Greatest Film Scenes
and Moments

Adam's Rib (1949)


Written by Tim Dirks

Title Screen
Movie Title/Year and Scene Descriptions

Adam's Rib (1949)

In director George Cukor's great, sophisticated battle-of-the-sexes romantic comedy - it was one of Hollywood's greatest classics - about husband-and-wife lawyers in the upper middle-class who were forced to compete against each other when they took opposite sides of a front-page court case; it featured a forward-looking, provocative screenplay with snappy dialogue by Ruth Gordon and Garson Kanin - the husband and wife's second collaboration with director George Cukor; the sophisticated film was originally titled Man and Wife, and was later remade into a 1973 TV series spin-off with Ken Howard and Blythe Danner; the comedy was often rated as the best pairing of the nine films of the legendary screen team of Tracy and Hepburn - it was their sixth film together; the film also skyrocketed the career of Judy Holliday who went on to play the lead role in Born Yesterday (1950):

  • in the opening scene located at a busy office/business district at 5 pm - the close of work in NYC, scatterbrained, 'dumb blonde' wife Doris Attinger (Judy Holliday in her debut major film role) followed her philandering, two-timing husband Warren Attinger (Tom Ewell) with a pistol in her purse; she entered a residential Manhattan apartment behind him, took her pistol out and consulted an instruction manual to release the safety catch, and then shot the door lock and entered, to find her husband sitting on a couch embracing negligee-clad mistress Beryl Caighn (Jean Hagen) nestled on his lap; she pointed the gun at Warren, confronting him with her eyes closed: "Shut up, you, Shut up! My dear husband"; as Warren cringed and fled, he was hit in the shoulder by a stray bullet; as Beryl ran for help, the distraught Doris fell to her knees next to her wounded, but conscious husband and protectively hugged him
  • the next day, husband/wife Amanda and Adam Bonner (Katharine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy) reacted to the day's front page New York Chronicle newspaper headlines in their apartment: "WIFE SHOOTS FICKLE MATE IN PRESENCE OF LOVE RIVAL; ARRESTED ON ASSAULT CHARGE"; Amanda took the side of the wronged Brooklyn housewife against her cheating husband: ("Serves him right, the little two-timer") because a man under similar circumstances would be let go, while law-and-order believer Adam disapproved of the vigilante assault with a gun: "I don't approve of people rushing around carrying loaded revolvers"
  • the couple (both New York lawyers) revealed more about their different viewpoints about the Attinger case, and more generally about the sexes during their early morning commute drive into the city: (Amanda: "There are lots of things that a man can do and in society's eyes, it's all hunky-dory. A woman does the same thing - the same, mind you, and she's an outcast...All I'm saying is, why let this deplorable system seep into our courts of law, where women are supposed to be equal?"); Adam was more blunt and wanted to punish the female shooter for disregarding the law, and taking matters into her own hands: "A crime should be punished, not condoned"

Adam Bonner (Spencer Tracy)

Amanda Bonner (Katharine Hepburn)
  • at work, tough, chauvinistic, law and order Asst. District Attorney Adam learned that he had been assigned to prosecute Doris Attinger for the attempted murder of her husband Warren; he mumbled to himself: "The one case I don't want is the case I get," but thought it would be an easy victory in an open-and-shut case; Amanda was outraged when Warren informed her that he had been "elected" by his chief to prosecute the wronged woman ("You great big he-men make me sick"); she hung up after Adam infuriated her even further by laughing and remarking: "You just sound cute when you get cause-y"; she immediately decided to take on Doris' defense - she rushed to volunteer her services with a request to call Legal Aid Society to take the case
  • meanwhile, Adam visited Warren (with Beryl) in his hospital room, who complained that his wife was crazy: "She's nuts, that's my complaint. I like to see her put away somewheres, that's all"; Adam promised to "get a conviction on an attempted murder, or first-degree assault..."
  • during a long, five-minute static camera shot in a women's prison's detention area, Amanda (on the left) interviewed deceived, dumb blonde Doris (at center right); she was aghast that Doris wanted to willingly plead guilty ("No accident. I wanted to shoot him"); Doris delivered her entire rendition of the events of the day of the shooting -- punctuated with eating episodes (two rare hamburgers and lemon meringue pie, for instance, and chocolate nut bars), capped by her final line: (Amanda: "And after you shot him, how did you feel then?" Doris: "Hungry")
  • "That Evening" - as a formal dinner for ten was being planned in the Bonner apartment, the same stationary camera technique was utilized, observing the couple in their bedroom as they prepared for the evening; moving in and out of the camera frame, the camera placement emphasized the dislocation of the married couple's lives
  • the two soon realized to their shock that they would be dueling lawyers - Adam first learned of his independent-minded wife's role as defense attorney against him when she announced loudly: "Well, I got the case....A girl named Doris Attinger shot her husband. I'm going to defend her" - (Adam dramatically toppled and spilled a tray of cocktail drinks); they would be on opposing sides of a murder case and also squaring off against each other in their personal lives at home
  • after the party and while preparing to retire for the night, Amanda claimed to Adam that the "poor woman" Doris had the same rights (an "unwritten law") as a man who shot his spouse when caught in adultery; she was entitled to the same justice usually reserved for men; her position angered Adam who warned: "I am going to cut you into 12 little pieces and feed you to the jury, so get prepared for it"
Dueling Lawyers - The Bonner Couple Battling at Home and in the Court

