Pat and Mike
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One of the typically smart, lively pairings of legendary screen couple Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn, 1952's Pat and Mike also united the unique writing talents of another romantic team, Garson Kanin and Ruth Gordon.
Husband and wife screenwriters Kanin and Gordon wrote Pat and Mike specifically for their actor friends, tailoring the script to the streak of devilish humor lurking beneath Tracy's solid, consummately male persona and taking advantage of Hepburn's natural athletic abilities as a superior golfer and one of the best tennis players in Hollywood. In addition to its two charismatic leads, Pat and Mike also featured cameos by a number of sports stars, from L.A. Angels player Chuck Connors, making his film debut, to lady athletes Helen Dettweiler, Betty Hicks, Babe Didrikson Zaharias and Alice Marble whose presence at times invests the film with an almost documentary- realism.
Hepburn stars as Pat Pemberton, an accomplished athlete and Phys Ed instructor who excels at tennis, golf, archery and just about every other sport, but whose smothering, controlling fiance, college administrator 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 luck appears to change for the better. This odd couple develops a mutual affection as they travel to each of Pat's tournaments, and nurture a winning streak only jeopardized by the reappearance of Collier with his ability to instantly jinx Pat's game.
The combination of Tracy's gruff, working-class demeanor and Hepburn's ladylike, patrician bearing provides Pat and Mike with some of its best comic 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 and Mike to both critics and audiences and undoubtedly helped win Kanin and Gordon an Academy Award nomination. Kanin and Gordon's witty script also took great advantage of the cozy, intimate rapport between Hepburn and Tracy who were an off-screen couple as well, and played upon the apparently mismatched but 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 of male-female chemistry made all the more exciting when the romantic leads are also 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 richly exploited the comic potential in Kanin and Gordon's script, whose bracing mix of streetwise cool and tender sentiment mimicked Damon Runyon's storytelling style.
Director: George Cukor
Producer: Lawrence Weingarten
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