Back Design for Living
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Monday, 29 November 2021 at 8.15pm
Lubitsch Season
  • Romance
  • 1933
  • USA
  • B&W

Ernst Lubitsch’s Design for Living (1933) is what sexy should be delightful, romantic, agonizing ecstasy. And
it’s not just sexy but also revolutionary, daring, sweet, sour, cynical, carefree, poignant, and so far ahead of
its time that one could cite it as not only a pre-Code masterpiece but also a prefeminist testimonial. A
uniquely Lubitschian picture in its elegance and graceful wisdom, with the gruffly intelligent, street-smart
Hollywood writer and soon-to-be legend Ben Hecht collaborating, this take on the trials, titillations, and
torments of a kind of relationship usually seen in true adult films, a ménage à trois (and one involving the
gorgeous trio of Fredric March, Gary Cooper, and Miriam Hopkins), is unlike any other movie of its era.
What film, even before that killjoy schoolmarm Joseph Breen brought his Squaresville strictness to the
Production Code in 1934, has ever presented the potentially salacious scenario of three-way love in such a
wistfully complicated way? This is neither a bunch of hot-to-trot cheap thrills nor a moralizing sermon on the
dangers of sexual transgression—it’s a soulful look at human desire.


Ernst Lubitsch


Fredric March Miriam Hopkins Gary Cooper