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"Design for Living" (1933)

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This is another movie that I saw recently and which was at least scheduled once by TCM. I really hope they program it again, because it is (IMHO) a GEM. Here are my impressions:


Intelligent script, witty dialogue, sexy stars, sophisticated story, deft direction?What more can I say? It?s Lubitsch and Paramount at its Pre-Code best!


This was another of those ?vintage? films of which you had the chance of reading a lot about, but before Universal released ?The Gary Cooper Collection?, where it?s included, you had nowhere to watch it (unless you had the luck of catching it on TCM). Of course, I bought promptly the aforementioned set.


The picture tells the story of free-spirited Gilda Farrell, a young lady who works at a Parisian Advertising Agency, managed by that great seasoned pro, Edward Everett Horton, who by chance meets on board a train, struggling, penniless, artists George Curtis, a painter (Gary Cooper) and Thomas Chambers, a playwright (Fredric March), in which may be one of the most ?risqu?? plots of all the Pre-Code Era, dealing openly with the pros and cons of a m?nage-a-trois.


Miriam Hopkins portrays the deliciously mischievous Gilda, giving a top, tongue-in-cheek performance, looking absolutely beautiful and full of glow from within; it?s really in her films directed by Lubitsch that her appeal shines at its most and she looks at her attractive-best.


Fredric March is good too as the ?more down-to-earth-but-nevertheless-madly-in-love? playwright, who lives with buddy Gary Cooper in a miserable tenement, until Miriam Hopkins comes in scene and to ?the rescue?.


But the revelation, in my opinion, is Gary Cooper; after seeing him in many of his 1930s films, I feel that I like him best in the variety of roles he got to play in those years: a young idealist in ?Peter Ibbetson?, a sensitive soldier in ?A Farewell to Arms?, a sophisticated artist in this one, etc. He really was a good actor from the beginning of his ?talkies? career (I haven?t seen his Silents, so I cannot give an opinion), showing much skill and depth in his interpretations. In this film he plays excellently opposite such strong talents as Miriam Hopkins and Fredric March, absolutely ?a la par?.


In all, a highly enjoyable film. Smart Entertainment. A must.



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Feaito- I just happened to watch this for the first time this past weekend, I got it in my new Gary Cooper DVD set. Wow- how risque it is! The stars are all wonderful- your review can't be touched so I wont try myself- but I will add my "thumbs up" to it. What I wouldn't do to be in Miriam's shoes- Gary or Frederic? Both!

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As with PETER IBBETSON, your comments are on the button about DESIGN FOR LIVING. I really like Gary Cooper. I've been lucky to have a copy of this film for years since PBS in Rochester used to show it occasionally but it's superbly presented in the Gary Cooper set, probably the best transfer of the bunch. TVOntario also ran it in the early '90s with Lubitsch's ONE NIGHT WITH YOU, which I was glad I taped (although I accidentally recorded over DEVIL AND THE DEEP!!); that one doesn't turn up very often. As for Cooper's '30s films, have you seen ONE SUNDAY AFTERNOON, which TCM thankfully runs occasionally, SOULS AT SEA or ALICE IN WONDERLAND (a really strange film)? In Canada, CBC used to show the ultra-rare HIS WOMAN in which Cooper's pretty wooden. The film, with Claudette Colbert, is as a creaky as an old house and it's obvious Cooper knew it. It would be great to see THE TEXAN or THE SPOILERS one day and maybe SOULS AT SEA will eventually come out on DVD along with his DeMille films and maybe his two Dietrich films in a package devoted to her, and MGM will put out his work for Goldwyn, productions like BALL OF FIRE, THE ADVENTURES OF MARCO POLO and THE WEDDING NIGHT and we'll all sleep easier.

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Thanks for your feedback, Shaina...I think the three leads are at their peak physical form here!


And Johnny, I have the luck of having a copy of "One Hour With You", recorded on a DVD-R. This person who copied it for me has lots of early musicals and late 1920s and early 1930s Paramounts; He also copied for me "The Big Pond", "Playboy of Paris", "Monte Carlo" and "The Love Parade".


