[The Miriam Hopkins Blogathon] Design for Living: Part Four-Not Your Average Rom Com Heroine

Not Your Average Rom Com Heroine

Venetia

**

Gilda Farrell is the unicorn of women movie characters: she’s unconventional without being (the cliched Hollywood-version of) a free spirit. Sure, most of us have heard that such a thing exists, without ever believing it could be true.

Trust me, dears. Gilda is the real deal.

She’s whip-smart, witty, straightforward, and determined to make the choices that are best for her. Even, as it turns out, when they are considered brazen or unbecoming of a “nice” woman. She starts with the awareness that women suffer from an almost unrelenting series of double standards:

Gilda's Speech

Gilda’s Speech in Design for Living (1933)

 From there, she decides to take action. This is why Gilda is so exceptional, why her decision to live romantically with two men is so fucking revolutionary. It is, also, why she is not a free-spirit:

To label her as such denies Gilda her self-governance, her experience, her bravery, and her brains.

Without them, she’d be just another silver screen beauty feigning eccentricity before accepting her fate as the good wife of an exceptionally handsome man.

Thank God for Gilda.

Her supposed immorality not only goes unpunished, but she gets to keep her self-respect, Gary Cooper, and Fredric March.

That’s pretty damn nifty.

 **

♣Venetia is our Feminism correspondent. She loves equality, swearing, and huge cups of coffee.

 The Miriam Hopkins Blogathon

The Miriam Hopkins Blogathon

The Miriam Hopkins Blogathon

[The Miriam Hopkins Blogathon] Design for Living: Part Three-“To Let: One Cheap, Roomy, Salubrious Flat”

“To Let: One Cheap, Roomy, Salubrious Flat”

Frances

**

“As I was saying, Miss, a small bed fits in that nook, and the case over there holds at least fifty books.”

“I’m not sure I want to live here! The windows are grubby…”

“They’ve been cleaned twice!”

“There are so many pinholes in the walls.”

“You won’t notice them without  your glasses on.”

“But I need my glasses to see.”

“Then don’t stand so close. Isn’t that better already?”

“This flat is awfully large.”

“It’s big enough for three!”

“I’m single.”

“You’ll have room to grow!”

“The price is nice.”

“It’s the best! There’s nothing cheaper, roomier, or more salubrious in this neighborhood.”

“The floor is covered with dust. Great mounds of dust!”

“Keep the windows closed.”

“I need sufficient light and air.”

“Buy a broom.”

“I’m just not sure if this is the place for me.”

“It won’t be on the market long, not with its literary connections.”

“Literary connections?”

“Don’t you know? This cheap, this roomy, this salubrious flat is where Tom Chambers wrote Good Night Bassington!”

“You don’t say?”

“Indeed, I do! As I recall, his typewriter sat on a desk right over…”

“Perhaps this is the place for me after all? Yes, I’m sure I’ll like it here!”

**

 ♠Frances is our [Flash] Fiction correspondent. The only thing she loves more than thinking, is dreaming.

Up next: In Part Four of our review, Venetia discusses why Gilda is more than your average heroine.

The Miriam Hopkins Blogathon

The Miriam Hopkins Blogathon

The Miriam Hopkins Blogathon

[The Miriam Hopkins Blogathon] Design for Living: Part Two-Gilda’s Tips for Dressing Like a Successful Commercial Artist

Gilda’s Tips for Dressing Like a Successful Commercial Artist

Charlotte

**

Have you always wanted to dress like a successful 1930s commercial artist? Yes? You’re in luck! No? Fortunately, these ensembles transcend time and career. Gilda Farrell, successful American commercial artist and delightfully grown-up woman, knew how to keep it chic at all times. Let’s see if we can follow her lead down the road to professional acclaim and (if it suits us) radical romance.

