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Monday, December 5, 2011

Christmas Movie of the Day... Desk Set?

Hepburn and Tracy paired once again
in Desk Set.
There are so many options when it comes to Christmas movies, why would I even think of choosing one that's not traditionally associated with the big day?  Because for Christmas colors and Christmas parties and even Christmas presents, Desk Set really is hard to beat. 

Starting just before the holiday season, Desk Set is as mid-century as it gets.  Taking place at the Manhattan headquarters of a major national network, the film's premise is based on what happens when technology tries to take the place of people in the company's Research Department.  Katharine Hepburn manages the division with brassy Joan Blondell, and patrician Dina Merrill,  as her trusty employees.  Kate, who plays the part of Bunny Watson, also happens to be dating (rather unbelievably) one of the top VP's, Mike Cutler (played by Gig Young).  Sparks fly when Richard Sumner (Spencer Tracy), efficiency expert and inventor of EMORAC, a.k.a., the "Electronic Brain", sets up shop in Research with an eye toward streamlining the department's research capabilities.

Wouldn't you like to work in an office like
this?  This is the Research Department
where all the action takes place.
The real story here is the burgeoning affair between Tracy and Hepburn.  Although well past middle-age and in one of their last films together, the duo make more sparks than ever before.  Not only are they entirely believable as a couple, but they play off each other perfectly, making for some wonderful moments.  From the start you can see where things are going - unlike self-satisfied Mike Cutler, Richard Sumner never assumes that Bunny just another "old coat" hanging in his closet and perpetually ready to wear.  Joan Blondell, as Peg, is great as the wise-cracking friend and colleague of Bunny, and shows why she was a star in the early 30's "girl makes good" style of films.

Let the party begin!  It's Christmas in the
Research Department!
But, why is this a Christmas movie?  First, the giant tree in Rockefeller Center makes a glorious appearance just as we join the girls in Research for their annual Christmas party.  Held in the office, now transformed by a giant holly wreath and one of the best classic movie Christmas trees ever, these folks know how to throw an office party!  The champagne flows and the boys in Legal hop over for an impromptu dance, much to the delight of man-hungry Peg.  It's as jolly as a holiday fete ever could be and will make any other party you attend this year look a little dull around the edges.  This is another of those movies where the color is as much a part of its appeal as the costumes and sets.  Technicolor greens, red, purples, blues and greens jump off the screen, and you are left wondering why you can't get that kind of palette in your own life!

Check out that tree!  And those presents!  And the color
of that dress!  This is a Technicolor dream!

Desk Set is a favorite movie of ours, and one we've watched for many years.  It's one of those films that you can count on - if you can't decide what else to watch, pop Desk Set into the player and you are set for the evening.

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