Pat and Mike

Pat and Mike didn't have much of a plot, but the dialogue was bright, and the roles were tailor-made for the two stars. In Pat and Mike, Hepburn demonstrates with physical strength what in Adam's Rib she proved with intellect: that women can be equal to men. A companion piece to Adam's Rib, Pat and Mike, like its predecessor, was ahead of its time.

Shooting started in January l952, at the L.A. country club, then switched to the MGM backlot. Like The Marrying Kind, the film boasts a quasi-documentary quality, using authentic backgrounds whenever possible. To enhance the film's authenticity, Cukor had Hepburn take on famous golf and tennis athletes, Gussie Moran and Babe Didrikson Zacharias, who played themselves. Cukor had Frankie Parker, the glamour boy among the tennis champions, teach Hepburn tournament form. “She was a little bit afraid about her form and thought she ought to use a double in the long shots,” Parker said, “but I told her there was no reason why she couldn't do all the shots herself.” She did.

Hepburn plays a gym teacher caught between her enthusiasm for sports and pressure to get married. The moment her fiance, a bland macho figure, arrives on the scene, her confidence disappears and her game falls apart. Her overconfident but insensitive fiance is contrasted with Tracy's Mike, a Brooklynese sports promoter, with dubious connections.

Mike first tries to convince Pat to throw a golf match, but realizing she is incorruptible, he signs her up, along with a racehorse and a dumb prizefighter (played by Aldo Ray). By gaining Mike's respect, becoming his most commercial asset, Pat is also free to become herself. Mike's support is not based on love (they don't kiss even once in the whole film), but the admiration of a pro. The film doesn't suggest that women can live without men. “Who wants to get along without men” says Pat at the end. There is no need for it, if the relationship is, as Mike says, “Five-oh, five-oh.”

As in The Marrying Kind, Cukor staged an interesting fantasy sequence: Pat's tennis game goes off because her fiance is watching. The net suddenly becomes huge, her own tennis racket the size of a tablespoon, and her opponent as big as a spade. Cukor got the idea from Bill Tilden, a great tennis player, who told him that was the impression one got when not playing well.

Though not as clever as Adam's Rib, Pat and Mike is one of the most engaging of Cukor's Tracy-Hepburn comedies. The two stars had achieved such teamwork that their sparring bouts were beautifully coordinated; their previous films seemed like a warm-up. Pat and Mike doesn't work hard for laughs; Cukor let the chips fall where they may. The film's humor is relaxed and low-pressured, and the characters never use dirty words or cheap lines to get laughs.
One of the film's best bits was a product of Garson's inspiration. Unhappy about a line in which Mike discusses Pat's physique with his crony, Garson came up on the spur of the moment with a new quip that had Tracy say, “There ain't much meat on her, but what there is, is cherce (for choice).” The line got a big laugh, even though Tracy was turned almost three-quarters away from the camera when he delivered it. The line was so strong that Cukor decided not to cut to a close-up of Tracy for emphasis; he didn't even shoot a close-up for protection. Cukor gave full credit for this line's effect to the Kanin–even though his mise-en scene was masterly.

An unassuming film, Pat and Mike deals in a light manner with the raffish side of sports; with the exception of Pat, all the characters are seedy. One of the comic gangsters was played by Charles Bronson, long before he became a movie star, when his name was still Charles Buchinski. The gangsters in this picture were written with a nod to Damon Runyon; the only gangsters Cukor could do were funny gangsters.

Pat and Mike also tells a charming love story of two improbable people, whose romance doesn't compromise their professional relationships, because their professional association precedes the romantic one. Their interaction is less competitive than in Adam's Rib, where both were lawyers. An unusually discreet romance, they hardly touch each other, and never kiss. Only once, when Mike massages Pat's leg, there is physical contact, and even here it is purely professional. There's a naughty-boy look on Tracy's face, when he tells Hepburn that athletes must give up sex while training.

Pat and Mike was Cukor's eighth and last feature film with Hepburn; they later made TV movies together.