The Philadelphia Story is on TCM tomorrow (Sunday March 18) at 4PM. Seeing it listed brought back memories of a column I wrote a long time ago that now, in the age of #MeToo, seems relevant. Here’s what I wrote on January 27, 2002.
Something’s always bothered me about the opening scene of The Philadelphia Story, the 1940 flick starring Cary Grant, Katherine Hepburn and Jimmy Stewart.
The romantic comedy opens with Cary storming out the front door of his mansion. Kate, his soon-to-be ex-wife, is fast on his heels, carrying Cary’s golf clubs.
With a fierce look in her eyes, Kate pulls out a club and snaps it across her knee. With steam coming out of his ears, Cary approaches Kate, his left hand in a fist and poised to pop her one in the chops. At the last instant, he pulls back his fist and, with his right hand, grabs Kate by the face and flings her to the ground.
I know this is make believe, the movies and all, but it bothers me every time I see it. And Turner Classic Movies has been showing it a lot lately as part of a series of clips celebrating the history of the movies.
So, I decided to do something about it … and invited Alan Rubenstein, the feisty former Bucks County (PA) district attorney, and currently a feisty Bucks County judge, to watch The Philadelphia Story with me. Turns out Alan is a huge movie buff and a big Cary Grant fan. He even knew his real name: Archibald Leach.
Unfortunately for Cary/Archie, that’s not enough to get him off the hook with this
“That’s technically a simple assault,” Alan said after Cary threw Kate to the floor. “Today, Katherine Hepburn could immediately contact the police and say: ‘My husband, Cary Grant, assaulted me. I fear for my future safety.’ The police would advise her to immediately file for a PFA (protection from abuse order) and within 72 hours a hearing would be held.”
“Alan, if you were the judge and saw that video in your court, what would you rule?” I asked.
“I could, on the strength of that alone, grant a PFA. In the worst-case scenario, for Cary Grant, he would be excluded from the marital residence, would pay temporary support and for 18 months be prohibited from any contact. He could also be arrested for simple assault and prosecuted.”
“What if he had gone ahead and punched her with his left hand?”
“He could have been arrested on the spot, if she suffered some type of injury. The police could have been called and charged him with simple assault. The maximum sentence is one year.”
Alan continued: “There has been abuse between spouses since there were cave dwellers. It’s only been in the last 15 years that it has come to the forefront. Men routinely commit aggressive actions, acts of assault. And it’s not just men. In the past, the stigma was on the victim. Now, it’s appropriately on the ones committing the assaults.”
I know I’m 62 years late on the whole Cary/Kate incident, but hey, I didn’t have a column back in 1940. If I did, Cary would have been in big-time trouble.
OK, there you have it, my column from 16 years ago.