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Friday, 17 August 2012

Classic Film Review: Desk Set (1957)

Desk Set was the eighth of the nine films Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn made together and my first introduction to them as a pair. Tracy plays Richard Sumner, an engineer who begins hanging around the research department of a television network upsetting the staff as he hides his computerisation agenda from them. Chief of these is department head, Bunny Watson (Hepburn) who is very good at her job - quick-witted and intelligent - and isn't keen on the idea of losing it to a computer. She and the three girls in her department sit back and wait for the report but Bunny's also got a long-term boyfriend, Mike (Gig Young), who may finally have some news of his own...

This film is hilarious. Not because of physical comedy (though there are a few moments courtesy of Tracy when Richard puts his shoes in the oven to get dry) but because of exceptionally witty dialogue that allows Tracy and Hepburn to spark off each other. There are a couple of memorable scenes, the first being the picnic on the roof of the building - in November. Richard is giving Bunny a test to check her intelligence against the computer he hopes to install but her answers consistently blind-side him. Another of my favourite scenes came at the Christmas party where Bunny and Peg (Joan Blondell) are getting steadily drunk while Richard watches on. A perfectly choreographed chair-shuffling moment by Hepburn and Blondell cracked me up. Every scene, however, is memorable in its own right as the large cast play their parts perfectly. How do you fit Bunny, Richard, Mr and Mrs Smithers, several children and a mother-in-law into one small car? Hilariously. Also look out for a non-speaking woman played by Ida Moore who wanders around silently.

I can't think of a bad thing to say about this one. Hepburn is magnificent throughout and her scenes with Blondell are as amusing as her scenes with Tracy. An excellent film and one I'd be happy to watch over and over again.

1 comment:

Reel Popcorn Junkie said...

I'd also applaud the work done by Harry Ellerbe as Smithers, the network employee who loves a good tidbit of gossip.