#1-Takin’ the Train to Glamourville

Opening sequence: Meet Chic

Opening sequence: This is how you meet chic cute

Gilda proves that, no matter what your destination, dressing well is all in the details. Beret? Matching bow? Check, double-check. A simple skirt and artful blouse complete her comfortable and stylish traveling outfit. It’s best to be prepared, because you never know who you’ll meet when you least expect it…

#2-Go Big or Go Home

Decision Time Dress

Decision Time Dress

Those shoulders! That bow! Those…criss-cross ribbon things! When an important decision looms ahead, what better way to arm yourself with confidence than by dressing with sartorial bravado? Napoleon would agree.

#3-Mothers Can Be Avant-garde, too

Avant-garde Mother of the Arts

Avant-garde Mother of the Arts

When you are a Mother of the Arts, it’s okay to stand out from the crowd.  Having a strong style makes it easier to focus on the artists you are helping with your keen wisdom and cutting insights. Or something. A dress with an enormous Pilgrim collar and cuffs isn’t for everyone, but Gilda pulls it off. We can all learn from her nonchalance.

#4-Dressing for the Morning After

Morning After Confection

Morning After Confection

No matter what went down the night before, always dress with exceptional elegance for breakfast. Sometimes the most unexpected people show up at your door whilst you are canoodling over coffee. A decadent frock hides your surprise better than a tattered robe.

#5-Going to the Chapel…of Security

Wedding Dress

Wedding Dress

No matter how your marriage turns out, you’ll always have your wedding dress. Wear what makes you happy, and make sure that it fits like a dream. That way, you’ll have at least one good memory from you big day!

#6-Shimmery Shimmery Shake

Shimmery Dress

Shimmery Dress with Tuxedo Bookends

Own one dress that makes you feel like a movie star. Bonus points if it sparkles! Everyone looks good with a little shine, and even better when they radiate happiness. Having a wardrobe designed by the great Travis Banton doesn’t hurt, either.

**

♦Charlotte is our Fashion correspondent. Her dream closet consists of the collective wardrobes of 796 films.

 Up next: In Part Three of our review, Frances ponders the pros and cons of going bohemian.

The Miriam Hopkins Blogathon

The Miriam Hopkins Blogathon

The Miriam Hopkins Blogathon

[The Miriam Hopkins Blogathon] Design for Living: Part One-There’s Just Something About Miriam

There’s Just Something About Miriam

Effie

**

Miriam Hopkins was born to play Gilda Farrell. Not Noël Coward’s Gilda, of course. He created that role for Lynn Fontanne. Miriam’s Gilda was written by the hilarious Ben Hecht, and lovingly crafted for the silver screen by the great German director with the famous touch, Ernst Lubitsch. Together, they set Miriam up with one of the plum parts of her career: a progressive heroine for the ages. Her Gilda is just that: her Gilda. No one else could have filled her with such élan or intelligence, warmth or charm. For, you see, Miriam Hopkins was as exceptional a performer as Gilda is a character. To have one without the other is unthinkable!

**

There’s Just Something About Miriam…

Miriam Being Miriam

Miriam Being Miriam

In an industry where conformity to one’s ascribed type is the ideal, if not quite a requirement, Miriam Hopkins’ transgressions against the celluloid status quo were enough to fill a small ledger.

On screen, she is demurely beautiful or joyously erotic or a sad excuse of a slattern. Her smile lights up the whole universe, but is often tamped down under a weight of  sadness, fear, or anger. Miriam-the-actress knew how to toss a biting, pointed quip better than anyone. Than anyone. She was sexy as hell. Spiteful, generous, flirtatious. Girl embodied it all, and with such intelligence. Her special brand of It translates seamlessly from one genre to the next. She subtly Miriam-ified everything she touched.

Whether backed by good or bad material, her romantic comedy heroines were (and remain) truly different.

Especially Gilda.

Design for Living Poster

Design for Living Poster

Successful commercial artist Gilda Farrell is the emancipated heart of Design for Living (1933). After meeting flatmates and best friends, playwright Thomas Chambers (Fredric March) and painter George Curtis (Gary Cooper), on a train to Paris, she falls very much in like with both men. 

The opening sequence is fresh, playful, and wickedly funny. The script gets off to a banging start, and never slows down for even half a heartbeat.

Case in point is her assessment of George’s painting of Lady Godiva (riding a bicycle): “I saw it with a friend of mine. She loved it. We haven’t spoken since.”

and

“You’re wisecracking with paint. It simply creaks with originality.”

