“Desk Set”

“Desk Set” – A 1957 movie starring Katharine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy. It will halt that channel flicking and turn any night into bliss. So much nostalgic greatness about this film. What’s fantastic about art is that it captures images and ideas that purposefully or incidentally reflect time.

Spencer Tracy plays an efficiency expert who is called in to evaluate a firm’s research department. That department consists of four lady brains, three rotary phone lines, and a library of books and periodicals on and within industrial office furniture. Spencer Tracy’s character is secretly there to assess installing his then high tech, experimentally developed computer. It is like the big dinosaur punch card systems. The plot unfolds to show concern over humans being replaced by machines.

Among the backdrop of the less dramatic tale than would be told today is a plethora of mid-century décor, fashion, behavior, attitudes and social norms. I happened to be studying architecture when I saw this and was giddy over the couple of great high-rise details. We tend to destroy things unless we understand their significance, and even then smash away.

Everything about the film is light, chipper, glamorous and humorous. There is a romance afoot in the story. Note for all the librarians and smart women out there: you at least used to be very alluring, but you were also pretty anorexic. Note for the men: too many notes here but you have successfully escaped many social expectations.

I must admit I watched Desk Set over three sittings, at least one with a glass of wine. It was not because it did not entertain but that I had to grab my frivolous time when I could. If you think you are not into old movies, try it my way, in bits and pieces. You will be rewarded with laughter and revitalized wisdom and perspective. Film available on Netflix.



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