The Play

(Survey of Dramatic Literature)

As the curtain rises on The Philadelphia Story, Tracy Lord is in the sitting room of her family’s country house near Philadelphia hurriedly writing last-minute thank-you notes as her mother, Margaret Lord, brings in more gifts. Tracy is to be married the following day. During the ensuing conversation, it becomes clear that it is Tracy’s second marriage, following an elopement ten months previously, which terminated in divorce. As the scene progresses, the possibility of scandal escalates. Tracy’s former husband, C. K. Dexter Haven, is in the vicinity. Furthermore, Dinah Lord has found the proof sheets of an article which a magazine called Destiny is about to publish concerning the involvement of her father, Seth Lord, with a dancer, an affair which so angered Tracy that she has refused to invite her own father to the wedding. When Sandy Lord enters, it transpires that, as a journalist himself, he has made a deal with Destiny: In return for killing the article about Seth, they will be permitted to print the inside story on Tracy’s wedding. Sandy has even arranged for a fake telegram from Seth, regretting that illness will prevent his coming to the ceremony.

Soon the delegation from Destiny arrives: Mike Connor, who immediately displays his democratic disapproval of Main Line society, and Liz Imbrie, who is clearly in love with Mike. Although Sandy and Margaret hope to win over their guests, Dinah and Tracy assume the roles of spoiled and brainless socialites. When her fiancé, George Kittredge, enters, Tracy gushes over him; later, in a fit of invention, she introduces her uncle as her father, and pretends to forget the name of C. K. Dexter Haven, her former husband. Just as lunch is announced, Seth arrives, and Tracy’s real fury about the journalistic invasion becomes clear. The family troubles are his fault, she indicates, and then suggests the complexity of the situation by addressing him by her uncle’s name.

As the second act begins, it is obvious to the audience that in the conflict between the socialites and the reporters, the socialites are ahead; the very fact that Liz and Mike can talk...

(The entire section is 885 words.)