“They can’t build a computer to take our jobs.”
Growing up I remember getting a lot of new technology. I remember when we got our first computer. It was a big bulky Compaq. Then we got a shitty Dell computer. Both computer I blew up from downloading music. I remember getting my first cell phone at sixteen. I remember when I graduated high school my parents said they would get me iPod. I told them I was fine with my CDs and I think when I said that I could walk around campus with headphones in they backed out because they thought I would be too antisocial. I also remember getting my first laptop which was also a massive Dell with tiny little round speaker. Now I, once again, have a shitty Dell laptop, I also have an awesome iPhone, still have my iPod, and now I have an iPad. I love technology. I love having so much information at my fingertips. But I must say that I am still old fashioned when it comes to researching with books. When I was younger that is how I did most of my research because computers were not what they are now. When I like a subject I go all out. I love having physical copies of books. I like so many different topics of history and movies and TV and photography and novels that I sometimes think of myself as a literal human resource. Most of what I have learned on my favorite topics, especially history, photography, and movies has come from reading books.
Sometimes I like to wonder what it was really like before computers came about to research. I hate writing research papers and I cannot imagine how much harder it would be if I had not had modern technology to do it. Without a citation machine and grammar and spell check I would have been totally screwed! The 1957 film Desk Set gives a small glimpse into what research without computers was like and when computers were thought of as something silly.
A man named Richard Sumner (Spencer Tracy) is a day early to his appointment with the head of a broadcasting company in Manhattan. The secretary thinks Richard is very, very odd and when he decides to go down to the research department she calls the women down there to warn them.
The research department is run by Bunny Watson (Katharine Hepburn) with some help from three secretaries and research including her friend Peg Costello (Joan Blondell). The four women are like walking encyclopedias. Whenever someone calls looking for information about anything they know it right off the tops of their heads. Richard tells the women hat he is an engineer of sorts who works on testing time management and work place efficiency. The secretary for the head of the company calls for Richard to come back upstairs for his meeting. The head of the company is looking to place a computer in the research department. He is more than willing to replace Bunny, Peg and the other researchers with a giant computer. He makes Richard promise that he would not tell Bunny and the others about what the plans are.
Bunny has been seeing a guy named Mike for the past few years. They were finally going to go up to his place in Connecticut for the weekend but he had to cancel to work. Richard stays behind with Bunny that night and the two of them share a ride to her place. Of course, this is where Bunny and Richard truly begin to fall in love and respect each other despite whatever differences they may have.
Eventually a computer is installed in the research department and everyone, including Bunny, are fired. But fortunately for all of them the computer majorly backfires and breaks down after just one simple command.
Katharine Hepburn, Spencer Tracy, and Joan Blondell were fantastic. Hepburn and Tracy get on my nerves with their acting. With Hepburn I always feel like she had this air of like she thought she was the greatest actress ever. To me she definitely was not in any way. But in Desk Set Hepburn was funny and enjoyable there was no air to her acting. I feel the same about Tracy sometimes he was not as bad as Hepburn but there is something to his acting that had an air to it or maybe there is just something lacking in his acting that I do not like. Blondell is a constant delight to see in films. When I realized she was in the film I nearly freaked out! She was perfect. Blondell and Hepburn had fantastic scenes together. Hepburn seemed relaxed and comfortable around Blondell like she had a really great time working with Blondell. There was a part when Richard is leaving Bunny’s apartment. Peg had come over. As he is leaving he comes back in the room looking all disheveled and nuts and Peg and Bunny lose it. Apparently that was completely improvised by Tracy and the laughing and Hepburn falling out of the chair was all real, genuine laughter. That may be the best scene I have ever watched of Hepburn’s.
Desk Set was a good film. It was somewhat entertaining and I have to put that down to Joan Blondell. If she had not been in Desk Set I do not think I would have paid as much attention. I did really like how everyone thought computers could never replace humans because today that is what computers have done and continue to do they take the place of human labor. I feel like I would have been a researcher like Bunny and Peg. I love to research things as long as I do not have to write about them. I guess you could say I am like them when it comes to classic films. Desk Set is a classic film that is worth watching at least once especially for the technological aspects.
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