Adam’s Rib (1949)

Poster - Adam's Rib (1949)_01Adam’s Rib
Directed by George Cukor
Written by Ruth Gordon and Garson Kanin
Repeat viewing/Amazon Instant
#228 of 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die


Kip Lurie: Lawyers should never marry other lawyers. This is called in-breeding; from this comes idiot children… and other lawyers.

This may be the best picture to recommend for anyone who wants to understand the magic that was Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn.  I am also very fond of the supporting performances.

Adam Bonner (Tracy) and his wife Amanda (Hepburn) are criminal trial attorneys.  He works for the prosecution and she for the defense.  He is assigned to prosecute dizzy housewife Doris Attinger (Judy Holliday) who shot at her husband (Tom Ewell) and his mistress (Jean Hagen) when she caught them together.  Amanda gets a bee in her bonnet about the double standard applied to women in these situations and determines to defend Doris.  At no time does anyone in the film point out the egregious conflict of interest that this entails on the part of both attorneys. Well, it’s a comedy so OK.

adam's ribThe film follows the Bonners at home and in court as they spar and exchange repartee about women’s rights and the law.  A bit of conflict is thrown in due to their neighbor Kip Lurie’s (David Wayne) interest in Amanda.  With Hope Emerson as a lady wrestler.


This is a funny film and features several tour de force performances.  I especially like Tracy’s crocodile tears and, of course, the scene on the massage table.  Holliday and Hagen make a delightful pair of ditzy broads.  I have an irrational fondness for Tom Ewell and he is perfect here as always.  A classic.

This marked Hagen’s film debut.

Adam’s Rib was nominated for an Oscar for Best Writing, Story and Screenplay.


4 thoughts on “Adam’s Rib (1949)

  1. Yes, this is a funny one and I agree this is the Hepburn and Tracy movie to watch.
    Hepburn always got to play the same kind of character, at least in the four of their movies I have seen: the headstrong, liberated woman and always the movie wants to put her in place so she can be a normal, if not submissive then at least bow to her husband. Apparently a strong woman was comic in those days. Adam’s Rib is less so than several of the others and somewhere beneath the comedy there are some pretty important points.

    • Agree. Here, Hepburn more or less retained her dignity to the end when she is still joking about running against him for a judgeship.

  2. One of my all-time favorites. If I had to make a top-ten list, ADAM’S RIB would be in the running. So many great lines, great moments. The Pete Smith trailer was wonderful. “I want a wife! Not a competitor! Competitor!” I may just have to watch it again soon!

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