Desk Set (1957)

102 or 104 or 104 mins | Comedy | May 1957

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HISTORY

The working title of this film was His Other Woman . The film's opening credits are depicted as being spewed out by a computer. They are followed by a written acknowledgment thanking the International Business Machines Corporation (IBM) for their assistance. A 1986 obituary in Park LaBrea News notes that William Marchant's play was loosely based on the experiences of Agnes E. Law, the former CBS librarian who established the network's research library. According to a Nov 1955 HR news item, Shirley Booth, who starred in the stage version, was to repeat her role for the film and Marchant was signed to write the screen adaptation.
       In the play, the librarian's interactions with the efficiency expert were brief and somewhat hostile. Screenwriters Phoebe and Henry Ephron built up the role of the efficiency expert and tailored the interactions between him and the researcher to fit Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn.
       Desk Set was the first picture that Hepburn and Tracy made together outside M-G-M. According to a Mar 1957 LAT news item, Hepburn chose Dina Merrill, Sue Randall, Merry Anders and Diane Jergens for their roles in the picture, which marked Merrill's screen debut. Harry Ellerbe reprised his stage role of "Smithers" for the film. Although HR news items add Wilmot Donald, Buzz Barbee, Henry Hollins, Terry Terrill, Joseph Gilbert, William Janssen, Wanda Barbour, Ann Gardner, Lorraine Bond, Dee Sharon, Evelen Ceder, Alena Murray and Bopeep Karlin to the cast, their appearance in the released film has not been ... More Less

The working title of this film was His Other Woman . The film's opening credits are depicted as being spewed out by a computer. They are followed by a written acknowledgment thanking the International Business Machines Corporation (IBM) for their assistance. A 1986 obituary in Park LaBrea News notes that William Marchant's play was loosely based on the experiences of Agnes E. Law, the former CBS librarian who established the network's research library. According to a Nov 1955 HR news item, Shirley Booth, who starred in the stage version, was to repeat her role for the film and Marchant was signed to write the screen adaptation.
       In the play, the librarian's interactions with the efficiency expert were brief and somewhat hostile. Screenwriters Phoebe and Henry Ephron built up the role of the efficiency expert and tailored the interactions between him and the researcher to fit Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn.
       Desk Set was the first picture that Hepburn and Tracy made together outside M-G-M. According to a Mar 1957 LAT news item, Hepburn chose Dina Merrill, Sue Randall, Merry Anders and Diane Jergens for their roles in the picture, which marked Merrill's screen debut. Harry Ellerbe reprised his stage role of "Smithers" for the film. Although HR news items add Wilmot Donald, Buzz Barbee, Henry Hollins, Terry Terrill, Joseph Gilbert, William Janssen, Wanda Barbour, Ann Gardner, Lorraine Bond, Dee Sharon, Evelen Ceder, Alena Murray and Bopeep Karlin to the cast, their appearance in the released film has not been confirmed. More Less

SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Box Office
18 May 1957.
---
Daily Variety
10 May 57
p. 3.
Film Daily
10 May 57
p. 7.
Hollywood Reporter
2 Nov 1955.
---
Hollywood Reporter
17 Dec 56
p. 11.
Hollywood Reporter
11 Jan 57
p. 14.
Hollywood Reporter
23 Jan 57
p. 8.
Hollywood Reporter
30 Jan 57
p. 14.
Hollywood Reporter
1 Mar 57
p. 18.
Hollywood Reporter
5 Apr 57
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
6 Apr 57
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
19 Apr 57
p. 11.
Hollywood Reporter
10 May 57
p. 3.
Los Angeles Times
17 Mar 1957.
---
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest
18 May 57
p. 377.
New York Times
16 May 57
p. 28.
Park LaBrea News
30 Jan 1986.
---
Variety
5 May 57
p. 6.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Asst dir
PRODUCER
WRITERS
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
ART DIRECTORS
FILM EDITOR
Film ed
SET DECORATORS
Set dec
Set dec
COSTUMES
Exec ward des
VISUAL EFFECTS
Spec photog eff
MAKEUP
Makeup
Hair styles
PRODUCTION MISC
Unit prod mgr
COLOR PERSONNEL
Col consultant
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the play The Desk Set by William Marchant as produced by Robert Fryer and Lawrence Carr (New York, 24 Oct 1955).
DETAILS
Alternate Title:
His Other Woman
Release Date:
May 1957
Premiere Information:
New York opening: 15 May 1957
Production Date:
early Jan--4 Mar 1957
Copyright Claimant:
Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corp.
Copyright Date:
16 May 1957
Copyright Number:
LP8357
Physical Properties:
Sound
Westrex Recording System
Color
De Luxe
Widescreen/ratio
CinemaScope
Lenses/Prints
lenses by Bausch & Lomb
Duration(in mins):
102 or 104 or 104
Length(in feet):
9,310
Country:
United States
Language:
English
PCA No:
18461
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

