society.
The story takes place over a couple of days during which Tracy plans on marrying the worthy but dull George Kittredge (John Lund). Their wedding day just happens to coincide with a jazz festival which Dexter, a respected jazz singer, is staging at his home next door, thus enabling him to be present while the final preparations for the wedding are taking place. Two other unwelcome guests are society mag reporter Mike Connor (Frank Sinatra – The Devil at 4 O’Clock, Marriage on the Rocks) and his photographer, Liz Imbrie (Celeste Holm – All About Eve), whose editor has won them access to the wedding on the strength of the compromising information he has on Tracy’s estranged father (Sidney Blackmer – Little Caesar, Duel in the Sun) and his relationship with a dancing girl. Like George and Dexter, Mike quickly falls for Tracy’s charms and, when she drunkenly responds to his romantic overtures, has reason to believe that he might be the one to save Tracy from marrying the wrong man.
High Society is a remake of the 1941 classic The Philadelphia Story, in which the lead roles were taken by Katharine Hepburn, Cary Grant and James Stewart and, as with most remakes, it’s entirely unnecessary and inferior in every respect. Cole Porter’s numbers, which include such perennials as ‘Well, Did you Evah,’ ‘Who Wants to be a Millionaire,’ and the chart-topping ‘True Love,’ are fine, and even though Louis Armstrong is called upon to ramp up his delight at playin’ for dem dare white society folks a little too much for comfort, the picture only reaches any real heights when he’s on screen. Crosby’s trademark laidback delivery means Dexter doesn’t seem to care whether Tracy marries George or Mike or even Louis, and there’s not one solitary thing about him that could explain why Tracy ever married him in the first place. While Kelly proves she is a likeable light comedy actress, she finds it impossible to emerge from the shadow of Hepburn, and not for one moment does Frank Sinatra convince us that he’s the son of an English teacher from Ohio. At least he and Kelly do make a good-looking couple, and it’s impossible not to suspect that the film might have been a lot more successful if it was he instead of Bing who had played C. K. Dexter Haven.
(Reviewed 13th February 2002)
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