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Brought in by the boss to install electric brain EMERAC, Richard Sumner (Spencer Tracy) is taken aback by the extensive knowledge of the Resource Department, whose job it is to take calls and inform the public of anything they want to know. Especially impressive is Bunny Watson (Katharine Hepburn), the smartest and quickest girl in the office. Watson, along with her coworkers Peg, Silvia, and Ruthie, must fight for their jobs when Sumner's machine threatens to take their places. As Sumner spends more time in the Research Department, he, and the girls of the department, finds that maybe a machine can't replace humans after all.
|Bunny, the girls, and EMERAC|
Wow it has been months since I did a review! So that being said, I think we all know how horrible and rusty this review is going to be. So let me just get back into the swing of things, and it's probably best to ignore this one and try another one. Here we go.
Katharine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy, besides having a special relationship off-screen, made nine very successful films together. This is the eighth of their films, and unlike what I've said before about movies with Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire, Trace and Hepburn plots varied, and one movie isn't necessarily like another, other than the fact that (SPOILER ALERT) they end up together in the end. Desk Set is totally different than say, Adam's Rib, or State of the Union. That's probably what I like most about their movies, other than their obvious chemistry.
Even though it is totally different, it's probably more overlooked than some of their other ones. As I looked through the collection of KHep (that's my personal nickname for her so don't judge me) photos that I've gathered on my laptop, I couldn't find a single one that was from the set, or a promotional photo of, Desk Set. That's a shame. It really is really good! (Trust me, my review won't do it justice, you should just watch it).
Overall, Desk Set is one of my favorite Tracy/Hepburn films as far as comedies go (Guess Who's Coming to Dinner is by far their best ever, but it is definitely not a comedy...the tears flow in that one). The dialogue is fun and witty and we get to watch what I consider actual emotional development, more than the idea of "I've only known you for a day and I can't explain it but I'm in love with you forever." Granted, it takes place over the course of about a month, and a month isn't exactly a long enough time to be in love (well, for some people it is), but Richard and Bunny spend a lot of time together and we see subtle changes in Bunny as we go through the movie, so their relationship by the end is not that unbelievable. Interestingly, however, I think the best exchanges are not between Bunny and Richard, but between Bunny and Peg. Peg is played by Joan Blondell (most famous 20 years later, and 20 years older, in Grease) and Blondell is great at quick and snappy dialogue, which Hepburn, even with her ridiculous accent, can snap right back (I know that's her trademark but sometimes it is just a little much and I can't help but just laugh at it). That's not to say, of course, that Tracy and Hepburn aren't snappy and witty. The picnic on the rooftop is far and away the best scene because you get to see Katharine Hepburn outwit a smug Spencer Tracy and you get to work them off each other, and you can see straight through the acting to their palpable chemistry. I am a fan of that. It's a very fun script that allows for good performances from the cast.
Though I obviously didn't know Katharine Hepburn personally, based on extensive research I've done, I feel like Bunny Watson was one of the characters that was closest to her actual personality. From what I can tell, she was incredibly smart and believed strongly in the importance of education and correct information, but was kind of about having certain situations under her control. And obviously, she loved Spencer Tracy. As this film was made in 1957, KHep was nearing her true acting prime, which, in my opinion, came in the 60s. There is definitely evidence of her dramatic potential as she is playfully reciting "Curfew Must Not Ring Tonight" (by Rose Harwick Thorpe) as EMERAC, and Richard's assistant, is having a meltdown. She's very dramatic while still retaining a sense of comedy and comedic timing. Kate is Great. As usual. I also love her as drunk Bunny. It's not very often she gets to play drunk and she's straight up hilarious. Katharine Hepburn is just good in everything she does (except Dragon Seed, but we will get there with time). That's why she has 4 Oscars.
|Ladies and Gentlemen, Kate the Great|
In 2015, it's so interesting to see the innovation that EMERAC was in 1957 compared to the technology we enjoy 60 years later. First of all, we always hear about how early computers in the 60s and 70s took up an entire room. EMERAC does that, and to our modern brains, we just look at that and think how?? Second of all, the technology we know today can completely ruin the magic of what that 1957 computer could do. I bet to the people in the 1950s, a computer like EMERAC was the singular coolest thing, and maybe to them it represented the future. Now we just laugh, and it's a real shame that people of our generation cannot put things into context (sorry, I'll get off my history soapbox now). As 21st-centurians (not a word but deal with it), all EMERAC can really do is retrieve information that it was fed and print it out. Compared to what we are used to nowadays, it's almost not even fair to the cool technology of the 1950s. I mean, actually, technically in a way, EMERAC can do exactly what the internet does, it just does it slower and in a mere old fashioned way. So maybe now that I think about it, we ought to give EMERAC some credit.
To me, this is a high standard romantic comedy. It's standard in that it is a romantic comedy, but high in that it reached in the end in kind of a non-standard way. By no means is this Tracy, Hepburn, or Tracy/Hepburn's best film, but it is a fun one that is definitely worth the watch. My recommendation for Desk Set:
Don't recommend Recommend Strongly recommend
WHAT ARE YOU DOING WATCH THIS NOW!!!