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Originally titled “Man and Wife” and “Love is Legal”, Adam’s Rib was the sixth film that teamed Katharine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy together. It was a big success for MGM, making more than five million dollars.
The team also repaired Hepburn and one of her favorite directors George Cukor, known for being a “woman’s” director because of his success in female-led stories.
“George Cukor was really my best friend in California. We made many pictures together – always happily. Must have had the same set of standards. We both adored the business—we loved to work – we admired each other,” Hepburn said.
1. Ruth Gordon helped write the screenplay.
Gordon, best known for her performances in Rosemary’s Baby and Harold and Maude, was one of the films co-writers along with her husband Garson Kanin. The duo wrote four films together including two Tracy-Hepburn vehicles, Adam’s Rib and Pat and Mike. When writing, they often began with long conversations, after which Kanin would write everything down and Gordon would either extensively edit or add entirely new scenes.
2. It was a big movie for Judy Holliday.
Holliday made a splash on Broadway in the acclaimed play Born Yesterday, written by Garson Kanin. However, as Columbia Pictures prepared to adapt it for the screen, they were considering Rita Hayworth for the lead, since Holliday was an unknown. So director George Cukor and Katharine Hepburn came up with an idea to help the actress get her role. During the questioning scene, the camera focused on Holliday in one long take, showing off her dramatic chops on screen – a sort of screen test. Hepburn said, “Everybody knew what I looked like. This way he could ‘present’ Judy, the way [Cukor] had presented me in A Bill of Divorcement.” The scene convinced the studio, and Holliday went on to win an Oscar for her performance in Born Yesterday.
3. Spencer disliked his stunt.
In the film, Katharine Hepburn sets out to prove that men and women can be equal in everything – and pranks her husband by having a strong woman lift him into the air. The actual stunt used wires, so actress Hope Emerson didn’t actually have to hoist Tracy. Rather, all she had to do was steady him by holding his foot and buttocks. Nevertheless, Tracy was very uncomfortable and at one point, said, “What are you doing down there?” Emerson, of course, blushed since she was touching his tush for the stunt.
4. Frank Sinatra sings a song.
The film originally had a different song that Hepburn wasn’t fond us. So she asked Cole Porter to write a song. He agreed on the condition that her character’s name be changed from Madeline to Amanda – which was easier to rhyme. Porter then wrote “Farewell, Amanda” which Frank Sinatra lent his voice to. Only a small portion of the song is heard in the film, and the entire song's master has reportedly been lost.