  • on their first day in court for jury selection, Amanda stated her feminist presuppositions and argued against double standards; Adam felt his wife was making a purely political stance - upsetting sexist double standards by volunteering to defend Doris (pro bono) with feminist, women's rights arguments; after the first day in court, the newspaper reported on her court arguments: "SOCIAL STANDARD UNFAIR TO FEMALE SEX DECLARED IN COURT BY MRS. BONNER"; Adam urged Amanda to give up the case: "Drop the case...I could see in there, even today, it's gonna get sillier and messier day by day by day"; personal tensions began to grow on the homefront each evening between Amanda and Adam as the trial conflict moved into their home
  • during the trial, both Beryl and Warren gave brief testimonies; Beryl testified that Warren was at the apartment to sell her an insurance policy, and that he never touched her except for often shaking hands; Warren admitted that his relationship with Doris had not been loving for three years, and that they often physically fought with each other
  • on the stand to "tell all," Doris delivered a speech in court to defend herself, testifying that she found the two hugging together on the couch, and that she wanted to save their marriage and family (they had three children) - all she wanted to do was frighten Warren (and she did wound him in the shoulder), not injure him or Beryl
  • after the rough day in court, the Bonners engaged in a confrontation on a Swedish massage table at home when he slapped her behind hard: ("What are you - sore about a little slap?" and her reply: "I know a slap from a slug"); she accused him of not understanding her point of view and being disrespectful; when she began to cry, he mocked her, calling her tears a "guaranteed heart-melter. A few female tears...stronger than any acid. But this time they won't work...You can cry from now until the time the jury comes in and it won't make you right and it won't win you that silly case"
  • to bolster her case (although irrelevant), Amanda called three successful female witnesses (including a circus strong-woman who easily hoisted Adam into the air) to demonstrate equality of the sexes - her own political agenda - to prove that women were intellectually and physically equal to men
  • that evening, Adam was smoldering with frustrated anger at Amanda - he exploded with what had upset him - her disregard for the sanctity and rule of the law, her casual manipulation of the legal system, and her disrespect for their marriage contract; acutely embarrassed by the spectacle in court that day, he wanted out of the marriage, now that his wife had become a passionately-ruthless competitor; he stormed off and moved out of their apartment, tearing their marriage asunder with tense violence

Adam Walking Out on Amanda

Face to Face Against Each Other in the Courtroom During Closing Arguments
  • during closing arguments, Amanda gave an impassioned but irrelevant speech to the jury - disregarding Doris' obvious guilt while arguing that her actions were justified: ("You are asked to judge not whether or not these acts were committed, but to what extent they were justified"); she used persuasive theatrical tricks (a role-play scenario with reversed positions for Doris and Warren), to prove that the law would vindicate a man who would try to kill the lover of his unfaithful wife: ("Every living being is capable of attack if sufficiently provoked. Assault lies dormant within us all. It requires only circumstance to set it in violent motion. I ask you for a verdict of not guilty. There was no murder attempt here - only a pathetic attempt to save a home")
  • Adam's closing argument was also weak, due to the fact that Amanda interrupted him with frequent objections to his claims that Doris was a criminal
  • by the end of the trial when the Attinger verdict was announced and the "'Love Triangle' Defendant" learned her fate, Amanda had won an acquittal for her simple-minded client - "a small but important step in woman's march toward equality and justice"
  • still estranged from Adam, Amanda spent the evening for companionship with Broadway song-composing neighbor Kip Lurie (David Wayne in a role modeled on Cole Porter) in his across-the-hall apartment; Adam spied on them from across the street as Kip attempted to seduce and woo Amanda; he entered and caught them in an innocent embrace-tryst; it was a perfect re-enactment of the Attinger case when he assaulted them with a pistol to protect and defend his marriage; to teach them a lesson, he threatened to shoot; when Amanda admitted he didn't have a right to kill, no matter the provocation (contradicting her courtroom defense), Adam raised the pistol to his open mouth as if he was going to blow his brains out, but then took a bite into the muzzle of the licorice gun; Amanda called his tactics to teach her a lesson as "despicable, vile, dirty, low, worthless, corrupt, mean, rotten, dirty, contemptible, little, petty, gruesome, contemptible"
  • Adam and Amanda met at a CPA's office to straighten out their finances - Adam began crying, using 'crocodile tears' to make a point that both men and women often used emotional manipulation to get their way; Amanda was moved by Adam's tears, and the two reconciled and put their bitterness behind them
  • that evening during a visit to their farm after leaving the tax accountant's office, Adam openly admitted: "...I can turn 'em on any time I want to. Us boys can do it, too, you know. It's just that we never think to"; he also finally and conclusively stated that men and women were (and should be) fundamentally different; he also declared, however, that there was very little difference between the sexes (men and women) - but then added that he did like that "little difference": "Vive la difference."

Doris Following Philandering Husband Warren (Tom Ewell)

Opening Assault-Murder Scene: Doris Reading a Gun Instruction Manual Before Wounding Warren

Headlines: "Wife Shoots Fickle Mate In Presence of Love Rival"

Adam and Amanda Bonner: Her Complaint About Different Standards For the Two Sexes ("Deplorable System")

Adam at Hospital with Warren (Tom Ewell) and Mistress Beryl (Jean Hagen)

Amanda at Detention Center with Doris

In the Bonner home, Adam Spilling Tray of Drinks When He Learned He Would Be Facing His Wife in Court

Adam Threatening Amanda: "I am gong to cut you into 12 little pieces"

Amanda Defending Doris

Warren and Beryl in Court

Doris Testifying in Court

Confrontation on a Massage Table ("A little slap")

Circus Strongwoman Lifting Adam into the Air

Amanda Wooed by Neighbor Kip Lurie (David Wayne)

Adam's Trick with A Licorice Gun

"Vive la difference!"


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