Sixty-four years ago today, the film Desk Set premiered. This a very perfect mid-century film (even with it’s 100% Rotten Tomatoes rating), the sets, the clothing, the actors. It is just one of the most wonderful experiences to view. I also think it is a great holiday film. You must see it.
Title: Desk Set
Directed by: Walter Lang
Produced by: Henry Ephron
Screenplay by: Phoebe Ephron, Henry Ephron
Based on: Desk Set (play) by William Marchant
Starring: Spencer Tracy as Richard Sumner, Katharine Hepburn as Bunny Watson, Gig Young as Mike Cutler, Joan Blondell as Peg Costello, Bunny’s friend and co-worker, Dina Merrill as Sylvia Blair, reference desk worker, Sue Randall as Ruthie Saylor, reference desk worker, Neva Patterson as Miss Warriner, Harry Ellerbe as Smithers, Nicholas Joy as Mr. Azae, Diane Jergens as Alice, Merry Anders as Cathy, Ida Moore as Old Lady, Rachel Stephens as Receptionist, Shirley Mitchell as Myra Smithers
Music by: Cyril J. Mockridge
Cinematography: Leon Shamroy
Distributed by: 20th Century-Fox
Release date: May 1, 1957 (US)
Running time: 103 minutes
Box office: $1.7 million (US rentals)
At the Federal Broadcasting Network in Midtown Manhattan, Bunny Watson (Katharine Hepburn) is in charge of its reference library, which is responsible for researching facts and answering questions on all manner of topics, great and small. Watson has been involved for seven years with rising network executive Mike Cutler (Gig Young), with no marriage in sight.
The network is negotiating a merger with another company, but is keeping it secret. To help the employees cope with the extra work that will result, the network head has ordered two computers, or “electronic brains.” Methods Engineer and efficiency expert Richard Sumner (Spencer Tracy), the inventor of EMERAC (“Electromagnetic MEmory and Research Arithmetical Calculator”), is brought in to see how the library functions, to figure out how to ease the transition. Though extremely bright, as he gets to know Bunny Watson, he is surprised to discover that she is every bit his match.
When they find out the computers are coming, the employees jump to the conclusion they are being replaced. Their fears seem to be confirmed when everyone on the staff receives a pink slip printed out by the new payroll computer. It turns out to have been a mistake; the machine fired everybody in the company, including the president.
Richard Sumner reveals his romantic interest in Bunny Watson, but she believes that EMERAC would always be his first priority. Sumner denies it, but then Watson puts him to the test, setting the machine to self-destruct. Sumner resists the urge to fix it as long as possible, but finally gives in. Watson accepts him anyway.