| DESK SET
(20TH CENTURY FOX HOME VIDEO)
There are many who would rate WOMAN OF THE YEAR as the best of the Spencer Tracy-Katharine Hepburn comedy collaborations. Some would nominate ADAM'S RIB or PAT AND MIKE, and I daresay all are great examples of their exemplary work together, but, at the risk of standing alone (a not altogether uncommon stance for yours truly), my preference would be their next-to-last film together DESK SET, which, I grant you, would appear to be a surprising choice, as when the film was originally released it opened to respectful but underwhelming critical response, and did so poorly at the box office that it would be more than a decade before Tracy and Hepburn reunited for one last time in GUESS WHO'S COMING TO DINNER?.
The very fact that DESK SET's story is so slight [a computer inventor/expert (Tracy) is assigned to introduce computers into a network research department run by Hepburn, who immediately assumes that she and her staff are about to be replaced], and that Walter Lang's direction, while better than competent, exhibits none of the creativity of the team's earlier directors (George Stevens, George Cukor, etc.) is rendered beside the point by the incredible degree of timing, warmth, and sly comedic smarts so skillfully and effortlessly demonstrated by Tracy, who I believe to be the greatest film actor of all time, and the Great Kate, who, for the first time in my book, is absolutely the creative equal of the brilliant Tracy. (There is a rooftop scene where Tracy subjects Hepburn to a professional questionnaire that ranks as one of the most perfectly acted comedy scenes of all time, and should be studied by every actor and would-be actor who wants to see the very highest level of joyfully inventive collaborative acting artistry ever seen on the screen.)
Praise for the two stars is not meant to diminish the secondary contributions of Joan Blondell and especially Gig Young, as well as the rest of the cast, all of whom contribute considerably affable and pleasant support, which add to the pleasurable proceedings.
Were it not for the shimmering reference quality transfers of Fox Studio Classics previous anamorphic releases, such as ANASTASIA, AN AFFAIR TO REMEMBER, and LOVE IS A MANY SPLENDORED THING, we would have rated this 2.35:1 anamorphic transfer as very good, but there's no getting around the fact that this transfer, while certainly far better than average, exhibits a certain amount of modest grain and fuzziness nowhere to be found on those earlier releases, a fact that becomes completely irrelevant when such a astonishingly high level of comedic charisma is so generously displayed by Tracy and Hepburn in this buoyant and charming DESK SET.