Desk Set

Talkie of the Week: Desk Set

USA 1957, 103 minutes, color, 20th Century Fox. Director: Walter Lang, Written by Phoebe and Henry Ephron, Based on the play by William Marchant. Cast: Spencer Tracy, Katherine Hepburn, Gig Young, Joan Blondell, Dina Merrill, Sue Randall, Neva Patterson, Harry Ellerbe, Nicholas Joy, Diane Jergens, Merry Anders, Ida Moore and Rachel Stephens.

Plot summary: When the Federal Broadcasting Network hires Richard Sumner to install an “electronic brain”, the head of the reference library fears for the relevance of her department and her very own job.

Desk_Set_1957Review: There are different reasons to pick a movie. The plot may delight you, the director or cast. You may have read the book a film is based on or you simply stumble upon a film on TCM or in the film department of a store. In my case, two reasons apply. First of all, I love Spencer Tracy and Katherine Hepburn as individual performers but as soon as they’re on screen together, my heart skips a beat. And then, so I gladly admit, I scan every store for classic film offers. The second my eyes fell on the sales sticker on Desk Set, a decision had been made to buy this film and enjoy it with a dear old friend. Now although said friend shares my enthusiasm for Miss Hepburn, she isn’t as enamored with Hollywood’s Golden Age as yours truly. So you can imagine her reaction when the film started to address computers and the pros and cons of upgrading the workplace a good 55 years ago. In her defense, she gave the movie a chance and ended up enjoying it despite her initial reservations. I was in love with it the moment I realized this was an adaptation of William Marchant’s play, written by Phoebe and Henry Ehpron who also penned one of my favorite comedies, The Jackpot (starring James Stewart and Barbara Hale). So yes, call me biased when I recommend this film to you but for anyone who’s fond of witty dialog, delicious acting and some depth in comedy, Desk Set is a true gem. To give away the storyline would be a crime, so I’ll refrain from saying more about the plot but this: not everything is what it seems, but you can always count on the Hepburn-Tracy chemistry now shrouded in legend. The film is available on DVD and as instant video. Here’s the trailer for you to judge for yourselves.

An Affair to Remember

Talkie of the Week: An Affair to Remember

USA 1957, 110 minutes, color, 20th Century Fox. Director: Leo McCarey, Screenplay: Delmer Daves and Leo McCarey, Story by: Leo McCarey and Mildred Cram. Cast: Cary Grant, Deborah Kerr, Richard Denning, Neva Patterson, Cathleen Nesbitt

Plot summary: On a cruise from Europe to New York, infamous playboy Nickie Ferrante meets Terry McKay and falls in love with her mildly abrasive charm. The couple, though otherwise engaged, has an affair to remember until they reach their destination and vow to meet again, six months later, at the top of the Empire State Building.

Review: An Affair to Remember is a classic. Warren Beatty remade it with wife Annette Benning and Sleepless in Seattle refers to it all the way through. There is something about the combination of Hollywood legends Cary Grant and Deborah Kerr, the heart-wrenching storyline they know to sell. The music, the colors, the wardrobe. Take your pick. This movie is a composition of romantic chic.

Cary Grant is beautifully cast as infamous playboy Nickie Ferrante, newly engaged to a rich heiress, who is used to wrapping women around his finger wherever he goes. Deborah Kerr gives an equally expert performance as Terry McKay, a former singer who is now engaged to a wealthy entrepreneur. Together, they spark the screen with a tale about falling in love outside of existing relationships. That story alone is probably as old as humanity itself, but the film depicts it without the now common celebration of infidelity and juicy sex. The film is from 1957 and thus lingers on emotions, yearning and eschewal, a perfect setup for the tragic twist.

An Affair to Remember is a love story, pure and simple, with a dash of sentimental music and Southern French flair. Most memorable for me are the scenes with Nickie’s grandma – probably for personal reasons, but Cathleen Nesbitt is such a darling (as Nickie calls her), I truly cannot imagine anyone not falling in love with her. And then there is the end, poignant and richly emotional. You better invest in boxes of tissues because there is no way I’m not going to recommend this movie to you.

Available on DVD and VHS.