Desk Set

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Desk Set
Desk Set cinema poster.jpg
Original cinema poster
Directed by Walter Lang
Produced by Henry Ephron
Screenplay by Phoebe Ephron
Henry Ephron
Based on Desk Set (play) 
by William Marchant
Starring Katharine Hepburn
Spencer Tracy
Music by Cyril J. Mockridge
Cinematography Leon Shamroy
Distributed by 20th Century-Fox
Release date(s)
  • May 1, 1957 (1957-05-01) (US)
Running time 103 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $1,865,000[1]
Box office $1.7 million (US rentals)[2]

Desk Set (released as His Other Woman in the UK) is a 1957 American romantic comedy film directed by Walter Lang and starring Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn. The screenplay was written by Phoebe Ephron and Henry Ephron from the play by William Marchant.

Plot[edit]

Hepburn with Spencer Tracy, Promotional image for Desk Set (1957)

Desk Set takes place at the "Federal Broadcasting Network" (exterior shots are of Rockefeller Center, headquarters of NBC). Bunny Watson (Katharine Hepburn) is in charge of its reference library, which is responsible for researching and answering questions on all manner of topics, such as the names of Santa's reindeer. She has been involved for seven years with rising network executive Mike Cutler (Gig Young), with no marriage in sight.

The network is negotiating a merger with another company, but is keeping it secret. To help the employees cope with the extra work that will result, the network head has ordered two computers (called "electronic brains" in the film). Richard Sumner (Spencer Tracy), the inventor of EMERAC (used as a homoiophone metonym for ENIAC) and an efficiency expert, is brought in to see how the library functions, to figure out how to ease the transition. Though extremely bright, as he gets to know Bunny Watson, he is surprised to discover that she is every bit his match.

When they find out the computers are coming, the employees jump to the conclusion they are being replaced. Their fears seem to be confirmed when everyone on the staff receives a pink slip printed out by the new payroll computer. Fortunately, it turns out to be a mistake; the machine fired everybody in the company, including the president.

Richard Sumner reveals his romantic interest in Bunny Watson, but she believes that EMERAC would always be his first priority. Richard Sumner denies it, but then Bunny Watson puts him to the test, setting the machine to self-destruct. Richard Sumner resists the urge to fix it as long as possible, but finally gives in. Bunny Watson accepts him anyway.

Cast[edit]

Reception[edit]

Bosley Crowther, film critic of The New York Times, felt the film was "out of dramatic kilter", inasmuch as Hepburn was simply too "formidable" to convincingly play someone "scared by a machine", resulting in "not much tension in this thoroughly lighthearted film".[3]

Today the film is seen far more favorably, with the sharpness of the script praised in particular; it currently has a rare 100% rating on Rotten Tomatoes based on 19 reviews.[4] Dennis Schwartz of Osuz' World Movie Reviews called it an "inconsequential sex comedy", but contended "the star performers are better than the material they are given to work with" and that "the comedy was so cheerful and the banter between the two was so refreshingly smart that it was easy to forgive this bauble for not being as rich as many of the legendary duo's other films together."[5]

Namesake[edit]

A Canadian radio program, Bunny Watson, was named for and inspired by Hepburn's character.

References[edit]

  1. ^ Solomon, Aubrey. Twentieth Century Fox: A Corporate and Financial History. Lanham, Maryland: Scarecrow Press, 1989. ISBN 978-0-8108-4244-1
  2. ^ "Top Grosses of 1957", Variety, 8 January 1958: 30
  3. ^ Bosley Crowther (May 16, 1957). "Desk Set (1957)". The New York Times. 
  4. ^ "Desk Set". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 9 April 2014. 
  5. ^ Dennis Schwartz (March 9, 2005). ""So Refreshingly Smart"". Osuz's World Movie Reviews. Retrieved October 1, 2013. 

External links[edit]