, released in 1949, was one of the on-screen peaks for the matchless pairing of Katharine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy. George Cukor's instinctively light touch on the director's tiller, the wittiest of Garson Kanin scripts and apparently effortless acting from the stars, merge for 100 minutes of sophisticated comic perfection.
It's tempting to think that, as the sparring husband and wife lawyers, Hepburn and Tracy drew on aspects of their now legendary real-life love affair. Screen chemistry alone can't account for the endless nuances, sidelong looks and timing which make Adam's Rib such a delight. There's also a generosity to their fellow actors that few major stars, then or now, would be confident enough to indulge in. Judy Holliday, playing the wife accused of shooting her philandering husband, had still not secured the lead in the film of her Broadway hit, Born Yesterday. Aware that anything else would have been a travesty, Hepburn as her defence lawyer ensured that Holliday was favoured in their scenes together and she duly got the part.
In all the best ways, Adam's Rib is a quick-fire battle-of-the-sexes comedy, with Hepburn's brittle feminism striking sparks off Tracy's bemused chauvinism. The verdict might be a victory for Hepburn, but the real winner is an underlying love and respect which made this partnership one of the all time greats.
On the DVD: Adam's Rib is presented in standard 4:3 format from a decent print, with a picture quality and mono soundtrack to please anyone who knows the film primarily from TV matinees. The lack of extras, apart from a scene index, is disappointing for a film of this stature. --Piers Ford
Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn team up once more as a married couple finding themselves on opposite sides of a court case. District Attorney Adam Bonner (Tracy) is intent on prosecuting 'dumb blonde' Doris Attinger (Judy Holliday) for attempting to shoot her husband's lover. Her lawyer (Hepburn), also Adam's wife, is equally determined to defend her client. A battle of the sexes, in and out of the courtroom, ensues.