It’s weird watching a movie like Adam’s Rib because it came out almost exactly 64 years ago and yet still manages to be less sexist than garbage like I Don’t Know How She Does It or pretty much any Tyler Perry movie. I think a lot of credit for that goes to the couples involved. Married couple Ruth Gordon (later she played Maude in Harold and Maude) and Garson Kanin wrote Adam’s Rib and unmarried but long-term partners Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn starred in it. There’s a lot of respect for Hepburn’s character, Amanda, and I believe much of that comes from the respect Kanin must have had for Gordon and Tracy for Hepburn, because that respect really comes out in the writing and the acting.
Obviously Katharine Hepburn was a huge badass, but I also love how Spencer Tracy really held his own here. Adam’s Rib is, on the surface, a quintessential “battle of the sexes” movie but it’s really about law and gender roles, and how those interact. Because so much of Adam’s Rib is about how women are treated, it takes a certain amount of subtlety and intelligence to play a man who is altogether empathetic, caring, and also trying to prove his wife wrong without making her a martyr.
Adam’s Rib is great because it’s way more than a romantic comedy. I think it’s what every romantic comedy tries to be, so so few are.
It definitely feels like we talk a lot about movies being sexist on this blog but I think that kind of just comes with watching a bunch of shitty movies. What’s crazy to me is the movie that most stands out in my mind as representing a realistic American couple, comes from a movie that came out in 1949.
The couple’s relationship in this movie is fantastic! They are both lawyers, and good at what they do. They both know how great each other is at the job, and they support each other. And the best part is that they enjoy each other’s company. I was a very skeptical about enjoying this movie before we started watching it but it’s one of the better movies we’ve seen in a while.