Rating: Not Rated
Spencer Tracy as Richard Sumner
Katharine Hepburn as Bunny Watson
Gig Young as Mike Cutler
Joan Blondell as Peg Costello
Dina Merrill as Sylvia Blair
Sue Randall as Ruthie Saylor
Neva Patterson as Miss Warriner
Harry Ellerbe as Smithers
Nicholas Joy as Mr. Azae
Diane Jergens as Alice
Merry Anders as Cathy
Commentary by actors Dina Merrill and John Lee
Movietone News: “Designers Inspired for New Creation by Film Desk Set”
Spanish Mono Sound
Running Time: 103 Minutes
This film is from 1957 and is based on a play by William Marchant.
Bunny Watson is the head of the research department for the Federal Broadcasting Company in New York. It is the job of her and her staff to answer questions from the news department, the game shows, public relations, and more. They are required to have at their fingertips the answer to any possible question.
Their jobs are put in jeopardy when Richard Sumner arrives on the scene. He’s an efficiency expert sent to observe the research department. His mission is a secret, but the staff believe he’s there to oversee them being replaced by a computer.
Bunny does her best to convince Richard that humans can’t be replaced by computers, but she instead finds herself falling for this fellow intellectual. What will happen when the computer eventually moves in to take her job?
Desk Set is not rated, but the material is essentially G rated.
I haven’t seen too many Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn movies, so I was curious to see what this one was about. While it does feature their trademark bickering and flirting, I found it more interesting that it tackled the issue of computers taking over the jobs of humans. Back in the 50’s there was a lot of paranoia about this and it is still an issue to some degree today. This movie shows a fictional computer that is the ultimate reference source and can answer any question instantly. While there could not have been such a computer in the 50’s, we have just such tool today the internet. While you can find almost anything on the web today that you might be interested in, the trick still remains knowing how to look for it. That ends up being the case in Desk Set as well. If you don’t look for the right keyword, there’s no telling what you might bring up. In that way the film is strangely prophetic. Complete automation is not the answer to every problem. You have to have an intelligent user behind it and that’s one of the messages of this film.
But back to Tracy and Hepburn they still show good chemistry in this movie, the eighth of their nine films. One of the best scenes in the whole movie is where Richard attempts to stump Bunny with puzzles during a rooftop luncheon. He tries again and again to get her to make a mistake, yet her incredible memory allows her to get the correct answer each time. The look on his face when he realizes he has met his intellectual match is priceless. The two have other funny moments together throughout the story.
There are only two real extras included on this DVD:
Commentary by actors Dina Merrill and John Lee Dina Merrill is the only cast member to provide commentary for the DVD. Also accompanying her is John Lee who had nothing to do with the film but provides a running commentary of trivia when Merrill isn’t talking. He talks about Tracy and Hepburn, the history of the movie, and more while the Merrill discusses her personal experiences on the set. Merrill talks about meeting Hepburn and Tracy and what it was like shooting the film. Despite not having the principal cast members, it is still an informative commentary.
Movietone News: “Designers Inspired for New Creation by Film Desk Set” This is an extremely brief segment from an old newsreel that featured a fashion show with designs inspired by Desk Set. The models walk a runway made out of old desks and show off dresses worn by Hepburn. It is a little funny to see the old newsreel and styles, but it’s an interesting extra for the DVD.
The Bottom Line:
Desk Set is a fun little romantic comedy that fans of Tracy and Hepburn will love to have on DVD. While it was a cute and amusing look back to the world of the 50’s, it’s still not my kind of film. I prefer action over romance, but I think fans of vintage romantic comedies will thoroughly enjoy it.