Desk Set – 1957 – English
Film directed in 1957 by Walter Lang, and starring Spencer Tracy, Katharine Hepburn, Gig Young, Joan Blondell, Neva Patterson, Dina Merrill, Harry Ellerbe, Nicholas Joy, Diane Jergens, Merry Anders, Ida Moore, Rachel Stephens…
Synopsis: 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.
Review: The story is simple, as all good stories are. Hepburn feels her job, and those of her staff, are threatened by Tracy and his ominous computer. It may not sound like much in this day of computer ubiquity, but substitute dot.com flop or outsourcing for computer and you have a contemporary comedy that still works.
Let’s ignore the leads for just a moment. The supporting cast, which includes Joan Blondell as the arch-typical right-hand man, or should I say woman, and Gig Young as the chauvinistic, corporate climbing fiancé, easily outclasses what passes for marquee stars today. Husband and wife team Henry and Phoebe Ephron, parents of Nora Ephron, contribute a brilliantly witty script that, unfortunately for modern moviegoers, isn’t peppered with vaudevillian pratfalls to help point out the funny parts. Instead, it relies on the intelligence of the audience and draws on that of the cast to produce a humor that never ages.
Hepburn is almost universally considered the greatest film actress ever. Tracy is utterly magnificent, and the chemistry between the two of them, owing of course in part to their long-standing relationship, is palpable.
I adore this movie, and if there were a Canon of Cinema, this would be in it.