"Adam's Rib" looks a little dated, but is the perfect encapsulation of the values of the 1950s, and how those had to change. Adam (Tracy) is a loving, conservative prosecutor and husband; Amanda (Hepburn) is his lovely, wildly liberal defense attorney wife. Amanda is successful (prosecutors rarely make much money): Adam and Amanda's servants bring them breakfast in bed, and the couple read the newspaper together each morning, talk a bit, go to work, buy each other gifts, and throw black-tie dinner parties.
The driven, progressive wife makes her stodgy husband exasperated by what he seems to think is her contempt for the law. His wife follows her heart, using the law to help people. Among her clients is the wife of a couple from the other side of the tracks (Holliday). Her husband (Ewell) beats her, cheats on her, and neglects their three children. (An obvious but unstated irony is that the well-to-do, educated Adam and Amanda have no children, but the dysfunctional couple have three.)
One day, sick of her husband's philandering, the beleagured, abused wife buys a gun, and, catching her husband cheating on her at a hotel, empties her six-shooter into his room. Luckily, she only wings him. Now, the philosophically-polarized attorney couple will litigate, each taking the side of one spouse.
Amanda believes that the prevailing double standard of monogamy - for women only - suggests that if the husband had done the shooting, he would've been said to be "protecting his home and family"; certainly no such view holds for a wife of the time. Decades ahead of the second wave of feminism, the movie was, and remains, highly progressive. Amanda's pluck made her assume women were men's equals, and her outlook very nearly made it so. (It's one happy bit of history that Hollywood was never able to defeat Katharine Hepburn the way it did her free-thinking colleague, Frances Farmer.)
"Adam's Rib" is still funny and entertaining, however, and takes the right side of the issues. As Adam, Spencer Tracy does great flabbergasted double-takes several times in this charming movie written by husband-wife team Ruth Gordon and Garson Kanin. At the climax of the film, Adam angrily walks out of the courtroom after a female-weight lifter whom Amanda has hired to prove her point that women are as good as men at many things easily lifts him over her head.
Ruth Gordon and Garson Kanin
Spencer Tracy, Katharine Hepburn, Judy Holliday, Tom Ewell, Jean Hagen, and David Wayne
Adam's Rib; battle of the sexes; Hepburn and Tracy; lawyers
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