When efficiency expert Richard Sumner comes to the research department of the Federal Broadcasting Company to evaluate work patterns, his eccentric behavior piques the curiosity of researchers Peg Costello, Sylvia Blair and Ruthie Saylor. Bunny Watson, the quick-witted, sharp-tongued head researcher, begins to worry when Sumner informs her that he is a methods engineer whose goal is to improve the man-work hour relationship. After observing the department, Sumner confers with Mr. Azae, the head of the network, about computerization, and Azae asks him to keep the project a secret. Meanwhile, Bunny admires a gown she has purchased in the hope that Mike Cutler, her boss and suitor of seven years, will invite her to a country club dance, prompting the wise-cracking Peg to counsel Bunny that she has made herself too available to Mike, who treats her "like an old coat." Soon after, Mike appears, and after asking Bunny to look over his department financial report, offhandedly invites her to the dance and a weekend in the country. Afterward, Sumner invites Bunny to lunch and she has visions of dining at a posh hotel until Sumner escorts her to the blustery rooftop of the office building and hands her a sandwich. Sumner then gives Bunny an ability test, and she astounds him by answering every question perfectly. Bunny quips that she has researched Sumner and discovered that he is the inventor and patent holder of EMMARAC, an electronic brain. Impressed, Sumner compliments Bunny by calling her a "rare tropical fish." After lunch, Bunny pumps Smithers, the office gossip, for information about Sumner. Upon returning to the office, Bunny is breathlessly informed by Peg ... +


When efficiency expert Richard Sumner comes to the research department of the Federal Broadcasting Company to evaluate work patterns, his eccentric behavior piques the curiosity of researchers Peg Costello, Sylvia Blair and Ruthie Saylor. Bunny Watson, the quick-witted, sharp-tongued head researcher, begins to worry when Sumner informs her that he is a methods engineer whose goal is to improve the man-work hour relationship. After observing the department, Sumner confers with Mr. Azae, the head of the network, about computerization, and Azae asks him to keep the project a secret. Meanwhile, Bunny admires a gown she has purchased in the hope that Mike Cutler, her boss and suitor of seven years, will invite her to a country club dance, prompting the wise-cracking Peg to counsel Bunny that she has made herself too available to Mike, who treats her "like an old coat." Soon after, Mike appears, and after asking Bunny to look over his department financial report, offhandedly invites her to the dance and a weekend in the country. Afterward, Sumner invites Bunny to lunch and she has visions of dining at a posh hotel until Sumner escorts her to the blustery rooftop of the office building and hands her a sandwich. Sumner then gives Bunny an ability test, and she astounds him by answering every question perfectly. Bunny quips that she has researched Sumner and discovered that he is the inventor and patent holder of EMMARAC, an electronic brain. Impressed, Sumner compliments Bunny by calling her a "rare tropical fish." After lunch, Bunny pumps Smithers, the office gossip, for information about Sumner. Upon returning to the office, Bunny is breathlessly informed by Peg that Sumner has come to replace them all with his mechanical brain. After Bunny reassures Peg that no machine can do their job, Peg counters that half the payroll department was dismissed after EMMARAC was installed in their division. As Sumner daily haunts the research department, the team becomes extremely paranoid. On the eve of the big weekend, Mike drops into Bunny's office to break their date because he has been asked to accompany Azae to Chicago as a result of "his" exemplary financial report. At the end of work that afternoon, Bunny and Sumner encounter Smithers in the hallway. It is storming outside, and consequently, Smithers offers them a ride with his squalling family. After Smithers drops them off in front of Bunny's apartment building, Bunny invites the soaked Sumner in for dinner and gives him a robe to wear that she has bought as a Christmas gift for Mike. They dine convivially, dressed only in their robes, and when Sumner walks into the kitchen to fetch dessert, Mike rings the doorbell and explains that his plane has been grounded. When Sumner appears, the pompous Mike is shocked to find Bunny entertaining another man. Peg rings the doorbell next, and when Mike apologizes for his unseemly behavior, Bunny thinks Mike is about to propose, but instead, he disappoints her once again. At the office Christmas party, the research staff laments the fact that this will be their last office party. As Peg and Bunny giggle, slightly tipsy from an abundance of champagne, Sumner scrutinizes his budget and Mike returns from Chicago. When Bunny presents Mike with a set of bongo drums as his Christmas gift, he starts to propose but is summoned to Azae's office. In Mike's absence, Sumner pounds the drums as Bunny sings. Sparks begin to fly between Bunny and Sumner, and Bunny accuses Sumner of never marrying because he is in love with EMMARAC. Mike then returns, bubbling with the news that he has been promoted to vice president. When Mike announces that he and Bunny will leave for the coast on Tuesday to be married, Bunny makes excuses about why she cannot possibly leave New York, and Mike accuses Bunny of being involved with Sumner and angrily storms out of the office. Sumner then merrily invites the entire office for a drink, but the air of congeniality is shattered when the coldly efficient, condescending Miss Warringer arrives from Sumner's office to arrange for the installation of EMMARAC. Soon after, EMMARAC arrives, overseen by Miss Warringer and her many prohibitions. When their pay envelopes arrive stuffed with pink dismissal slips, the staff sadly begins to pack up their desks and refuse to answer the phones, which are ringing off their hooks with research questions, forcing the befuddled Miss Warringer to deal with the onslaught of calls. Sumner is puzzled by the staff's lack of cooperation, and after EMMARAC goes berserk, Miss Warringer breaks down in hysterics and runs screaming from the office. After receiving his pink slip, Sumner discovers that the entire building has been fired by the payroll computer. Sumner then explains that EMMARAC was never intended to replace the research department, only to help them do their job, but the project was kept secret because of an impending merger with another network. After Sumner teaches Bunny to use EMMARAC, she fondly pats the machine. When Mike, bearing roses, enters Bunny's office, Sumner calls her out of the room and asks EMMARAC if Bunny should marry Mike or him. Asserting that EMMARAC would always come first in Sumner's life, Bunny pushes the destruct button to prove her point. As Mike leaves the roses on Bunny's desk and silently departs, Sumner repairs EMMARAC and then hugs Bunny. +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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