What is Christmas without reviewing this wonderful Tracy and Hepburn movie for Monty’s Christmas movie month, so for my second Christmas and holiday movie review to be exhibited on “All Good Things” I’m providing a detailed account of “Desk Set”, the eighth of the nine Tracy and Hepburn vehicles.
Katharine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy sparkle in this perennial classic that will enthrall audiences from beginning to end. Bunny Watson ( Katharine Hepburn ) is in charge of the research department at a large TV network in New York. Things are running smoothly and Bunny is capable of researching and answering questions on an array of different topics. When Richard Sumner ( Spencer Tracy ) first arrives on the scene at the research department he appears to be esoteric, and Bunny and the other clerks are curious to who Richard really is and why he is hanging around the research department. Later they discover that Richard Sumner is an engineer and the inventor of EMERAC and that he is planning to install an AMERAC machine in their department. Upon learning of the new computer systems that are being installed, the workers come to the conclusion that they are being replaced, and when everyone receives a pink slip they think all their questions can be answered. Bunny’s fears of losing her job isn’t the only thing on her mind. She is also involved with rising network executive Mike Cutler ( Gig Young ) who is romantically interested in her and contiguously proposes marriage to her. However in the meantime, Bunny realizes that she is attracted to Richard and as time goes on it becomes evident that they are well suited to one another.
“Desk Set” may not be known as one of the most eminent Tracy and Hepburn vehicles, but I consider it to be one of my favorites of theirs. It’s a delightful film with a witty script and a stellar supporting cast which includes Joan Blondell, Gig Young and Dina Merrill. Katharine and Spencer as always is superb, and their chemistry is indubitable. The movie also highlights some fabulous moments, most notably to me is the scene on the roof where Richard is giving Bunny an IQ test during lunch. Richard asks Bunny “Touch question?” and Bunny automatically replies “No, tough roast beef.”. That’s my favorite part of the movie, but the film also offers other commendable moments.
This is the first film that Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn did in color and the eighth of the nine films they starred in together. Their next (and last), Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner (1967), came ten years later.
Adapted from a Broadway play “The Desk Set” that originally starred Shirley Booth, Byron Sanders and Frank Milan. The stage production opened at the Broadhurst Theatre in New York on Oct. 24, 1955 and ran for 296 performances. “Hollywood Reporter” reported that Booth would repeat her role in the film, which ultimately did not happen (though Harry Ellerbe reprised office gossip Smithers).
Katharine Hepburn was very impressed with the performance of young Lee Remick in “A Face in the Crowd” and invited her to her home with Spencer Tracy to discuss appearing in “Desk Set.” Tracy did not feel that the role was good enough for the young actress, however, and Remick declined the role which was then was played by Dina Merrill. Tracy’s advice later proved correct, as Merrill received little attention in the role.
Quotes from film:
Richard Sumner: “Tough question?”
Bunny Watson: “No… (chewing)… Tough roast beef.”
Bunny Watson: “I don’t smoke, I only drink champagne when I’m lucky enough to get it, my hair is naturally natural, I live alone… and so do you.”
Richard Sumner: “How do you know that?”
Bunny Watson: “Because you’re wearing one brown sock and one black sock.”
Ruthie Saylor: [Talking about Richard Sumner as he tape measures the office] “Do you think we’re being redecorated?”
Sylvia Blair: “Does he look like an interior decorator to you?”
Peg Costello: “No. He looks like one of those men who suddenly switched to vodka.”
Katharine Hepburn: Born Katharine Houghton Hepburn on May 12th, 1907 in Hartford, Connecticut. Died: June 29th, 2003 in Fenwick, Connecticut. Aged 96.
Spencer Tracy: Born Spencer Bonaventure Tracy on April 5th, 1900 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Died: June 10th, 1967 in Beverly Hills, California.
Joan Blondell: Born Rose Joan Blondell on August 30th, 1906 in New York. Died: December 25th, 1979 in Santa Monica, California.
Gig Young: Born Byron Elsworth Barr on November 4th, 1913 in St. Cloud, Minnesota. Died: October 19th, 1978 in New York. Cause of death: ( Self inflicted gunshot )