This is the second film by George Cukor we’ve shown in this series. The other one was Born Yesterday. There’ll be two more among the Cary Grant comedies we’ll be showing next year, so maybe now’s the time to say something about him. Cukor was a versatile, talented and prolific director, born in New York in 1899. He came to Hollywood in 1929 after a career on Broadway, and directed his first film in 1931. He worked at Paramount, RKO and MGM, and began to build a reputation as an actor’s director, more specifically, an actress’s director. The performances that the young Katharine Hepburn gave under his direction, specifically in A Bill of Divorcement and Little Women, were the start of this reputation. A list of his best known films would include Camille (1937) with Greta Garbo, Holiday (1938) with Hepburn and Cary Grant, The Philadelphia Story (1941) with Hepburn, Grant and James Stewart, Gaslight (1944) with Ingrid Bergman, and Adam’s Rib (1949) with Hepburn and Spencer Tracy. Cukor was a gay man, in a less than tolerant time, and he kept on top of a fiercely competitive profession for decades. Hepburn and Tracy had an on-again, off-again romantic relationship that the couple kept quiet because Tracy was married to another woman. For part of that time the pair stayed in one of three houses on Cukor’s estate.
Pat and Mike was written by the husband and wife team of Garson Kanin and Ruth Gordon, who had written Adam’s Rib for the Hepburn-Tracy team three years before. It is said that Kanin and Gordon got the idea for the film when they saw what an exceptional athlete Katharine Hepburn was. Note the golf scenes to see that for yourself. This is the seventh of the nine films Hepburn and Tracy would make together, and reportedly Katharine Hepburn’s favorite among them all. It was produced from January to March, 1952 and released the following June. Kanin and Gordon were nominated for a best writing Oscar for their original story and for the screenplay.
Bosley Crowther wrote, in the New York Times of June 19, 1952, “It is a likable fable about a highly coordinated dame who moves in upon and takes over a positive, authoritative guy, with slight overtones of honor triumphing over shadiness and greed.” In minor roles you will see Chuck Connors, who was to star on TV’s Rifleman; Jim Backus, who was to play the millionaire on Gilligan’s Island; and the later superstar of vigilante, detective and hitman sagas, Charles Bronson, under his original name, Charles Buchinski. Crowther urged his readers “not to be too analytic about the likelihood of the yarn or the tightness of the script”. The Hepburn and Tracy magic gives you an idea of what a good Hollywood comedy was expected to be like in the summer of 1952. I hope you enjoy that magic and that comedy tonight.