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Design for Living

(1933 b 91')

En: 6 Ed: 5

Ernst Lubitsch directed this tamed version of Noel Coward's comedy about a woman in love with an artist and a playwright.

On a train in France Gilda (Miriam Hopkins) meets George (Gary Cooper) and Tom (Fredric March), criticizing George's art. In Paris she is met by her friend, the advertising executive Max (Edward Everett Horton). Max calls on Tom to say that immorality may be fun, but it does not replace virtue. George kisses Gilda and says he loves her. Max tells George the same thing and not to see Gilda. Gilda tells Max she is in love with both Tom and George. George finds Max's advice in Tom's play, and they realize they both love Gilda. Yet they don't want to ruin their friendship of eleven years.

Gilda tells George and Tom she loves them both and won't give up either. She says to forget sex, but she will criticize the art and egos of both. They agree on no sex. Gilda gives Tom's play to a top producer. Tom gets an advance and goes to London with the producer. Gilda feels tension living alone with George. She tells George she loves him. Although they have a gentleman's agreement, she says she is no gentleman. Tom receives a letter, is subdued, and wishes George and Gilda good luck. Tom's play opens to great laughter. Max compliments Tom and tells him about Gilda and George, who painted him.

Tom returns to Paris and finds Gilda moved from the dusty garret to a large apartment. George is out of town, but Tom's typewriter still rings. The next morning Tom is having breakfast there in his tuxedo. George comes in and realizes Tom has been there all night. Tom suggests they discuss it intelligently as high comedy; but George prefers cheap melodrama and hits Tom. Gilda says good-bye to George, praising his artistic integrity. George is going to forward her things to London and break off contact until both George and Tom find notes from Gilda that she loves both and left. Then Tom and George get drunk together.

Max and Gilda go to New York and get married. Max has a party for a big client. George and Tom arrive and wait in the bedroom, where Gilda retreats and argues with Max. After they appear, Max comes back in and asks them to leave, calling them hooligans. Gilda is sick of advertising, and George and Tom chase away the guests. Gilda tells Max she is leaving him after having increased his business for him. In the cab Gilda tells Tom and George they are going back to Paris, and they make a gentleman's agreement.

Social standards would consider this an immoral situation, and censors forced it to be handled with the subtlety and charm of the Lubitsch touch. The good friendship of George and Tom is well extended to Gilda until the absence of one and sex cause jealousy. Whether they can make it work as a threesome is still an open question. Can two men share a woman without jealousy?

Copyright © 1999 by Sanderson Beck

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