I have never seen most of the films you mention. I have seen Cooper in "The Virginian", "Fighting Caravans" (have a DVD-copy) and "A Farewell to Arms" (DVD too). I have on tape "Desire" (Great film), "Morocco", "Adventures of Marco Polo", "The Plainsman"...I love Gary Cooper's 1930s films.


I'd love to watch "One Sunday Afternoon", especially because it's said that he did an excellent couple with Fay Wray (they were matched in a couple of silents and in "The Texan" too). I'd also love to see him in "His Woman" (for historic purposes) and "I Take This Woman" (opposite Carole Lombard)...I'd also like Universal to release DVD copies of "Bluebeard's Eighth Wife" and "Souls at Sea"...and MGM of "The Wedding Night".


I do have the out-of-print HBO DVD edition of "Ball of Fire" and it's just great!!


I'd like to buy the DVD edition of "Now and Forever", in which he stars opposite Temple and Lombard.

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BTW Johnny, I forgot...thanks for your compliments.


I might say that, I enjoyed even more "Design for Living" than "Trouble in Paradise" (which I also loved). And oddly enough, I think that the transfer which Universal used for the release of the former is in much better shape than the one Criterion used for the release of the latter.

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Once again, I entirely concur with you about enjoying DESIGN FOR LIVING over TROUBLE IN PARADISE. It's surprising that DESIGN is never placed in the same league as TROUBLE; that might be because the script for DESIGN is so different than Coward's original play, or people have a hard time envisioning Cooper and March in a bubbly Lubitsch piece of froth. You're very lucky to have MONTE CARLO and the others you mentioned, it's a darn shame those films, even THE VIRGINIAN, which was released on VHS by Kartes way-back-when (and which I neglected to buy), aren't widely available. As for Cooper's teamings with Lombard, it's a shame they weren't teamed again before her death. Lombard's role in NOW AND FOREVER could be played by anyone, and I'm such a huge Lombard fan, I was slightly disappointed when I saw it the first time (on the colorized VHS, which required me to turn the color off on my television). It's interesting to compare NOW AND FOREVER with PETER IBBETSON and THE LIVES OF A BENGAL LANCER. It's hard to believe they were made in quick succession by the same director-star team; they're so set apart from each other, it's a testament to the work of the fine director, Henry Hathaway, and Cooper.


The teaming of Fay Wray and Cooper in ONE SUNDAY AFTERNOON is fascinating to watch. Their first teaming, THE LEGION OF THE CONDEMNED, prompted Photoplay to write, "They are sure to register in a big way." That's questionable, and I've never seen LEGION, or their second silent, THE FIRST KISS, or THE TEXAN so it's great to have AFTERNOON. The only silent Cooper I seen other than WINGS is LILAC TIME, a strange film but probably better than the video I have represents it to be. Another Cooper film I'd love to see is BETRAYAL, directed by the young Lewis Milestone, in which he's teamed with Emil Jannings. I don't know if it still exists but with those two, and Milestone helming, it's got to be worth a look.

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Wow, I'm surprised to read that you guys enjoyed "Design For Living" over "Trouble In Paradise." I have to say I LOVE "Trouble," and I've only seen the beginning of "Design," and from what I've seen of it, it doesn't really strike a nerve with me. Johnny, I think you hit the nail on the head when you said it's difficult to see Cooper and March in their respective roles. I always see them as tough, or the everyman, not the artsy types. But I know I have to give this film another try, as I do enjoy Lubitsch, as well as Miriam Hopkins, who was a quite a little firecracker. She heats up and practically steals any scene of any movie she's in. She was also this way in "Trouble," as well as "These Three."


One thing I do agree with though, is that Universal's transfer of "Design" is SO MUCH BETTER then Criterion's lousy print of "Trouble," which, mind you, costs MORE than Universal's whole 5 movie Cooper set. And it's just one movie with not-very-good extras.


I'll definitely give "Design" another try though.

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Well Joe,


Sometimes certain movies do not catch our fancy. Anyway, I've read that some critics and reviewers think that the first minutes of the film are its main weakness; others say it's the lack of music on the soundtrack; I don't agree.

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