Friday, January 13, 2012

Designing Woman (1957)



“Liquor, I've found, makes me very smart sometimes.” 

I did not know what I was getting into when I watched Designing Woman with Gregory Peck and Lauren Bacall. Before I watched the film I did not even know what the plot was about, I figured it had to involve something with designing fashion and that the leads had to overcome their differences for them to love each other. All I really knew for sure was that I had to see it for Peck and Bacall since I love them both.
            The film is told as a flashback by several of the characters. Mike Hagen (Peck) and Marilla Brown (Bacall) meet while they are both working/vacationing in California. They met the night before after a big boxing match. Mike has no idea what he did that night all he knows is that he met a woman and that he has a screaming hangover. When he goes outside by the pool he sees the woman he had met. They sit down and she fills in his gaps of the night before: they had met and he was so drunk that he needed help writing an article for the newspaper he works so she helped him and he wanted to pay her seven hundred dollars. Mike still does want to pay her but she does not accept. After that day they spend all their spare time together and they decide to marry.
            Like all fairy tale times and stories the honeymoon does not last long after they return home. Mike wants them to live in his bachelor apartment but it is very small and very very messy. In that mess Marilla happens to find a torn up picture of a very pretty woman. She tells Mike that he can spend the night at her place and when he sees her place he cannot believe how big it is, he can clearly see that Marilla is very successful with her fashion designing. He has been hoping to show her the city and introduce her to people but then her friends spring a surprise for her and he sees that she already knows a lot of people. As the weeks roll on they come to find their lifestyles clash tremendously especially when Mike’s poker night is on the same night that Marilla has all outlandish theater friends over. The night does not go over well at all.
            To make matter incredibly worse between the new couple Mike’s ex-girlfriend and the one in the torn up picture is in the play Marilla is making the costumes for. For a while Marilla has her suspicions about this actress named Lori Shannon she feels she has seen the actress around before but cannot place her. Then one day at rehearsals Marilla finally puts two and two together and leaves right away. The day before Mike had lied about not knowing Lori and now she is ready to lay into her husband pretty thick. But before things are said and blow up Mike has to head out of town for a few weeks for his paper. He has been writing how racketeering in boxing and one of the heads of the racketeers is after him over his stories. This situation cannot have come at a worse time for him because now Marilla thinks he is off to stay with Lori.
            Things get crazy and out of hand but in the end Mike and Marilla are still together and love each other very much.
            Gregory Peck and Lauren Bacall were fabulous. All I had seen Peck in up to this point was dramas I loved seeing him all flustered and silly. Mike never seemed like he was very comfortable with Marilla or being taken out of his element and Peck played that wonderfully he looked as if he really was uncomfortable around Bacall and out of his element. Lauren Bacall was fantastic with her comedy. She was so deadpan and spot on in some scenes you cannot help but fall to pieces laughing. Sometimes she was a little too much but mostly she was enjoyable. I loved all her clothes she looked great in all her outfits. These two actors were really night and day when it came to their styles of acting but they worked incredibly well together. Their parts were originally intended for Grace Kelly and James Stewart but Grace Kelly backed out once she became engaged to Prince Rainier. I could not in a million years see those two pulling this film off like Bacall and Peck did. Kelly was too stiff with her acting and Stewart would have just been terrible he would have played the character too dumb. Gregory Peck and Lauren Bacall just went full force into their characters with excellence.
            My favorite parts of the film are when Mike goes out with Lori to tell her he’s married and when Mike takes Marilla to a boxing match and when he goes to one of her fashion shows. The scene when Mike goes out with Lori was hysterical. They go out to this Italian place that they always go to and he gets a plate of ravioli. Upon hearing his news Lori calmly almost out of nowhere tips the plate of ravioli onto Mike’s lap. He does not freak out he just as calmly takes what she gave him. She looks as if nothing ever happened (it is hard to explain the funniness of the scene unless you see it; it is so deadpan and wonderful). The two other scenes just show how different Mike and Marilla are: Marilla freaks out at the sight of so much blood she screams and runs out of the match and Mike feels like he has walked into hell when he sees the models modeling clothing and so many women gawking at the clothes.
            I loved how the story was told through flashbacks and narration. The movie Down to You was made in the same way and I love that movie whenever I watch it I think that way of telling the story is brilliant. Maybe the writers for Down to You got the idea from Designing Woman? I think the narration added to the chaos of the characters and the silliness of the story.
            Designing Woman was a very fun and amusing romantic comedy. As I was watching this it made me wish that more comedies were made like this where the main characters are real people with a real problem. The whole situation was not blown completely out of proportion to the point where it was unbearable to watch Lauren Bacall, Gregory Peck, and the entire cast played everything perfectly. I had a fun time watching Designing Woman and seeing just how versatile Gregory Peck and Lauren Bacall were with their acting. I especially enjoyed seeing them in color.