NOT-SO-SECRET SANTA REVIEW SWAP BLOGATHON: Desk Set (1957)


First, it’s the jobs, then, it’s the humans. Technology is taking over!

Bunny Watson (Katharine Hepburn) is the head of the research department at a TV news station and, along with her lovely co-workers, finds herself happy, cozy, and as independent as a woman could get in the 50’s. All of that gets turned upside-down, however, once Richard Sumner (Spencer Tracy) comes into her office and starts snooping around. Why? Well, because Sumner works for an electronics-company that wants to somehow be able to fit a huge computer into her office space, making Bunny and her gals almost insignificant to the job that they do. This obviously creates tension between Sumner and the ladies, especially Bunny who not only finds Sumner a very attractive guy, but a very troubled one who may need her love and comfort. But then again, how you can you be with a person, who also happens to be the same person that might take your job away?

I don’t watch many “older” movies, but when I do, I make sure that they are nice picks and worth my while. However, I didn’t even pick this one and I still liked it! To be honest, I did this flick as apart of a little event that I’m doing for my pal Nick, over at The Cinematic Katzenjammer, where I’m given the task of watching some movie a person recommended, and in return, I do the same. My recommendation has yet to be reviewed or seen yet, but I have no problems because this is the one I was given and it makes me want to see more and more “old-ish” movies, mainly in hopes that I will broaden my eyes to the world of cinema that isn’t just the 60’s-present. Easier said then done, but I’m making some progress, people. So please, just bare with me for now.

Party over here and a party over there!
Party over here and a party over there!

Anyway, so the film. In all honesty, I wasn’t looking forward to this one too much. Not because it’s from the 50’s, but because it seemed so conventional and cutesy, that I was expecting it to be non-other than a flick that I’d find my G-Mom and G-Pops watching and laughing their assess off at. However, if that actually was the case and my mind isn’t a bun full of nuts, then I’d have to join them as well because I found myself easily charmed by this flick as well. Granted, it’s not the funniest thing you’re ever going to see in your entire life, but with a premise as simple and as coy as the one they have here, they could have easily gone nowhere with it, and just relied on the star-power of Hepburn and Tracy. If they did go down that road, it still would have worked, but at least there’s SOME effort given to this flick in hopes that it will work as it’s own force of nature.

Mainly which being is the script, that also happens to be written by both Phoebe and Henry Ephron (parents of the late, great Nora). The movie doesn’t go further than being slightly cute, slightly romantic, and an altogether odd piece of film, but it works so well at doing so, that you almost forget how dated everything is. Most movies from the 50’s don’t fit so well in today’s day and age, but this time, it didn’t matter because I was easily distracted by the fun, light-feel of the movie. You easily get swamped-up in these people’s day-to-day lives, no matter how monotonous they may be. However, as regular and as ordinary as they may be, they all seem to be so happy and have a great time with life, so in return, it makes you happy as well. Didn’t expect it to happen so quickly, but the first 30 or so minutes of the flick, I spent watching with a nice, wide-eyed grin on my face and I was glad. Wish I had that happen to me more, but I guess life can’t always be like ’57, right?

Oh, the year 1957. That surely was the year to live. Anybody else with me on that?

My oh my! What's that huge, electronic thingy behind them!
My oh my! What’s that huge, electronic-thingy behind them?!?!

However, where most of this flick works, and mainly it’s charm, is in the chemistry between Katharine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy, who, as we all know by now, loved working together and loved showing it. In today’s world of cinema, any famous couple that gets together and decides to make a movie together, just to show how in love they are, usually is a tell-tale sign of the movie not only failing, but the relationship itself as well (case in point). But Hepburn and Tracy’s flicks were very different, not because they were quality-stars willing to put as much effort and care into a project as hopelessly possible, but because they were also able to show that they loved each other, even when they on screen, in front of the rest of the world to see. Their chemistry in this movie, is what keeps the movie going and a fun experience, because they always seem to bring out the best in one another, even when they have to be at-odds.

But when they aren’t together, and are just doing their own thing separated from the other, they give great work. Tracy is fun as the tough and rugged bachelor that hasn’t met Mrs. Right just yet, and shows subtle signs that he already has and might just go for it. Even though he doesn’t get as many solo scenes as his famous co-star does, Tracy still makes the best of it and shows why he was one of the best. As for Hepburn, well, what can I say that hasn’t already been said about the gal? Not only does she show that she can light up the screen on any occasion, but she shows that she’s also able to have us laugh and love her character, while also feel an ounce of pity for her as well. By the end of the movie, the whole “Hepburn act” gets a bit over-the-top, but nonetheless, the woman always showed us that she was able to act her ass off, electrify anything she was in, and show the dude’s a thing or two about messing with the wrong lady. That Katharine Hepburn, what a fox!

Consensus: Though Desk Set is as conventional, obvious, and cute as you can get with a Tracy-Hepburn starring-vehicle, there are still plenty of pleasures and charm to be found, despite being 56 years old by now.

8 / 10 = Matinee!!

"Hi there, I'm Spencer Tracy. It was a pleasure working with you, AGAIN."
“Hi there, I’m Spencer Tracy. It was a pleasure working with you, AGAIN.”
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11 comments

  1. I absolutely love this film. The scene where they’re sitting and drinking and one of them tries to say the “Lexington Avenue Bus” but instead says the “Mexican Avenue Bus”, and Hepburn replies “Don’t you mean the Mexington Avenue Bus”. Now that’s comedy!

  2. ah…old movies…love them! as far as this one goes, I thought it was a little above average, but overall pretty good, when I reviewed it a few months back.

    great review, though, man!

  3. The Year 1957 truly was a golden year! Bridge on the River Kwai, Paths of Glory, Witness for the Prosecution, 12 Angry Men, and of course Desk Set 😉 Loved this review. Tracey and Hepburn have an infallible chemistry. They were in love off-screen, and it translated on screen.

  4. Have to agree with Ben Russell. ’57 was a great movie year and not for cutesy comedies. I highly recommend the movies he has in his post. As for this one, I haven’t seen it, yet. Might give it a try. Thanks!

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