Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Classic Movie to the Rescue

I just had one of those weeks. First, I tried to join this Apple network called MobileMe and it ate all the names in my iPhone contact list. Then, the air conditioning fan in my Volvo stopped working. Then, my father's Buick, which I've kept for use as a second car, started conking out at stop lights. Then, the cable box on my bedroom television died. Then, I had to go to the dentist, twice, from whence I departed with a numb face and an empty savings account. I shouldn't complain. Nobody died, or anything. (That already happened twice this year.) So, I started thinking about something that would make me laugh. Ha. Ha. Ha. Did I ever need that.

For all who have had a week like mine, and others who agree that laughter is always the best Rx, here is an underrated classic that is better than a long talk with your shrink. Especially if you believe that men and women truly are beings from different solar systems.

Designing Woman (1957) is the story of a chic fashionista, played by Lauren Bacall, and a manly sportswriter, played by Gregory Peck, who meet while each is on assignment in California. They are, as the French say, struck by lightning and thus, very quickly fall in love, marry in a fever, and head back to their home ground of New York City where they face the consequences of their impetuousness.

Their worlds both exist in New York City but don't intersect--just as the worlds of men and women exist on Planet Earth but collide only during the mating process. His life involves fighters, bookies, poker buddies and ex-showgirl girlfriends and hers is full of writers, artists, Broadway producers, and slightly gay choreographers and dress designers. What do they have in common? Nothing! Just like most people who marry!

So what you are saying is you don't like my cheese dip decorated with hearts, spades, diamonds and clubs for your poker party?

The realistic and funny part is how oblivious each is to this universal truth. Peck's character is especially clueless. He's a guy attracted to a babe and figures that is all there is to that. Aren't men silly?

Three scenes stand out. The first involves the ex-girlfriend, lunch, and a plate of spaghetti--a scene George Burns said made him LOL. The second takes place at a boxing match, to which Bacall wears an outfit entirely made of mink and, at which, to her chagrin, she learns something she wishes she hadn't about the fight game (it involves newspapers). The third scene you won't forget takes place in an alley, during which the thugs who are out to get our hero (this is the main sub plot of the story) must face the much maligned choreographer.

Though you may not have heard of this movie, it was directed by Vincent Minnelli (Liza's father) and it won an Oscar for its screenplay and for screenwriter George Wells. It was produced in the last decade of MGM's fading glory and has all the style and class that marked this wonderful studio before its demise. I don't think I enjoyed it exclusively because of that brief and forgettable period during which I was allegedly married to a sportswriter. But it is possible.

I saw Designing Woman first on Turner Classic Movies, but it is also available from Amazon and can sometimes be found for checkout free, at your local library. If it isn't--you should ask them for it. Next time you go to the dentist and your air conditioning and your contact list on your iPhone die in the same week, you may just need it.

More About the Movie DESIGNING WOMAN

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