Friday, April 25, 2008

Desk Set (1957)


The 1957 movie Desk Set, starring Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn, explores fears of automation and computerization. When Tracy's character, Richard Sumner, introduces an "electronic brain" into the workplace it sets off a chaotic chain of events. Katharine Hepburn plays Bunny Watson, the head of a research department for a fictional television network and reluctant warrior in this battle of woman versus machine.

A short clip from the film appears below.




See also:
How Experts Think We'll Live in 2000 A.D. (1950)

6 comments:

Bearride - Raymond said...

This is one of my all time favorite films. The big flashing light screen on the computer was reused in "voyage to the bottom of the sea" film from the early 60's

neil russell said...

I always liked this movie too, and if you look closely at the set with the double level and spiral staircase, it's pretty obvious Irwin Allen adapted it as the observation nose of the Seaview while the AMRAC did indeed find its way into the control room. Wonder whatever happened to it? I'd love to have that big blue and white panel in the living room today!

Anonymous said...

I also always liked this film. I like most of the Tracy/Hepburn efforts of course, but this one had a special resonance because of the research angle & the computer angle. I didn't like the portrayal of Spencer Tracy's assistant, kind of an automaton, but I guess they needed her as a foil for humor value.

The contrast between that computer & real computers of that day is, of course, striking. But most people had never seen a computer at that time (nor when that absolutely awful Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea was made later), so they had to have some "action" for dramatic interest.

It does seem as if the Spencer Tracy character, a consultant, should have been fired by the company. The computer was a complete failure when compared to the library researchers & the unseen version that worked in the payroll department generated pink slips at one point late in the movie that fired everyone, including the CEO.

Rebecca said...

I love this movie. As a side note, my Mom managed the computer room and department for a large wholesale liquor company when I was growing up in the 1970's. They kept the computers in their own temperature controlled ( cold ) room and the machines were indeed huge. She hired and managed "key punch operators" for awhile.
Anyone not knowing that term may check here for some history:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Key_punch

jayessell said...

The Light Screen(tm) was first seen in the motion picture "The Fly" as part of the teleporter.

Neil Russell said...

JSL - I'm going to have to watch for that in the "Fly", I didn't remember seeing it featured! But then it's been a long time since I saw it.
I've got a vague memory of a movie with Dick van Dyke and Bob Newhart called "Cold Turkey" and the big wall of light is in it someplace.
Seems like that Batman movie from about 66 or 67 had it too. I do remember that the Penguin's submarine was pretty much all of the Seaview control room set with some potted plants added for contrast!