DESIGNING WOMAN (director: Vincente Minnelli; screenwriter: suggestion from Helen Rose/story by George Wells/George Wells; cinematographer: John Alton; editor: Adrienne Fazan; music: Andre Previn; cast: Gregory Peck (Mike Hagen), Lauren Bacall (Marilla Hagen), Dolores Gray (Lori Shannon), Sam Levene (Ned Hammerstein), Tom Helmore (Zachary Wilde), Mickey Shaughnessy (Maxie Stultz), Jesse White (Charlie Arneg), Jack Cole (Randy Owens), Chuck Connors (Johnnie “O”), Edward Platt (Martin J. Daylor); Runtime: 118; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Dore Schary; MGM/Warner Bros.; 1957)
“There wasn’t much to chew on or laugh about in this stilted comedy.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
Vincente Minnelli (“The Band Wagon”) directs what’s supposed to be a sophisticated and bubbly MGM comedy, but it only materializes as a witless slapstick one that relies on harmless sight gags with a poodle biting on shoes to garner most of its laughs. It was written by George Wells from a suggestion by the film’s costume designer Helen Rose. The Lauren Bacall part was meant for Grace Kelly, but she was Monaco-bound to be a princess and Bacall was given the part at a late date. It was filmed during 1956 at a time Bacall’s hubby Humphrey Bogart was terribly ill with the last stages of cancer of the esophagus (he died in January of 1957). Despite how hard a time it must have been for Bacall, she has stated that she loved working with old friend Gregory Peck and the comic material took her mind off things. It turned out to be one of her favorite pictures. With that being said I found it was watchable only in seeing how well Peck and Bacall bonded; though Peck is not suited to do comedy that requires a light touch, Bacall makes for an adequate replacement for Kelly.
Mike Hagen (Gregory Peck) is a newspaper sports reporter covering a golf tournament in Los Angeles. MarillaBrown (Lauren Bacall) is a successful fashion designer vacationing in L.A. and staying at the same ritzy Beverly Hills Hotel as fellow New Yorker Mike. They meet at night but Mike gets so loaded celebrating a gambling killing he made with his sports writer cronies, that he can’t remember who Marilla is in the morning when they meet by the pool. He is relieved of all his anxiety when he learns that he filed his story with grumpy editor Ned Hammerstein (Sam Levene), which he didn’t remember doing, and upon knowing his job is still safe he greets Marilla with a new romantic interest. Marilla returns the $700 she held for him and they go to Arizona to spend it, and impulsively get married. On their return to NYC they both realize they know little about each other and that she travels in high brow artistic circles while he hangs around with low brow sports personalities. Marilla also becomes jealous when she finds a photo of a sexy show gal in his apartment, who it turns out is Mike’s old flame Lori Shannon (Dolores Gray).
Lori, when she finds out Mike got married, dumps a plate of ravioli on his lap in a fancy restaurant. Returning to Marilla’s apartment in the bus boy’s ill-fitting green pants, Mike meets her friends who instantly show no interest in him. The only one he finds pleasant is theater producer Zachary Wilde (Tom Helmore), Marilla’s old flame whose marriage proposal she turned down.
The plot revolves around Mike writing a series of articles incriminating to crooked boxing promoter Martin J. Daylor (Edward Platt), who threatens Mike with bodily harm if he doesn’t stop writing those kind of damaging articles. Mike doesn’t heed the warning, and is forced to go into hiding from Daylor’s goons. For protection Mike takes punch-drunk former middleweight champion Maxie Stultz (Mickey Shaughnessy) along. In the meantime, Marilla is in Boston for the opening of Wilde’s show, where she’s the costume designer and Lori Shannon is the star. When Mike learns through the disreputable snoop Charlie Arneg (Jesse White), after paying him a promissory note for $500, that Daylor intends to kidnap his wife in Boston because he can’t locate Mike, he rushes by car to Boston with Maxie and thwarts the kidnapping in the nick of time but wouldn’t have been able to do it without the help of one of Marilla’s artistic choreographer friends Randy (Jack Cole). When things are cleared up Mike apologizes to Randy for thinking that he was a sissy, and unnecessarily tells Marilla a lie about not knowing Lori when she already knows the truth from Lori and has forgiven him over the misunderstanding.
There wasn’t much to chew on or laugh about in this stilted comedy.
REVIEWED ON 3/10/2005 GRADE: C
Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”
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