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Classic film review: Designing Woman (1957)

classic films


By Teon. Owen. Cromwell, Jr.

Sports reporter Mike Hagen (Gregory Peck) and fashion designer Marilla Brown (Lauren Bacall) meet the two instantly connect with each other and quickly get married. They soon return to New York only to find out that they have very little in common. Marilla designs clothing for wealthy members of New York society and has friends who are actors, artists and beatniks. Mike (in addition to being a sports writer) is a poker enthusiast who enjoys going to go boxing matches and horse races with his working-class friends. Marilla and Mike genuinely love one another and make every effort to be flexible, but clashing friends, ex-girlfriends and a mobster, whom Mike has been accusing of fixing sports events, complicate matters even further.

Released in May of 1957, Designing Woman is a romantic-comedy from Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and directed by Vincente Minnelli. MGM costume designer Helen Rose — who also created many of gowns and dresses for Bacall in the film — reportedly came up with the movie’s concept. Originally the film was to star Grace Kelly and James Stewart, but both stars turned down their roles, a decision they admittedly later regretted. Although she was dealing with husband Humphrey Bogart's severe illness during the shooting — Bogart would pass away four months before the film's release — Lauren Bacall would later count Designing Woman as one of her favorite films.

Bacall and Peck are charming in their particular ways, and the chemistry between the two leads is undeniably great. The supporting cast is equally as good especially Dolores Gray as a Broadway star and would-be femme fatale. As always, Vincente Minnelli's attention to detail gives the film a visual flair, elevating the film into something better than it should be. When released Designing Woman became a critical and financial hit — and one of the biggest of Bacall’s career — and would eventually end up winning screenwriter George Wells an Academy Award for Best Writing, Story and Screenplay — Written Directly for the Screen. Witty and bubbly Designing Woman is a film which still entertains, even to this day.

  • Directed by — Vincente Minnelli
  • Produced by — Dore Schary
  • Written by — George Wells
  • Starring — Lauren Bacall, Gregory Peck, Dolores Gray, Mickey Shaughnessy
  • Music by — Billy Higgins, André Previn and W. Benton Overstreet
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