Spousal Ribbing Turns Meaty
The timeless battle of the sexes, recently shown in “Mr. & Mrs. Smith,” is at the heart of this 1949 comedy. This time the battlefield is mainly fought in the court room. The controversial case is about a scorned wife who shoots his husband in the middle of an affair. He survives, thanks to the wife’s poor aim, but she is being tried for attempted murder. District Attorney Adam Bonner (Spencer Tracy) is reluctant to take the case while his lawyer wife Amanda (Katherine Hepburn) is compelled to defend the wife for the cause of sex equality. She argues that if the wife was a man, her reasons for shooting would be justified. Ding-ding. Let the battle begin.
This movie contains that blended brand of Tracy-Hepburn chemistry. She’s fiery like a fighter and he’s fighting frustration. You can sense that despite their differences, they’re awfully sweet to each other. The camera even lingers longer than it should, because their company is infectious. When the case turns into a relationship rift, they fail to handle their dispute in a mature way. The comedy lies in their puerile squabbling that turns the proceedings into a form of entertainment. The movie is good when it remains neutral but by the end, I sensed a bit of apathy that would have been politically incorrect these days. Maybe it was the right attitude at the time. Maybe the movie is smart not to take it too seriously. Nevertheless, the movie does what it sets to accomplish, even it is predictable by today’s standards. But who these days come close to the Tracy-Hepburn standard anyways?