I recently rented the 1949 movie Adam’s Rib, starring Spencer Tracy and Katherine Hepburn. I expected a classic romantic comedy, from a time when they knew how to make ’em. Instead, it was, well, truly bizarre.
The basic plot: Tracy and Hepburn are a married couple, and both are lawyers. They end up on opposite sides of a murder trial, with Hepburn defending a wife who shot her cheating husband to death, and Tracy trying to prosecute. Sounds like a recipe for a great movie, right?
Not right. First, the Tracy-Hepburn duo had no chemistry—in fact, their complete lack of chemistry almost seemed intentional, that’s how bad it was. I think the idea was that because they’re both tough, fast-talking lawyers, they show their affection toward each other by acting rude and talking really fast. Mixed in with the charmless hostility were also a lot of massages and crying jags, which just served to make everything more awkward.
Then there was the annoying neighbor. An obviously gay man to anyone alive today, the viewer in 1949 was supposed to believe that he is madly and completely openly in love with Hepburn’s character. He repeatedly professes his love for her in front of her husband, and at one point, even (very gayly) performs a love song that he wrote for her in their living room. I could sort of buy that he’s supposed to be a comical character, until he tries to rape Hepburn at the end of the movie.
The trial at the center of the plot was, of course, riveting in its utter lack of sense from either the prosecution or defense side. At one point, Hepburn calls a female weightlifting champion as a witness, and proceeds to instruct the woman to lift Tracy up in the air, in an attempt to prove that women can be just as strong as men. Which is to say, her client should get a fair trial.
As I hinted at above, things take a turn for the even weirder at the end of the movie. I won’t say anything more about it, except that it involves an edible gun.
Netflix asked me to rate this movie after I returned it, but I wouldn’t even know where to start. Its strangeness is near cult movie levels, so I encourage you to rent it if you’re into that kind of thing.