Although they both had great movie careers outside of their collaboration, it is no secret that Katharine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy were best when they were paired together. They only made nine movies together, but each one is a unique gem that showcases their chemistry off-screen as well as on. My personal favorite, Adam’s Rib, gives each actor a level playing field and plenty of crackling dialogue to fire at each other. They could make the most mundane scene light up the screen with just their presence. Long story short: they are the best cinematic couple in history. While I acknowledge that nobody will ever be as amazing as Hepburn and Tracy, I must wonder: why is there no modern-day couple that is able to capture this type of chemistry? (AKA I want a new Katharine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy couple in my life…)
This small problem I have actually points to a larger problem in movies today. We are not getting any more romantic comedies. Yes, romantic comedies can be done very poorly, but when they are done right they can be some of the richest movie experiences. I can still remember the first time I watched many of the romantic comedies that are my favorites. I constantly go back and re watch them to revel in the romance and chemistry of the onscreen couple. Simply put I am a big fan of a romantic comedy. The problem of the genre hinges on the chemistry of the main couple. The story, cinematography and even dialogue can be dismissed if you feel the palpable attraction between the two leads. (Although the best romantic comedies have all four in spades) In our modern times, we think that having two hot bodies on-screen is enough to sell a picture. Thus they get an awful reputation that and studios start diverting their money towards more bona fide successes like superheroes. Which leads us to the terrible lack of romantic comedies.
One way to revitalize a flagging genre is to look at what worked in Classic Hollywood. I feel like borrowing from this era always produces the most fruitful results. Classic Hollywood had tons of practice with every kind of movie genre and were forced to get better in order to stay fresh and keep butts in seats. So different producers looked at a secret couple like Hepburn and Tracy and put them on-screen together time and time again to watch them fill the screen with their love for each other. A modern-day couple could do the same thing. Producers need to find an actor couple that are willing to work with each other and give them space to show what their relationship is about. Of course this needs to be backed with great dialogue and a structured story line in order to be truly great, but I think this can be pulled off. I think this strategy, if done right, can lead to some sweet and interesting romantic comedies. It will help revitalize the genre and give it some sort of right to existence. It wont be a cure-all to the many issues plaguing the stigma of romantic comedies today, but it will sure help.
If you want to study how a true couple interacts with each other, watch all nine Hepburn-Tracy collaborations. However I know that you don’t have all of the time in the world to watch movie like I do. So here are some of my favorites: Adam’s Rib, Desk Set, Woman of the Year, and Pat and Mike. All of these show the two great actors at their best.
If you have any suggestions on who would be the best new Hepburn and Tracy, please feel free to leave a comment below. All of the high-powered producers who read this blog (of which there are a million) will thank you for making their job easy.