“Designing Woman”: A Classic Movie Review

In my book there is nothing better than a classic movie featuring the Hollywood stars of yesteryear. Why do I make such an outrageous claim? It is because I am not in to all of the gratuitous sex, overt violence and blood and gore that are so much a part of today’s films.
As naïve as it may be, I want to be entertained, amused, tickled, touched, or moved by the movies I watch. I don’t care to be disgusted, annoyed, angry, disillusioned or sickened. It’s that simple!

With the rash of bad films that Hollywood has put out in recent years, I find myself watching more and more of the classic films. The one I am about to review was never a blockbuster or even a sleeper. On the other hand, it is fun, funny, sophisticated and entertaining.

The name of the film is “Designing Woman” and is stars Lauren Bacall and Gregory Peck. Bacall plays Marilla Brown, a fashion designer who always looks like she walked out of the pages of Vogue magazine.

Peck plays sports writer, Mike Hagen. He’s a no nonsense, tell it like it is reporter who doesn’t think about the consequences of his words when he sometimes should.

The two meet quite by accident one evening after Mike wins some money at the racetrack. He offers to buy everyone drinks, including the lovely Marilla. But then he proceeds to get drunk and lose track of his time, his money and himself.

The next morning, when he runs into Marilla at the pool, he doesn’t remember her. She takes it matter of factly and simply hands him $700; the money he had given her to hold in order to keep himself from blowing the whole wad.

One thing leads to another and before long it becomes obvious the two are in love. They get married and return to New York to resume their respective careers. That is when the real fun begins.

Mike learns that his recent columns about a fighter promoter in league with the mob have put his life in jeopardy. At first he tries to ignore it but it soon becomes obvious that he cannot.

The real fun; however, begins when the two worlds of the bride and groom try to come together. Mike likes poker with his cronies. Marilla prefers the company of vivacious entertainment folk. The two mix like oil and water, which makes for some lively moments on screen.

Then there is the old girlfriend Lori Shannon (played by Delores Gray). The jilted actress soon becomes a part of Marilla’s crowd. Although, Mike denies it, Marilla can see that he and Lori have some kind of connection. She worries it might not be an old one and sets out to find the answers.

Mike is afraid of hurting his beloved bride so he does what men often do in that situation — he lies. But every lie is evident to Marilla, which makes her even more suspicious.

All of these plots eventually merge to make for a hilarious romp that the audience gets to enjoy right along with the players themselves. In particular, the ending sequence is absolutely hilarious. Bacall remains true to herself. She is chic, glamorous, beautiful and cool. Yet, she has masterful comedic timing and a face that registers every emotion with elegance and grace.

Peck, who isn’t well known for his comedic talents, manages to pull off a tour de force performance nonetheless. He is charming, witty and sexy without losing his edge of aloof restraint. Gray is good in the role of the ex-girlfriend, but not great. This would have been a perfect role for someone with more comedic charm like Betty Grable or even Lucille Ball.

Director Vincente Minnelli gets great performances out of his actors across the board. He also milks every word of the script written by George Wells. “Designing Woman” is a good film but it isn’t a great one. It doesn’t have to be. It fulfills its goal, which is to entertain and there isn’t a thing wrong with that. I give it three stars.

0 = A stinker. Don’t waste the money!
1 = Bad. Rent it at your own risk.
2 = Below average. See only if you have time to kill.
2.5 = Average. A toss up.
3 = Good. Worth a looksee.
3.5 = Very Good. I recommend it.
4 = Excellent. Don’t miss it!
4.5 = Outstanding. What are you waiting for?
5 = Destined to become a classic. You will be sorry if you don’t see it.