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On the shelves @ LPL*: Design for Living (Ernst Lubitsch, 1933)

- August 29th, 2012

 

design for living

George Curtis (Gary Cooper) and soft g Gilda Farrell (Miriam Hopkins) help Frederic March (Tom Chamber) adjust his outlook in Design for Living. Courtesy of criterion.com

Far more sophisticated & delightful than the rom coms we’re seeing 80 years later, Design for Living is one of those classics JBNBlog had heard about & never seen. Get out there & grab it from the LPL &  be dazzled.

Much of the excellent commentary in the Criterion package booklet & on the DVDs covers the sex & liberation joys of this terrific Ernst Lubitsch movie . . . Andrew Sarris’s best of 1933. Yes, she said, yes, she said “I’m not gentleman” etc. Fantastic.

On the artistic side, Miriam Hopkins becomes the muse & lover to two other Americans in Paris . . . struggling playwright Frederic March & struggling painter Gary Cooper. Their careers take off even as they struggle (though it’s ambiguous) with the “no sex” rule agreed to in their threesome.

Amusingly, the advertising world where Hopkins is making her mark as a successful commercial artist is seen as v. unMadMen. The clients are buffoons who must be coddled over endless dinner parties & the creativity is comic. Her boss/mentor & husband-for-a-bit is the prissy ad exec Max Plunkett, played hilariously by Edward Everett Horton (didn’t he have a Rocky &  Bullwinkle gig all those years later?). Plunkett is far from being a Don Draper/Roger Sterling figure, but despite some of the commentary, he isn’t “sexless.” The Messi powerful boot he puts to a gag floral gift from the two American artists after he emerges from an apparently unsatisfactory wedding night with Gilda (still smitten with them, eh?) suggests he has the fire somewhere  . . . even if he looks the fool in a belted pajama outfit. In the end, Max has to choose between commerce & the glorious Gilda who winds up with a startling, sexy choice of her own as the classic fades out.

Here’s a bit from the Criterion package:

Gary Cooper, Fredric March, and Miriam Hopkins play a trio of Americans in Paris who enter into a very adult “gentleman’s agree­ment” in this continental pre-Code comedy, freely adapted by Ben Hecht from a play by Noël Coward and directed by Ernst Lubitsch. A risqué relationship story and a witty take on creative pursuits, the film concerns a commercial artist (Hopkins) unable—or unwilling—to choose between the equally dashing painter (Cooper) and playwright (March) she meets on a train en route to the City of Light. Design for Living is Lubitsch at his sexiest, an entertainment at once debonair and racy, featuring three stars at the height of their allure.

*An occasional series devoted to glories found at the London Public Library branches here & there.

Categories: Entertainment

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3 comments

  1. The Shaw did a very fine version of the play in 2006 http://www.2x2ltd.com/Gallery.html

  2. james.reaney says:

    10q for the comment. It would have been v. different from the movie . . . apparently Ben Hecht’s terrific script for the film only uses one line from the Noel Coward play. Write anytime & on rawk.

  3. Interestingly enough this seasons “His Girl Friday” is a rewrite of Ben Hecht’s “The Front Page”.

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