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679 Ratings

Design for Living

Directed by Ernst Lubitsch
United States, 1933
Comedy, Romance


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.

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Design for Living Directed by Ernst Lubitsch

Critics reviews

Sturges shows us a decade later that the strictures of the Hays era, far from eliminating allusions to prurience, inevitably encouraged a more forward-thinking celebration of sex through surreptitious suggestion—the act of withholding tended, in the Foucauldian sense, to evoke more obscenity than it suppressed.
March 05, 2013
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The characters’ arrangement may at first amount to “trying to play jokes on nature,” but the revolutionaries finally do storm the Bastille, clad in tuxedos—“Don’t let’s be delicate. Let’s be crude and objectionable.” Originally dismissed by Coward purists longing for another Cavalcade (1933), Design for Living endures as one of Lubitsch’s most scintillating views of shifting emotion, utterly devoured by the Cahiers du cinéma crowd: Truffaut adds “la mort” to “l’amour” in Jules and Jim (1962)…
March 05, 2013
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In both [Design for Living and Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, March’s urbane frustration becomes an obverse surface that’s forced to negotiate with or conjure its more brutish reverse (whether the freely licentious Mr. Hyde or the comparatively intuitive dolt-artist played by Cooper) for the sake of fulfilling desire. The true antagonist of either, then, is desire itself, over which men (and women, Hopkins reminds us) can’t help but be of two minds—one rational, and one instinctive.
March 05, 2013
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