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In the end of the excellent 1940 movie “The Philadelphia Story”, Tracy Lord and George Kitteredge call off their wedding right before it’s supposed to start. They’re worried about how to tell the wedding guests and how they’ll react. In that context Elizabeth “Liz” Imbrie says this:

Don't get too conventional all at once, will you? There’ll be a reaction.

My question is, what does Liz mean by “don’t get too conventional”? Does she mean too old-fashioned or traditional, or what?

Is she saying “Don’t assume the guests will just politely say nothing, they will react to it?” Or is she saying “Don’t worry, they’ll just react to it and that will be it, don’t act like this sort of thing never happens.”?

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You're missing the context of Mike's (Jimmy Stewart's character) proposal:


Mike: Parson Parsons has never seen Kittredge before, has he? I got you into this thing, and I'll get you out of it. Will you marry me, Tracy?

Tracy: No, Mike. Thanks, but hmm-mm. Nope.

Mike: I've never asked a girl to marry me. I've avoided it. But you've got me all confused now. Why not?

Tracy: Because I don't think Liz would like it... and I'm not sure you would... and I'm even a little doubtful about myself. But I am beholden to you, Mike. I'm most beholden.

Mike: But they're in there! They're waiting.

Liz: Don't get too conventional all at once. will ya? There'll be a reaction.

Dex: Cheer up. It'll be all right. You've been got out of jams before...


Liz isn't saying her line to Tracy, she's saying it to Mike.

And what she probably means by conventional is that when a couple is caught in a 'compromising situation' even if nothing actually happened (as with Mike carrying Tracy coming back from the pool), the man 'repairs' the woman's reputation by offering to marry her. But Mike's not old-fashioned enough to really believe that, so Liz is tweaking him about wanting to play white knight.

The subtext here is, "Stop pushing, already. I'm glad you're not gonna marry her, because I love you, and you're supposed to marry me."

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  • OK, so you're saying the "conventional" part is about the marriage proposal and not the "they're waiting" line. But what does "There'll be a reaction" mean here? – Keshav Srinivasan Oct 9 '19 at 19:11
  • Just guessing, but that Liz is warning Mike how he's going to eventually react when he realizes he's very close to being as conventional in his thinking as George. That or that she'll bean him if he keeps insisting Tracy has to marry him. :) – inkista Oct 10 '19 at 2:02

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