Yet another year with yet another update.
2012 version can be found here.
2013 version can be found here.
Two Americans sharing a flat in Paris, playwright Tom Chambers and painter George Curtis, fall for free-spirited Gilda Farrell. When she can't make up her mind which one of them she prefers, she proposes a "gentleman's agreement": She will move in with them as a friend and critic of their work, but they will never have sex. But when Tom goes to London to supervise a production of one of his plays, leaving Gilda alone with George, how long will their gentleman's agreement last?
Hilarious, frank, and opulent, Design for Living might take the easy way out with its two-lover problem, but the chemistry between the three leads guarantees a smile, and this comedy plays more like a fantasy picture anyways. I know we just met and all, but make mine Lubitsch.
Also, is it just me, or was Harry and Lloyd's fundraiser entrance from Dumb and Dumber ripped (nearly) straight from here?
The agency given to Miriam Hopkins' character seems downright miraculous when viewed through a lens of time spattered with manic pixie dream girls and selfless sacrificial muses. She's whimsical, sure, but she's driven by her own sexual and emotional desires. She's a real, thinking, feeling person that gets to act and react with the men. How much of that is directly from the Coward play or the Ben Hecht screenplay, I don't know, but there it is: Another sign of what could have been had the Hayes Code not stunted the dramatic growth of Hollywood for decades to come.
David's Movie entry #4: March 17th, 2013
In Memory of David Eisen
Cooper, March, Hopkins, Lubitsch, Coward, and Hect. The opening credits ring off like a game of "20 questions" with the question being asked "What would be the perfect cast/crew for a pre-code comedy?". The two surprising crew roles that I did not have prior knowledge of before watching the film was its association to a Noel Coward play and Ben Hect being the screenwriter involved. Since watching it I have discovered that Coward's play did not necessarily have a big role for the film. Lubitsch took his story with the help of Hect and made it cinematic while making it in his own vision.
Ben Hect was a…
Don't know quite what went wrong here, as the film has the rhythm and sensibility of a droll comedy of manners yet is almost never even remotely funny. I'd like to blame Noel Coward, who (in spite of my passion for Brief Encounter) has always felt to me like Oscar Wilde Lite, retaining the color and texture but very little of the flavor; virtually none of Coward's dialogue was retained, though, by most reports, and it's not as if Ben Hecht didn't know his way around fast-paced dry wit. One might note with some justification that Gary Cooper seems ill-suited to the demands of urbane mock-sophistication, but he does hold his own in e.g. Ball of Fire. In any…
I would buy underwear from Napoleon
I've seen a lot of these pre-code romantic comedies and the novelty of seeing dialogue with the sexual frankness of a typical Seinfeld episode being spouted by actors like Gary Cooper and Miriam Hopkins still has not worn off. Of course, a lot of Lubitsch's double (and triple, and single for that matter) entendres would make Larry David scoff, but they're still a special (and mostly historical, alas) kind of fun.
I will say that I'm not partial to these kinds of love triangle stories - I prefer my love triangles with a clear hero and villain so I know who to identify with, otherwise the whole thing can come off as either too sad to be funny or too inhuman to be believable. But this is pretty good considering.
"We have to tell him the truth, no matter what happens to the furniture."
I went into this with high expectations and felt disappointment as the credits rolled. I've immensely enjoyed many of Lubitsch's films but this one lacked the Lubitsch charm I've grown so fond of.
After seeing Design for Living on so many screwball comedies lists, I was ready for zany antics. I wouldn't consider this one to be up to par with the screwball comedies that I've come to know and love. Outside of a scene or two, it lacks in delivering the slapstick laughs.
What this movie does deliver as is a racy pre-code film. It also fueled my crush on Gary Cooper. How Miriam Hopkins…
Pre code cinema.
"Delicacy is the banana peel under the feet of truth."
Don't let the film's polished style fool you - there's nothing delicate about this pre-code gem. Perhaps the flat-out funniest sex comedy I've seen, Design for Living pushes the age-old love triangle to hilarious ends. Lubitsch proves that the genre should have remained rooted in the side-splitting dynamics that can be built through performances and writing, rather than gross-out gags.
When George and Gilda choose to break the gentleman's agreement while the third member of their triangle is abroad, Gilda explains that she's not really a "gentleman" at all. This gendered language (which is cleverly scattered throughout the script) feels very intentional, and often quite progressive.
Gilda is in control…
Pre-code screwball comedies are where it is at.
Pre-code raciness, but has long dry spells
Huzzah for debauched sexual relationships! The thorough whipping that all our main protagonists consent to is a sight to behold, and Lubitsch and co. manage to rattle off more dialogue with spunky snap faster than you can say "rrrrrrrrrOTTENNNN!!!" In fact, I think I may have found the most sexually devious, Lubitschian trope that Lubitsch ever Lubitsched: the "ring", of Gilda's climaxing ears, of the tingling sensations in Gilda's feet, and of the typewriter where Charles writes the hammiest Wilde ripoff imaginable (and which, unsurprisingly, is a ten-month-hit with audiences).
Gilda Farrel may just be one of the most charming female characters I've ever seen.
While the subject of this Lubitsch film is extremely bold for its time (a 1933 film about a three-way?!), I was pretty disappointed in the humor department. Didn't laugh once, and once you get past the daring conceit of the plot, it was sort of dull (to me anyway). I much prefer To Be or Not To Be: bold AND funny!
A complete 180 for Lubitsch. Perhaps he felt the censors beginning to weigh on him? Oh, there is plenty of sex, but it is all subdued, hush hush, quiet fade outs. Lubitsch shows impressive range - where Trouble was all speedy baboon, flailing its arms asunder, design is a observant, almost precocious kitten sipping wine. What can someone expect from a Noel Coward play? You either gel with Noel or you don't. I haven't seen this particular play, but I wouldn't be surprised if Hecht & Lubitsch dampened the edges a bit. The film feels rather spacious for a Coward narrative - there is a lot of breathing room. Nevertheless, the actors are all superb. Miriam Hopkins is two for two…
The entire Criterion collection organized by spine number.
I don't know why I did this.
Number I've Seen: 194/776 (25%)
UPDATED: May 18, 2015
The Criterion Collection is a video distribution company that sells "important classic and contemporary films" in…