Dedications: My four late friends Rory, Stan, Bryan, Jeff - shine on you crazy diamonds, they would have blogged too. Then theres Garry from Brisbane, Franco in Milan, Mike now in S.F. / my '60s-'80s gang: Ned & Joseph in Ireland; in England: Frank, Des, Guy, Clive, Joe & Joe, Ian, Ivan, Nick, David, Les, Stewart, the 3 Michaels / Catriona, Sally, Monica, Jean, Ella, Anne, Candie / and now: Daryl in N.Y., Jerry, John, Colin, Martin and Donal.

Saturday, 14 February 2015

Valentines: Lets Not Make Love / Desk Set

One of our Sky channels here has been running Valentine's Day movies on one of its channels, so cue a lot of old favourites - I may be dropping in on MY BEST FRIEND'S WEDDING (if only for Rupert and "I Say A Little Prayer") and SHIRLEY VALENTINE again today.... but we saw LET'S MAKE LOVE and DESK SET once again a day or so ago.

Looking at LET'S MAKE LOVE (I grew up with it really) objectively now it is surely the worst of both Marilyn and Cukor. A leaden farce that would have sunk without trace if not for MM's few sparking moments. She is adorable doing Cole Porter's "My Heart Belongs To Daddy" with those chorus boys and its one of her iconic moments, and a great Jack Cole number, plus her two with English crooner Frankie Vaughan: the title number and "Specialisation" where she is pure peaches and cream. The rest of the dull plot seems to take place in ugly wood-panelled offices as Montand (so great in French films, but all at sea here), Tony Randall, Wilfrid Hyde White go through acres of dull dialogue. Did they bring in guests like Bing, Gene and Milton to try to liven it up? 
I have seen LETS MAKE LOVE many times over the years, it has that odd spot in MM's canon - after SOME LIKE IT HOT and before THE MISFITS. Her looks and hairstyles vary from scene to scene. Most of her later films were made away from Fox, where she was still an indendured servant. It is really the last of her Fox films - would the uncompleted SOMETHING'S GOTTA GIVE be any better? - at least we have the fragments. Marilyn was slim and lovely by then in 1962 facing that new decade, but for whatever reason, she did not linger. I always felt Cukor was not the right director for her, he did not have much empathy with her and his comments were not kind - he was used to tough dames like Hepburn and Crawford. 

Staying with Fox and Hepburn, DESK SET is a pleasure now. I like it a lot, maybe the best of the Tracy-Hepburns after WOMAN OF THE YEAR, ADAMS RIB, PAT & MIKE .... its from a talky play (by Phoebe and Henry Ephron) and the subject must have been topical back in the 50s - those new big computers coming in taking over office jobs. It is also another great New York movie, and Kate and her office girls, led by Joan Blondell, are a great gang. Spence is amusing and droll too as they suspect he (and his new computer ) is going to make them all redundant. Theres reams of dialogue, including that nice long scene on the cold office roof, and that one at Kate's apartment - another Apartment We Love - with its cosy fire, chairs and bookshelves. We want to live there!  - click on this image below to enlarge and see the detail ...
Gig Young of course is Kate's on-off boyfriend - a task he previously played for Bette and Joan. There is a great Christmas scene as the office party gets underway and Kate plays drunk nicely. She is for once given a decent wardrobe of nice dresses and coats and looks great. DESK SET, directed by Fox regular Walter Lang, is a pleasure any time, and Leon Shamroy makes it look good. Its almost up there with her other '50s hit SUMMERTIME! Then after that dreadful Bob Hope film she went on to SUDDENLY LAST SUMMER ...
Young actress Lee Remick was right to turn down the nothing part played by Dina Merrill (in DESK SET) as her debut; it would have done nothing for her, and (as advised by Spencer, see Remick label) decided to wait for a better role to make her debut, as she did that year with Kazan's A FACE IN THE CROWD - she certainly got noticed there! By 1962, five years later, she was competing with Kate for the Best Actress Oscar and announced as replacing Marilyn in SOMETHINGS GOTTA GIVE! (and Montand was also incomprehensible with her in SANCTUARY in '61).


  1. Desk Set is my favorite of the Tracy/Hepburn pairings. By this point they were so easy in each other's company and the script put them in a believable situation that they were able to just run with. Add in Joan Blondell and it's just an effervescent delight.

    Let's Make Love is a different matter altogether. Montand is someone whose appeal has always escaped me, he was fine in Z but beyond that he's a dull lump on screen. Marilyn makes anything worth watching but even she's not at her best and apparently Cukor hated her-partly of her own making but they seemed to not be a good fit all around. They both resisted working on Something's Gotta Give but had come to the end of the period for their respective contract commitments and had to do it. Marilyn was ready to plow through and get it over with quickly but Cukor this time was the temperamental one who foolishly pulled all kinds of delaying tactics which brought about the ruin of from what survives looks like it would have been a pleasant little farce in MM's career.

  2. Well the surviving moments of the MM-Cukor look delightful - I never wanted to see the Doris Day remake ! But yes, Desk Set is deightful now.

  3. The remake Move Over, Darling is nobodies best film but it's a harmless trifle with the added bonus of having Thelma Ritter, looking very chic, as James Garner's mother.

  4. I find it mystifying how they quickly came up with a remake so soon after MM's death. 20th Century Fox kept making money too on all their MM reissues.

    Thelma of course was with MM in THE MISFITS and very touching as the Reno landlady, and was also Doris's sloshed maid in PILLOW TALK. I like Doris and Garner both ideal in THE THRILL OF IT ALL, also that year.

  5. It was probably purely a business decision. What with the near ruinous Cleopatra more or less sucking their life blood away and the script for Something's Gotta Give camera ready with only a few tweaks, including a name change-at least they weren't gauche enough to stick with the original and it's bad connotations, needed and all the attendant publicity surrounding the fiasco of the original the board chose to make the best of a bad situation. I believe they even used the same sets.

    Since MM & Fox were mostly at crossed swords for her entire tenure as one of their top stars there was no love loss there or question of compassion and being able to snag a huge name like Doris Day for the lead they saw a life line to try and recoup their initial investment with the first aborted film and at least a little of the Cleopatra losses.They were right the film made a mint.

  6. Being 16 at the time I remember how fascinated we were with the first photos from Cleopatra - Liz in that make-up. Marilyn's pool swim too made all the magazines covers as she intended - getting Liz off those front pages! She was rightly annoyed that Taylor was getting all that money and she was still on her old contract. ,,, apparantly if she had lived and the film resumed (as Fox wanted) it would all have been different, but who knows.