I don’t review many old movies, so for a change of pace I’ll write a little bit about a 1957 Walter Lang film I saw over the weekend on Turner Classic (the best channel on tv?). Desk Set is an enjoyable Katherine Hepburn/ Spencer Tracy vehicle that is a great piece of romantic comedy to watch on a sleepy, autumn Sunday afternoon.
Hepburn plays Bunny, a whip-smart reference librarian for a large company that is considering installing a new, high powered “electric brain.” That’s computer to you and me, but in 1957 the correct title was electric brain. I kind of like the ring of that… electric brain.
Tracy plays Richard Sumner, the man installing the EB into the company. Sumner is drawn to the quirky librarian (of course!) even though she’s attached to a man who has put off proposing to her for over seven years. Romantic complications ensue.
Desk Set is an easygoing little film that has all the effortless charms that so many films from the 1940s and ‘50s had. It’s just a fun, solid movie filled with lots of good dialogue and marvelous professional actors—Tracy gets to show off a gifted “doubletake” quite often in Desk Set. I’m quite fond of the doubletake.
There were so many studio styled films from this era that are beguiling and have an appeal that is timeless and Desk Set is certainly one of the ones worth watching. I mentioned it earlier, but films like Desk Set, and others from this period, just seem so effortless as you watch them. They entertain and charm without trying at all and that’s why we’ll watch them for fifty more years.