Bing Crosby. Grace Kelly. Frank Sinatra. Louis Armstrong. Cole Porter.
That’s a list of heavy-hitters and when their talents were all applied to a musical adaptation of The Philadelphia Story, the result was the 1956 home run High Society. Crosby stars as C. K. Dexter Haven, divorced from Tracy Samantha Lord (Kelly), but certainly not over her. It is no coincidence that Dexter has scheduled a jazz festival for the same weekend as Tracy’s marriage to the milquetoast George Kittredge (John Lund). Sinatra and Celeste Holm are two gossip magazine journalists whose editor has strong-armed an invitation for them to cover the wedding for the magazine. All of the songs are from Porter’s songbook, while Armstrong serves as a friend and confident to Dexter and Greek Chorus for the audience. Needless to say, complications ensue and while it’s no surprise as to whom will wind up with whom by the final fade to black, it makes for a rather pleasant trip.
The film is noteworthy in that it is the capstone to Kelly’s rather short, six year Hollywood career. After initially meeting Prince Rainier III of Monaco in April 1955, the two became engaged when the prince visited America the following December. Filmed in the early months of 1956, High Society would become Kelly’s last film. (The engagement ring her character sports in the film is the one that Rainier gave Kelly.) The two were married on April 18, 1956 and High Society was released by studio MGM a few months later on July 17.
For my money, the musical highpoint of the film is the Sinatra-Crosby duet “Well Did You Evah?” Amazingly, the song was not originally intended to be in the film. Sinatra had signed on to the movie reportedly anxious to work with his boyhood hero Crosby. When it was realized that there was no duet between the crooners in the script, Porter’s works were quickly combed over for a song for them that would fit the film.
But the film’s love story is best summed up in the lovely “True Love,” as sang by Crosby in the clip below.
High Societyis available for purchase on DVD.
(And the fact that “True Love” was my parent’s wedding song and that they are celebrating their 50th anniversary of wedded bliss has nothing to do with the song and film being the subject of this week’s Friday Flashback. Well… Maybe a little.)