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Desk Set (1957)

Approved | | Comedy, Romance | 2 August 1957 (West Germany)
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Two extremely strong personalities clash over the computerization of a television network's research department.

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(screenplay), (screenplay) | 1 more credit »
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Cast

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Alice
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Old Lady
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Storyline

The mysterious man hanging about at the research department of a big TV network proves to be engineer Richard Sumner, who's been ordered to keep his real purpose secret: computerizing the office. Department head Bunny Watson, who knows everything, needs no computer to unmask Richard. The resulting battle of wits and witty dialogue pits Bunny's fear of losing her job against her dawning attraction to Richard. Written by Rod Crawford <puffinus@u.washington.edu>

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Make the office a wonderful place to love in!

Genres:

Comedy | Romance

Certificate:

Approved | See all certifications »

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Release Date:

2 August 1957 (West Germany)  »

Also Known As:

Cosas de mujeres  »

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| (Westrex Recording System)

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2.35 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Adapted from a Broadway play "The Desk Set" that originally starred Shirley Booth, Byron Sanders and Frank Milan. The stage production opened at the Broadhurst Theatre in New York on Oct. 24, 1955 and ran for 296 performances. "Hollywood Reporter" reported that Booth would repeat her role in the film, which ultimately did not happen (though Harry Ellerbe reprised office gossip Smithers). See more »

Goofs

The tape drive on either side of EMERAC should have its reels running in the same direction, like a reel-to-reel tape player, but the reels are running in the opposite direction to each other, which would break the tape if there was one. See more »

Quotes

Bunny Watson: Did you invent something that carries the mail?
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Crazy Credits

Opening credits: "The filmmakers gratefully acknowledge the cooperation and assistance of the International Business Machines Corporation." See more »

Connections

References King Solomon's Mines (1950) See more »

Soundtracks

Night and Day
(uncredited)
Written by Cole Porter
Sung by Katharine Hepburn at the Christmas Party
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User Reviews

Very enjoyable comedy
4 March 2003 | by See all my reviews

Well, I suppose it lacks the deeper moral carried by "Adam's Rib," although it does deal with issues that have so far turned out to be less important than gender equality, such as the impact of automation on the work force. But none of that is very important anyway. It's a light romantic comedy set in the research department of a major broadcasting company. And Hepburn's name is Bunny, but again, so what? Would it be a better movie if she were called Mildred?

It has the closed-in act structure of a play too, and it's obvious. There are other theatrical staples as well. How many plays include a drunken party at the end of the second act? (Exactly two hundred and forty-two.) Movies are similarly put together, especially those based on plays: "Long Day's Journey Into Night," "The Boys in the Band," "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?" Often the alcohol consumption takes place at a Christmas party, as it does here, and in "The Apartment." Understanding that the characters' higher reasoning centers are partly paralyzed and their judgment impaired gives the writer a chance to have them behave outrageously without having to explain why they've lost their senses, and the audience understands this convention. Drunken conviviality doesn't always work on screen. It can leave the viewer feeling like the only sober person at the bash, which is why John Ford largely left the events up to the viewer's imagination. It doesn't work too well here, either. It's not the actors' fault. They convey that chemically induced jollity very well; it's that the lines are sometimes silly -- that "Mexican Avenue bus" business, for instance. You'd have to have been there to find it as amusing as Hepburn and Joan Blondell do.

None of this undermines the amusement quotient of the film. It's relaxed, pleasant, and sometimes laugh-out-loud funny. The story is well laid out, dated though it may seem to some, the interpersonal relationships clearly delineated and squeezed of every chuckle.

But it's the performers that get the job done here. Blondell's role seems to have been made for her, the down-to-earth blonde. Gig Young too is smooth in his usual careless charming playboy part, a touchstone for his career, as in "That Touch of Mink" and "Ask Any Girl." There are certain lines that no one can deliver better than he. Hepburn has been trying to get him to marry her for a long time and when he finally suggests they tie the knot, there is an argument, and he storms out the office door, but not before delivering his exit line: "Seven YEARS I've waited!" The other "girls" are intelligent and sexy. I have to mention Neva Patterson too, as Emerac's nurse. When the obscene machine begins to pant and puff out smoke, the other staff rush to help, but a hysterical Patterson screams at them, "Don't you TOUCH her!"

Tracey and Hepburn, no longer kids, are superb. They're top notch all the way through, and they have a couple of set pieces that are about as funny as anything they've done on screen. One is a sort of quiz Tracey gives her on the roof. Another, the best in the film, takes place while Tracey visits her apartment to dry his clothes and is caught in a bathrobe by Gig Young, who happens to drop in at the incriminating moment. I defy anyone not to laugh as Tracey clumps out the door with his shoes smoking and his hat pulled down around his ears. The third, having to do with EMERAC's nervous breakdown, is also well done if a bit frantic.

Not a comic masterpiece. It's too relaxed for that. But recommended without qualification.


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