The Warner Archive June 12, 2018 Blu-ray release of the 1957 Gregory Peck and Lauren Bacall (a.k.a. Mrs. Bogart) screwball comedy "Designing Woman" directed by Vincente Minnelli (a.k.a. Mr. Garland) is a prime example of Hollywood royalty transitioning to these charmers as their still bright stars begin fading. Another awesome thing about this Oscar winner for Best Writing is that it shows that Spencer Tracy and Katherine Hepburn do not hold the monopoly on playing deeply in love odd couples whose witty bickering reflects their passion.
Bacall plays titular fashion designer Marilla Brown, who meets quasi-confirmed middle-aged bachelor sportswriter Mike Hagen (Peck) in Los Angeles, The paths of these Manhattanites cross at their hotel where she is vacationing and this guy on a business trip is enjoying a bender in the wake of a windfall.
The next morning finds Mike with a hangover that the audience gets to share, and a refreshed Marilla reuniting with him poolside. This leads to a whirlwind courtship and equally rapid wedding.
The first sign that the honeymoon is over occurs when Marilla changes from comfortable chic to haute couture elegant on the flight east. The rude awakening continues on Marilla seeing the "cozy" bachelor pad of Mike that looks like the abode of fellow fictional New York sportswriter Oscar Madison on its best day. The resolve of Marilla to be a good sport and downgrade to this "shoebox" does not last long.
The hilarity continues with Mike having lunch with soon-to-be-jilted girlfriend stage actress Lori Shanon (Dolores Gray) , who does not take the news well. Suffice it to say that the pants of Mike get soiled to the extent that he must borrow a fresher pair.
One lesson here is that breaking up in an upscale restaurant does not always provide immunity against a scene., This incident also sets the stage for Mike to begin his campaign of preventing his new wife from learning about his very recently extinguished flame.
The introduction of Mike to the luxurious apartment of Marilla and almost immediate meeting of her sophisticated friends from the artistic community is another rude awakening and a step closer to divorce court. The new acquaintances include close friend and Broadway producer Zachery Wilde. Suffice it to say this time that the poker buddies of Mike do not bond with the theatrical folks in the world of Marilla.
The work of Mike literally comes home with him when hilarious wiseguy Johnnie "O" (Chuck Connors) and two of his business associates come for a visit in an increasing aggressive campaign to persuade Mike to abandon a series of articles on corruption related to boxing. A relevant scene has Bacall particularly shine while attending her first boxing match. A spoiler is that Mike fares better at his first fashion show.
The worlds of our leads collide when Zachary hires Lori to star in a show for which a suspicious but still unknowing Marilla is the costume designer. This understandably puts Mike on edge and leads to a predicted scene in which he seemingly is caught with his (currently unsoiled) pants down.
The climax comes as worlds collide again on the New York mob looking to use Marilla as a bargaining chip in their conflict with Mike; This time the action occurs at the office of Marilla. The resulting Minnelli choreographed fight is as epic and exciting as any number in one of his musicals. This scene also reinforces a point about not judging a "chick lit" book by his cover. Suffice it to say this that Patrick Swayze is not the only one qualified to be a roadhosue bouncer.
This always amusing and frequently hilarious film either concludes with Marilla and Mike deciding that love conquers all and live happily ever after or parting as friends with benefits who understand that "Lady and the Tramp" is no more than a Disney cartoon.
The Blu-ray special feature is a highlight. it is a five-minute publicity piece in which real-life MGM costume designer Helen Rose sits at her desk answering questions that the audience cannot hear.
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