“Eat the Rich.” —A Lot of People
I do not understand it when people say “eat the rich.”
I mean, I’m pretty sure that it’s not a literal endorsement of cannibalism. But it does seem like an endorsement of hating someone based solely on her current level of wealth, and that makes no sense to me at all.
If you have a problem with the fact that billionaires have an outsized influence on the laws and institutions of our society, I agree with you. If you want to use the power of the government to take money from the rich and redistribute it elsewhere, that sounds fairly reasonable. It’s not my cup of tea, but I respect your opinion.
But hating all rich people? Even if they were born that way? That’s as grimly absurd as hating all tall people. Or all pretty people. Or Bulgarians.
In 1939, Katharine Hepburn was an unpopular has-been. Moviegoers didn’t like her elitist background or WASPy accent. She had a string of box office failures and RKO Pictures was delighted to let Hepburn buy out her own contract.
Then, in a brilliant career-saving gambit, Ms. Hepburn sold the movie rights to “The Philadelphia Story” on the condition that she be cast as the leading lady.
She chose the perfect movie for her big comeback. “The Philadelphia Story” an immensely charming comedy. And it’s also a powerful defense of the wealthy elite and a condemnation of the haters who mindlessly attack them.
The plot is contrived. Intelligent but insecure Philadelphia socialite Tracy Lord (Hepburn) is about to be married for the second time to a plain-spoken industrialist.
Tracy’s sardonic ex-husband, C. K. Dexter Haven (Cary Grant), has decided to crash the wedding. And to add to the comedy chaos, he brought some reporters with him to secretly cover the wedding for the tabloids – including frustrated writer Mike Connor (Jimmy Stewart).
“The Philadelphia Story” is a breezy romantic comedy, but Mike is a seriously interesting character.
He gets deeply angry when his boss tells him to write a story about a society wedding. It would be nice if other tabloid journalists and paparazzi were as outraged about how idiotic and destructive their jobs are.
Mike is shocked to find how much he has in common with Tracy Lord. They talk literature together. They drink. They dance. They laugh.
Their scenes together are warm and romantic. They nearly fall in love. But every time Tracy is about to melt into Mike’s arms, he spoils the moment by spouting some snide anti-rich wisecrack. He can’t help himself. It’s like self-taught Tourettes.
One of the impressive aspects of “The Philadelphia Story” is that it effortlessly argues how wrong Mike is. He should not judge Tracy because she was born into an upper-class family. She’s an amazing person.
Katherine Hepburn is timelessly great as a smart, sophisticated, difficult rich woman. She shows us that patrician women have challenges, too.
Rich kids have the problem of fathers who have high expectations and no understanding or tolerance for mediocrity.
We the 99% have the freedom to marry for love alone without outside interference. For the upper class, marriage is a family affair with dramatic financial ramifications. Hepburn helps us feel her pressures, stresses, and complications.
“The Philadelphia Story” is a triumph: funny, engrossing, and surprising. And it’s a powerful condemnation of people who mindlessly attack the rich. Class hatred is always an ugly emotion.