Design For Living (1933)


Bil’s rating (out of 5):  BBB

USA, 1933.  Screenplay by , based on the play by .  Cinematography by .  Produced by Ernst Lubitsch.  Music by . Production Design by Hans Dreier.  Costume Design by .  Film Editing by .  

Even by today’s standards this romantic comedy, based very loosely on the play by Noel Coward (actually only one line of dialogue remains intact), still remains a bit scandalous even if the execution is somewhat clunky. Miriam Hopkins befriends two starving artists in Paris, a painter (Gary Cooper) and a writer (Fredric March), and romances them both. They decide to not let a woman come between them and force her to pick which one she prefers, but she insists she can’t and instead wants to keep them both. Years pass and they become huge successes, while she takes herself away from the sticky situation she’s created by agreeing to marry a wealthy man she doesn’t love before the two heroes decide to go save her. The direction is pretty wooden, and the performances by the two male leads aren’t that much better (Cooper’s airheaded nature was often sexy, as it is here, but March couldn’t pull off lightweight comedy if his life depended on it). The famed Lubitsch touch, however, is still in evidence, particularly in the silvery photography, and it makes worth a mild glance.

The Criterion Collection:  #592


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