November 19, 1949 [Adam's Rib]

Not since Chaplin ate his shoe in The Gold Rush has the inedible looked so satisfying: Spencer Tracy eats his pistol in Adam's Rib—and that is no euphemism: It's a licorice gun brandished in false jealous rage, Katharine Hepburn scared half to death—personal lives mirroring their professions: married lawyers on opposite sides of an attempted murder case—and no need to cherchez any femmes: she's right there, Judy Holliday as Hepburn's client, the uncaring husband the victim; and so Tracy is understandably disconcerted—enough to get what he wants any way he can, even if it involves candy.

There's a Thurber cartoon: Husband and wife in bedroom, husband sound asleep, pleasant smile on his face, sitting up, pointing his finger at his startled wife and saying those simple little words, "Bang! Bang! Bang!" Adam's Rib tells us (a) not to to be so surprised and (b) tit for tat. And while Hepburn's Amanda turns the courtroom into a literal circus, I'm not sure Tracy's Adam understands her—oh, he knows how to cry on cue, turning tables and so on. But there is something smug in Adam's certainty—and something heroic in Amanda's desperate maneuvers in the face of gum-drop gun-play.


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