Gary Cooper, Fredric March, and Miriam Hopkins play a trio of Americans in Paris who enter into a very adult “gentleman’s” agreement, in this continental pre-Code comedy freely adapted by Ben Hecht from a play by Noël Coward, and directed by Ernst Lubitsch. A risqué relationship comedy and a witty take on creative pursuits, it concerns a commercial artist (Hopkins) unable—or unwilling—to choose between the equally dashing painter (Cooper) and playwright (March) she meets on a train en route to the City of Light. Design for Living is Lubitsch at his most adroit, an entertainment at once debonair and racy, featuring three stars at the height of their allure. –The Criterion Collection
b. Jan. 29, 1892, Berlin. d. Nov. 30, 1947, Hollywood. The son of a prosperous tailor, he was drawn to the stage while participating in plays staged by his high school, which he quit at 16. To satisfy both his own urge to act and his father’s desire that he take over the family business, he began leading a double life, working as a bookkeeper at his father’s store by day and appearing in cabarets and music halls by night.
In 1911 he joined Max Reinhardt’s famous Deutsches Theater, where he rapidly advanced from bit parts to character leads. To supplement his income, he took a job in 1912 as an apprentice and general-purpose handyman at Berlin’s Bioscope film studios. The following year he began appearing in a series of film comedies, emphasizing ethnic Jewish humor, in which he played a character named Meyer. He became very successful as a comedian and soon began writing and directing his own films. Gradually, Lubitsch abandoned acting to concentrate on directing… read more
3.75 stars. I really like the play and this film is not the play but the spirit of the play is in the film. The four leads are great, the dialogue is witty, and the film is beautifully shot. I just love what this film stands for, which is amongst other things: freedom and fun!
Delightful pre Hays comedy with the Lubitsch/Hopkins touch, comedy threatening to vibrate into its opposite. Amazing that it works in its monaural track without background music: a tribute to the direction. And even today ever so slightly shocking! (In this case, though the movie excised the homosexuality in the play, its darker notes- esp Hopkins- elevate it above the Coward flippery)
A new column dedicated to short-form criticism. Each week, three writers offer capsules which engage with a classic or contemporary film.
A look at the posters for “Hollywood’s Naughtiest, Bawdiest Year.”
A Lubitsch poster and the story of the artist behind a batch of rare early 1930s oversized posters that turned up in auction in 2008.
Before there was Bridesmaids, Judd Apatow, Sleepless in Seattle, James L. Brooks, When Harry Met Sally, Woody Allen, Pillow Talk, Singin’ in the Rain, or… read review