‘Adam’s Rib’ (1949) Review

When Doris Attinger, a fed-up housewife, shoots her philandering husband Warren, he hires attorney Adam Bonner to represent him in court. Adam’s wife, Amanda, also an attorney, believes that Doris’s actions would have been treated differently had she been a man finding his wife with another man, so she decides to represent Doris against Adam’s wishes. This creates quarrels not only in the courtroom but also in the bedroom!

One of nine movies that Katharine Hepburn and real-life paramour Spencer Tracy starred in together, Adam’s Rib is arguably their most popular film among cinephiles. Having seen and loved Woman of the Year in March, I was eager to watch more of the Hepburn-Tracy collaborations. Adam’s Rib did not disappoint. The two leads are as engaging and entertaining in this film as they were in Woman of the Year.

Katharine Hepburn is feisty as feminist Amanda, eager to prove in court just how double standards work for men and women. There is truly something captivating about Hepburn. She commands the screen in such a way that you rarely see anymore in modern movies. I will admit that I’ve not seen Spencer Tracy in anything else but for this and Woman of the Year, but he plays an exasperated husband in both, and he does it really well. He and Hepburn have an insane amount of chemistry, making this battle of the sexes so much fun to watch.

I loved Judy Holliday in It Should Happen to You, and I believe this was one of her first major roles. She makes the somewhat dimwitted Doris sympathetic and likable, not to mention funny as hell. I read Holliday was reluctant to play Doris but was convinced by Hepburn and screenwriter Garson Kanin to take the role. It’s a good thing she did, because her performance as Doris helped her land the role of Billie Dawn in Born Yesterday, which earned Holliday an Academy Award for Best Actress.

The courtroom scenes held plenty of humor as Amanda took Adam’s client and Doris’s husband to task for his behavior. She brings in plenty of scorned women as witnesses, and it seems like she’s attempting to win this case for all womankind than just Doris. Poor Adam doesn’t care much about any of that – he just wants people to understand and obey the law, and shooting someone is against the law, simple as that. But who will the jury respond to the most? It’s a verdict that carries much more weight than just whether Doris’s actions are justified.

Adam’s Rib has a sophisticated, witty script that brings lots of laughs. It does get a bit weird there at the end and starts to tip over into being more of a drama than a rom-com, but that’s okay. It ultimately pulls itself back from the edge and rights itself. I liked this movie quite a bit, and I think that’s mainly because of Katharine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy. I’m eager to watch more of their collaborations to see how they match up with Adam’s Rib and Woman of the Year. The AFI listed This movie as the #7 romantic comedy of all time. I’m not sure if I agree with that, but it’s definitely up there as one of the best.

Author: Romona Comet

"I'm probably watching a rom-com right now."