Gilda is perceptive, and is not afraid to voice her opinions. Although acerbic, she is good-humored and down-to-earth. She also knows what she wants, and what she wants is Tom. And George.

Thus, after an insightful and mature conversation, their “gentleman’s agreement” is born.

Decisions Decisions

Decisions, Decisions!

“Boys, it’s the only thing we can do. Let’s forget sex!”

They spend the rest of the film sticking to, and breaking, their pact. Gilda’s not so good at it, herself.

“It’s true we have a gentleman’s agreement, but unfortunately, I am no gentleman!”

Edward Everett Horton rounds out the main cast as Gilda’s boss, prospective paramour, and eventual (short-term) husband. You know that things have taken a drastic turn for the absurd when she leaves Tom and George to marry the fusty Max. If there’s one thing we have learned from E.E.H.’s many character parts, it’s that he is good for some laughs (albeit at his expense) but not romance or a roll in the hay. This is no exception. In the end, Gilda Farrell gets her man men. Both of ’em.

How’s that for a happy ending?

**

The Cast

 After the horrors of the terrific Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1931), it’s nice to see Miriam Hopkins and Fredric March engaging in a healthy, playful on-screen relationship. Gilda and Tom are as far removed from Ivy Pearson and Mr. Hyde as possible. Add in the magical Gary Cooper, who excelled in odd comedies, and you have as scrumptious a love triangle as ever existed. The three stars play off of each other in a natural, infectious way. Edward Everett Horton, too, is delightfully, if predictably, on point. The overall cast is so small (only eight actors are listed in the opening credits), that the issue of chemistry is vitally important. Fortunately, we need not worry. Their chemistry is even more impressive than Tom’s hit play, Good Night Bassington.

 Credits

Fredric March, Gary Cooper, Miriam Hopkins, Edward Everett Horton, Franklin Pangborn, Isabel Jewell, Jane Darwell, Wyndham Standing

Directed by Ernst Lubitsch; Screenplay by Ben Hecht; Based on the Play by Noël Coward

91 minutes

Tasty Quotes

  • Max Plunkett: “Immorality may be fun, but it isn’t fun enough to take the place of one hundred percent virtue and three square meals a day!”
  • Tom Chambers: “Oh, now don’t let’s be delicate, Mr. Plunkett. Let’s be crude and objectionable, both of us.”
  • George Curtis: “Mustache or no mustache, I need a clean shirt for tomorrow.”
  • Gilda Farrell: “We have to tell him the truth, no matter what happens to the furniture.”
  • Tom Chambers: “I’m afraid, Bassington, that you are wrong!”
  • Gilda Farrell: “I’m going to be a Mother of the Arts!”
  • Tom Chambers: “I’m a playwright. I write unproduced plays. I’m very good at that kind.”
  • Tom Chambers: “A bicycle seat is a little hard on Lady Godiva’s historical background.”

 **

◊Effie is our Film correspondent. She shockingly prefers House Peters’ profile to John Barrymore’s.

Up next: In Part Two of our review, Charlotte gives us tips for dressing like Gilda.

The Miriam Hopkins Blogathon

The Miriam Hopkins Blogathon

The Miriam Hopkins Blogathon

[The Miriam Hopkins Blogathon] Design for Living: Intro

A Note from Maedez:

Before SNL, before Rita, there was Miriam. Pronunciation differences aside, her Gilda, from the 1933 motion picture “adaptation” of Noël Coward’s sensational play Design for Living, is ten steps beyond delightful.

Knowledge of the play isn’t a prerequisite to watching the film: the two share little more than a superficial resemblance. Each can be enjoyed on its own merits. Of course, only one has our Miriam!

Miriam Hopkins, 1933

Miriam Hopkins, 1933

Up next: In Part One of our review, Effie argues why Design for Living’s Gilda Farrell is Miriam at her comedic best.

The Miriam Hopkins Blogathon

♥ Maedez

The Miriam Hopkins Blogathon

The Miriam Hopkins Blogathon