1001 Movies – Adam’s Rib (1949)

adams ribDomestic and professional tensions mount when a husband and wife work as opposing lawyers in a case involving a woman who shot her husband.

Brief Thought:

Before: I wasn’t planning on watching this one but I couldn’t find an English translation of L’adventura so I went for the next one on this list instead. I know even less about this film than I normally do. In a weird quirk of fate it was written by Ruth Gordon who was the subject of last week’s film

After: This is another one I really enjoyed and can see why it was on the list. I’m not sure it’s the ‘funniest picture in 10 years’, it made me smile but not laugh out loud.

Idea

I really enjoy watching old films about current topics, Ace in the Hole about fake news as an example that springs to mind. This is one showing that the fight for gender equality has been going over the same points for decades and that even though things are better we aren’t there yet. Amanda is using the same arguments in court defending Doris Attinger that are being used now. If you would hold a man to this standard why are you not holding a woman to the same standard. If it’s understandable for a man to do it why is it not a okay for a woman to do it? From the poster I expected this film to be much funnier, it didn’t feel like much of a comedy but that could just before because time and humour has moved on and it’s too subtle.

The central conceit of this film is feminism and how everyone is equal under the law. Adam and Amanda both agree that men and women are equal but they are coming at it from different angles. Adam says that means that no one should be able to get away with anything. Whilst Amanda agrees in theory she knows that in practice that’s not the case. There are two options available, you either bring men down to the same level and harshness as women, or you bring women up and allow them to get away with the stuff that men get away with. I loved the way this film explored both sides of the argument, Amanda’s whole argument isn’t that what Doris did was right it’s that a man would be allowed to get away with it as a crime of passion as no one was seriously hurt.

I really enjoyed the way they both start off finding it really cute/hot that they are on other sides of the courtroom. They are so clearly flirting with each other, to the point of ‘dropping’ a pen on the floor so they can look under the table at each other. When they go back home after the first day in court they jump each other. But as the trial goes on and Amanda goes more and more on the attack Adam can’t help but take it personally. Especially as he knows that his wife agrees with him that all of them should be equal under the law and should be held to account.
As the story continues it takes domestics to a whole new level. A domestic with two lawyers is always going to in interesting even more so when you have a stenographer writing down everything you are saying for the record. When Adam ends up getting angry and using his pet name and then has to spell it out, it’s beautifully cringy.

Plot

I’m really enjoying these classic films with simple plots to allow for more character focused story lines. This one can be summed up a couple of lines:
– When a woman discovers her husband is having an affair she goes over there and shoots at the pair of them.
– A husband and wife lawyer couple both find out and end up taking different legal sides to the point where she is defending and he is the prosecution
– What starts as gentle angry flirting in court turns to real anger as they can’t keep their personal feeling separate
– Court case is over and potentially their marriage.

It’s worth knowing that their neighbour is a musician who fancies Amanda but that’s more of a side-plot than anything and I don’t think the film would be lacking if he didn’t exist.

Characters

Amanda is such an amazing force of a character, a feminist role model and I love her. For a start she’s a female lawyer in the 40s, something that was bound to be difficult enough. But she doesn’t try to be a man and fit in, she picks cases and people to defend that would normally be seen as impossible based on her belief in equality. She turns what looks to be an open and shut case into a full circus (almost literally with an acrobat/strong woman coming in) and uses it as a stage to help defeat the patriarchy. There’s no making allowances and dismisses potential members of the jury because of their sexist beliefs. she stands for no bullshit and as I previously mentioned – I love her. She’s completely in love with Adam but refuses to let that bias get in the way of her case and will do anything possible to bring him down in court.

Adam is very firm in his beliefs, he believes in equality for all and in the law above everything. He’s strong throughout the film and determined to show that equality should mean the same tough standards across the board.
He’s also clearly in love with his wife and knows how to play her; pointing out that it’s not just women who can turn on the waterworks to win an argument. It was really interesting to see how he didn’t feel attacked or concerned about his wife being a lawyer, instead he finds it a turn on. Court and arguments are foreplay to the pair of them and there’s no sense of him wishing that she was like other traditional women of the time.
(Side note: It was nice seeing Spencer Tracey again, two weeks ago I had only vaguely heard of his name and now I like him both roles I’ve seen him in.)

Music

There’s not much music in this film, or at least not that I noticed. There is one song that their neighbour writes for Amanda that is repeated a couple of times.

Awards

Oscar: NOMINEE – Best Writing, Story and Screenplay (Ruth Gordon & Garson Kanin)
Golden Globes: NOMINEE – Best supporting actress (Judy Holliday)

Did I enjoy it? Yes
Am I glad I watched it? Yes
Would I watch again? Maybe. Probably.
Would I have watched it if not for this challenge? Definitely not and I nearly didn’t watch it for the challenge which would have been a pity. It makes me think about how many other films I’d really enjoy on this list that I’m missing because of my every other film rule. But I don’t quite have the energy to commit to a 20 year project right now.

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