Designing Woman (1957)

“How is it you cannot stand the sight of blood on anyone except me?

Synopsis:
A sports writer (Gregory Peck) and a fashion designer (Lauren Bacall) fall in love and marry in a hurry, but soon find their social circles aren’t exactly compatible.

Genres:

Review:
Vincente Minnelli directed this colorful but dull romantic comedy a la Tracy-and-Hepburn’s Woman of the Year (1942). Perhaps not surprisingly, Designing Woman was conceived by fashion designer Helen Rose, whose marvelous costumes (a highlight) “included 132 gowns, an average of more than a-gown-a-minute for the 118-minute film!” Unfortunately, Peck and Bacall’s drunken meet-cute and ensuing marital problems don’t elicit much sympthy or interest, and the subplots — including Peck being hounded by the corrupt promoter (Edward Platt) of a punch-drunk fighter (Mickey Shaughnessy), and Bacall’s jealousy of Peck’s former curvy fling (Dolores Gray) — are simply insipid. Worst of all are the film’s dated notions of what a woman (even one as successful, independent, beautiful, and popular as Bacall) will do to snag and keep a man; the title is a not-too-subtle play on words (get it? designing woman?). It’s baffling that this screenplay won an Oscar.

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • Fine cinematography

  • Helen Rose’s costumes

Must See?
Nope; feel free to skip this one.

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One Response to “Designing Woman (1957)”

  1. First viewing. Agreed; skip it.

    This will come off as a sort of blasphemy to many but, with some exceptions, I don’t think much of the work of Vincente Minnelli. His main interest in film was visual (and, to that end, many of his films display visual splendor, esp. his musicals).

    But I find the bulk of his work exceedingly dull and ‘Designing Woman’ is both a prime example and a major offender. When it comes to film, I’m not personally first and foremost a visual person but I will certainly appreciate visuals to the max if they are in tandem with everything else: good acting, scripts and direction.

    Minnelli often chose to work on bad scripts: comedies that aren’t all that amusing or dramas that lean toward being mawkish. As well, he didn’t appear to know all that much about what to do with actors – he seemed to mostly let them slide on what they were known for doing well.

    (It’s sort of amazing to me that ‘The Band Wagon’ is my all-time favorite movie musical. But then, all of the elements of that script are top-notch. I think Minnelli just lucked out.)

    As comedy goes, ‘Designing Woman’ is about as weak as they come. As a result, Minnelli directed in a way that sometimes even good directors fall prey to in such a situation: he tried to force the material, as a means to compensate and make it funnier. ~which only serves to reveal just how weak the material is.

    A lot of the script hinges on jealousy. …Yawn.

    Gay viewers will note that Minnelli has gay (but closeted) choreographer Jack Cole acting in the role of a character who is a choreographer – and the ‘joke’ is that Cole’s character is actually a macho married man (!). Of course, that doesn’t explain why Minnelli has Cole jumping around flamboyantly when that isn’t necessary. Maybe he thought it would be funny.

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