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One of the typically smart, lively pairings of legendary screen couple SpencerTracy and Katharine Hepburn, 1952's Pat and Mike also united the uniquewriting talents of another romantic team, Garson Kanin and Ruth Gordon.
Husband and wife screenwriters Kanin and Gordon wrote Pat and Mikespecifically for their actor friends, tailoring the script to the streak ofdevilish humor lurking beneath Tracy's solid, consummately male persona andtaking advantage of Hepburn's natural athletic abilities as a superior golferand one of the best tennis players in Hollywood. In addition to its twocharismatic leads, Pat and Mike also featured cameos by a number ofsports stars, from L.A. Angels player Chuck Connors, making his film debut, tolady athletes Helen Dettweiler, Betty Hicks, Babe Didrikson Zaharias and AliceMarble whose presence at times invests the film with an almost documentary-realism.
Hepburn stars as Pat Pemberton, an accomplished athleteand Phys Ed instructor who excels at tennis, golf, archery and just aboutevery other sport, but whose smothering, controlling fiance, collegeadministrator Collier Weld (William Ching), is undermining her ability to win.
When Pat meets a shady, blue collar New York sports promoter, Mike Conovan,who agrees to manage her professional tennis and golf career, Pat's luckappears to change for the better. This odd couple develops a mutual affectionas they travel to each of Pat's tournaments, and nurture a winning streak onlyjeopardized by the reappearance of Collier with his ability to instantly jinxPat's game.
The combination of Tracy's gruff, working-class demeanor and Hepburn'sladylike, patrician bearing provides Pat and Mike with some of its bestcomic moments, as when Mike, watching Pat walk across a golf course green,remarks to his partner in a thick Brooklyn accent, "There's not much meat on'er, but what there is is cherce." Such earthy humor endeared Pat andMike to both critics and audiences and undoubtedly helped win Kanin andGordon an Academy Award nomination. Kanin and Gordon's witty script also tookgreat advantage of the cozy, intimate rapport between Hepburn and Tracy whowere an off-screen couple as well, and played upon the apparently mismatchedbut sizzling chemistry between the two lovers.
Pat and Mike was the seventh film out of nine that Hepburn and Tracy made together and the second film scripted by Kanin and Gordon after Adam's Rib (1949),in which bickering husband and wife lawyers are stuck on opposite ends of a legal dispute. As with Adam's Rib, Pat and Mike is an honest,amusing account of the battle between the sexes, but also a celebration ofmale-female chemistry made all the more exciting when the romantic leads arealso equals, a specialty of the Kanin-Gordon writing style.
Pat and Mike's director George Cukor, considered an "actor's director"who often coaxed unforgettable performances from his stars, also richlyexploited the comic potential in Kanin and Gordon's script, whose bracing mixof streetwise cool and tender sentiment mimicked Damon Runyon's storytellingstyle.
Screenplay:Ruth Gordon, Garson Kanin
Cinematography:William H. Daniels
Art Direction:Cedric Gibbons, Uri McCleary
Principle Cast:Spencer Tracy (Mike Conovan), Katharine Hepburn (Pat Pemberton), Aldo Ray (David Hucko), William Ching (Collier Weld), Sammy White (Barney Grau), George Mathews (Spec Cauley).
BW-96m. Closed Captioning. Descriptive Video.
by Felicia Feaster