Desk Set (1957)

“They can’t build a machine to do our job.”

Desk Set Poster

Synopsis:
A team of reference librarians (Katharine Hepburn, Joan Blondell, Dina Merrill, and Sue Randall) at the Federal Broadcasting Company worry that their jobs are at stake when an efficiency expert (Spencer Tracy) arrives with a fancy new computer.

Genres:

Review:
Katharine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy’s second-to-last film together was this dry adaptation (directed by Walter Lang) of a Broadway play by William Marchant. Although the issue of human obsolescence in the face of an increasingly powerful electronic universe remains just as relevant today as ever, the subject matter as presented here comes across as hopelessly dated and simplistic, with the ultimate moral of the film — that computers can’t ever fully replace human ingenuity — a boring no-brainer for modern audiences. Meanwhile, the screenplay is badly paced and overly stagy, flitting here and there between various subplots and ultimately falling flat. With that said, Hepburn is as fully invested in her role as ever, and her solid rapport with Tracy remains a comforting treat. However, this one is ultimately only must-see for Hepburn/Tracy completists.

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • Katharine Hepburn as Bunny
    Desk Set Hepburn
  • Typically fine rapport between Tracy and Hepburn
    Desk Set Tracy Hepburn
  • Nice use of Cinemascope
    Desk Set Cinemascope

Must See?
No, though of course Tracy/Hepburn fans won’t want to miss it.

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One Response to “Desk Set (1957)”

  1. Not a must.

    More or less nicely acted, produced and directed (although the stage origins are kept intact to bland effect), ‘Desk Set’ is nevertheless rather lifeless. It’s not boring…exactly…just stodgy and lifeless. As a comedy, it falls quite short – since it’s not very funny.

    Overall, Tracy comes off best here (though “best” isn’t really a word that can be used in regards to this film) with his low-key delivery. He actually seems to be enjoying things, with his light approach to the over-written material. The movie is way too long.

    I saw this once many years ago, and not once since – til now. Having just seen it again, I’m reminded all too well of what has kept me away.

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