Adam’s Rib: Hers & His Perspectives
For the seventh installment in our 2023 Classic Couple Movie Challenge, we offer our take on Adam’s Rib (1949).
The scenes at home between Katharine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy, those signaled with intertitles like “that evening,” are my favorites in Adam’s Rib. The intimacy of the couple—as they have breakfast in bed, greet each other after their workdays, entertain guests, make dinner, and even give each other massages—is on full display, made all the more convincing by Hepburn and Tracy’s personal relationship, started seven years prior. These two are incredibly convincing as a married couple with glimmers of their true affection for one another evident in their performances. Even while bickering, they both display the torment of what it’s like to fight with someone you love.
Adam’s Rib, with its portrayal of a working couple who are both devoted to their careers, feels very modern almost 75 years later. Juggling work challenges with domestic life might even be more relatable today with this being the reality of so many couples. The challenges these two face balancing their private life together at home with their professional lives at work—brought to the screen by two very fine actors as a couple themselves—resonates.
The dynamics of the court case stand out for me in the film. When Katharine Hepburn’s character throws out Juror #1 after Spencer Tracy’s character accepts him, it’s absolutely clear where the debate is headed. This seemingly well-matched married couple is getting ready to battle it out in the courtroom, bringing their differences to light in a very public way. That brief moment sets the stage for what’s to come and how the opposing points of view in the court case are primed to infiltrate the happy marriage of this couple. You immediately get the sense that neither of these lawyers is going to soften their positions, despite their deep affection for one another. To me, this is the setup scene for the conflict to come.