Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Charles Walters|
|Produced by||Sol C. Siegel|
|Written by||Philip Barry (play)
|Music by||Cole Porter|
|Editing by||Ralph E. Winters|
|Release date(s)||July 17, 1956|
|Running time||111 minutes|
High Society (1956) is musical film made by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer in VistaVision and Technicolor with music and lyrics by Cole Porter. It was directed by Charles Walters and produced by Sol C. Siegel from a screenplay by John Patrick, based on the play The Philadelphia Story by Philip Barry. The cinematography was by Paul Vogel, the art direction by Cedric Gibbons and Hans Peters and the costume design by Helen Rose.
The successful jazz musician C.K. Dexter Haven (Bing Crosby) is divorced from wealthy Newport, Rhode Island socialite Tracy Samantha Lord (Grace Kelly), but remains in love with her. She, however, is about to get married to a bland gentleman of good standing, George Kittredge (John Lund).
Spy Magazine, in possession of embarrassing information about Tracy's father, is permitted to send a reporter (Frank Sinatra) and a photographer (Celeste Holm) to cover the nuptials. Tracy begins an elaborate charade as a private means of revenge, pretending that her Uncle Willy (Louis Calhern) is her father (Sidney Blackmer) and vice versa.
The reporter, Mike Connor, falls in love with Tracy. She must choose between three very different men in a course of self-discovery.
The film stars Bing Crosby, Grace Kelly, Frank Sinatra, Celeste Holm, John Lund, Louis Calhern, Sidney Blackmer, Margalo Gillmore and Lydia Reed, along with Louis Armstrong as himself. Musicians appearing as part of Armstrong's band included: Edmond Hall (clarinet), Trummy Young (trombone), Billy Kyle (piano), Arvell Shaw (bass), and Barrett Deems (drums).
High Society marked the final acting role for Grace Kelly before she became Princess of Monaco, released three months after her marriage to Prince Rainier III. Sinatra was 40 and Crosby 53 while playing the love interests of Kelly, who was only 26 during the filming. She was actually the second consideration for the part of Tracy Lord, the original choice, Elizabeth Taylor, being unable to commit.
High Society would mark the first on-screen pairing of Sinatra and Crosby, two of the most popular entertainers of the 1940s and 1950s. This was the second time that Crosby and Kelly acted together, the first being The Country Girl (for which Kelly won an Academy Award) in 1954. They would work together again in the Sinatra-produced Robin and the 7 Hoods in 1964.
The score is interesting in a number of respects. It was Porter's first new film score for over ten years and introduced a couple of pop standards, including True Love and You're Sensational. Not only did Sinatra and Crosby collaborate for the first time, but behind the scenes two master orchestrators -- Conrad Salinger and Nelson Riddle -- melded their distinctive arrangements under the baton of Johnny Green. Armstrong and his band get a couple of standout moments and Kelly makes an impressive singing debut.
A long playing record of the soundtrack songs was released the same year and was a major success in both America and Great Britain. It has been said that one of the main reasons star Frank Sinatra was drawn to the film was a mock-tipsy duet with his boyhood idol Bing Crosby on Well, Did You Evah!, a song added at the last minute when it was noted that the two singers didn't have a duet to perform in the film. Culturally, the song Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? has gained new significance as the source of the title of the popular gameshow. I Love You, Samantha has also become a jazz favorite for improvisations.
Opening on July 17th, 1956, High Society garnered good reviews despite often being compared as a lesser offering to the film on which it was based, The Philadelphia Story. Variety noted: "Fortified with a strong Cole Porter score, film is a pleasant romp for cast toppers Bing Crosby, Grace Kelly and Frank Sinatra. Their impact is almost equally consistent. Although Sinatra has the top pop tune opportunities, the crooner makes his specialties stand up and out on showmanship and delivery, and Kelly impresses as a femme lead."
At the North American box office, High Society was a glowing success. One of the 10 highest grossing films of 1956, a gross of over $13 million would recoup $5.8 million in rentals.
More than forty years after the original movie was released, it was adapted for the stage as a Broadway musical with several Porter songs from other sources added to the score. The Broadway production opened on April 27, 1998 at the St. James Theatre, where it ran for 144 performances.