Designing Woman [1957]

Anyone who thinks that Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus is a cutting-edge idea will be surprised by Designing Woman, a 1957 comedy starring Gregory Peck as a sports writer who falls madly in love with fashion designer Lauren Bacall. The twofold plot springs from a combination of Bacall's jealous efforts to learn the identity of Peck's previous lover and Peck's reckless exposé of a gangster who rigs boxing matches--but the movie's real enjoyment comes from its depiction of the athletic and arts worlds, each spun as a reflection of the male and female mind, respectively. While Peck and Bacall aren't noted for their comic chops, they acquit themselves respectably; Bacall has the more flamboyant role, but Peck draws low-key humor from his character's smug and blinkered perceptions. Designing Woman is directed by Vincente Minnelli (who also directed Meet Me in St. Louis, An American in Paris, and Gigi), so it's not surprising that the movie flares most to life during a few musical sequences--sneaked into the plot because Bacall has been commissioned to design a Broadway show, whose star just happens to be Peck's former paramour--culminating in a back-alley fight staged as a brawling ballet. --Bret Fetzer

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