About Me

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I live on the ocean, write women's fiction, love to read so much that it's an addiction rather than a hobby (I read an average of a book a day). I live on the wet west coast so it's a good thing that I like to walk in the rain.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Desk Set

Spencer Tracey and Katherine Hepburn star in this 1957 funny and more than slightly ahead of its time movie. Their first movie in color, Hepburn's clothes are astonishing - if I were a foot taller and as thin as a rail, I'd wear those clothes.

If you haven't seen this movie, do. Bunny Watson is the head of a research department - in this movie, it's a TV network department, but to me, I always think of it as the New Yorker fact checking department. Richard Sumner is a consultant who comes in to decide whether or not this work can be done better by a computer. As you can guess, chaos ensues.

But what always strikes me about this movie - and I've seen it more than a few times - are the underlying messages. First, there's the Dickensian message that technology isn't always good, and that it puts people out of jobs without making the product any more efficient. And secondly, a kind of a science fiction message - that people, in the end, are still smarter than machines.

It's one of those movies that's on a tiny set - at least 60% of the movie is in the research department, a small room full of books and desks and women, from the senior researcher Bunny to her assistant (played by Joan Blondell) to the two junior researchers and a wonderful old woman who wanders in and then disappears again - always wearing the perfect clothes and a hat and gloves. Often the set is crammed full of people but it's managed in way that seems real rather than contrived.

But the thing I love most about this movie? The interaction between Hepburn and Tracey - it's brilliant. Their conversation is funny and smart and quick - and occasionally, slightly risque. Those are the kind of conversations I want to have - that's the kind of relationship I want to have. It's wonderful.



Eileen said...

I love old Hepburn movies. love em.

Kate Austin said...

My favorite is The Philadelphia Story -


Anonymous said...

It's one of my favorite movies too, and yes, her clothes are fabulous. They're very professional, reflecting her job and status. My favorite is the red (reversible) coat. Wish I could wear 'em my self or find something eqwually classic and flattering. But we can't all have a personal designer on call (John Deering for this movie.)