Designing Woman

Designing Woman is a 1957 American Metrocolor romantic comedy film, in CinemaScope, about two young, whirlwind-romanced newlywed professionals and their misadventures in adjusting to each other's lifestyles. Vincente Minnelli directed the picture, which stars Gregory Peck, Lauren Bacall and Dolores Gray, and features Sam Levine and Chuck Connors. George Wells won an Oscar for the screenplay.

Designing Woman
Theatrical release poster
Directed byVincente Minnelli
Produced byDore Schary
Written byGeorge Wells
StarringLauren Bacall
Gregory Peck
Dolores Gray
Narrated byLauren Bacall
Gregory Peck
Music byBilly Higgins
André Previn
W. Benton Overstreet
CinematographyJohn Alton
Edited byAdrienne Fazan
Distributed byMetro-Goldwyn-Mayer
Release date
  • May 16, 1957 (1957-05-16)
Running time
118 minutes
CountryUnited States
Box office$3,750,000[1]


In California covering a golf tournament, New York sports reporter Mike Hagen (Gregory Peck) correctly chooses the winning golfer in the reporters' betting pool. With the $1200 he won, Mike begins buying drinks. The next morning he awakes with no memory of the night before. Hung over and believing that he failed to file his story, Mike sits beside the hotel pool drinking coffee. When an unfamiliar woman, Marilla Brown (Lauren Bacall), approaches him, Mike, through a series of misunderstandings, assumes she is a prostitute. As Marilla heatedly begins to correct him, he receives a call from his editor telling him he had received Mike's story, but that a corrupt boxing promoter was threatening Mike. Ending the call, Mike returns to Marilla who explains that she had helped him write his story. This begins a whirlwind eight day romance which ends with marriage. Only on the flight back to New York does Mike begin to discover that Marilla had hidden the details of her job, wealth and family connections in order to land Mike. This quickly causes friction.

Mike is a sportswriter and poker enthusiast with working-class friends. Marilla designs clothes for a wide array of artistic personalities. Their friends clash memorably one Wednesday night when his Poker Club and her Drama Society both convene at Marilla's apartment.

Marilla becomes suspicious of Mike after she finds a photograph of Lori Shannon (Dolores Gray), Mike's former girlfriend. Mike tries to hide his former relationship, but fails miserably. Complicating matters even further is Mike's continuing series of exposés of the activities of crooked boxing promoter Martin Daylor (Edward Platt). Mike's life is in danger, but he hides that from his wife as well. What results is a series of misunderstandings and mishaps.


One of the supporting actors was the famed choreographer Jack Cole.


The original concept for the film reportedly came from Helen Rose, who designed dozens of gowns and dresses for Bacall for Designing Woman. She gives an interview / screen test in the DVD's special features.

Lauren Bacall was dealing with husband Humphrey Bogart's eventually-fatal illness during the shooting. According to her autobiography, she took the role (which was originally intended for Grace Kelly) in order to avoid her home situation, but in interviews she said that this film was among her favorites, and that she desperately wanted the part, even accepting a lower salary. She said that Grace Kelly considered the part to have been written for her, and would never forgive Bacall, adding "She got the prince, I got the part".[2]

Bogart died January 14, 1957, four months before the film's release.

Both James Stewart and Cary Grant turned down the role that went to Peck (Grant citing the heavy drinking of the character as the main reason).

Box office

According to MGM records, the film earned $2,175,000 in the US and Canada and $1,575,000 elsewhere resulting in a small loss of $136,000.[1]


The movie ended up being one of both Bacall and Peck's more successful films both critically[3] and commercially, with Bosley Crowther of The New York Times comparing the leading couple with Katharine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy and stating, "(the film) obviously endeavors to generate the same kind of verve and general sardonic humor as flowed from that older comedy team. It does, too — at least, in certain stretches."[4]

As for modern reviews, Rotten Tomatoes has given Designing Woman an overall positive note, regarding it 72 percent "fresh" as opposed to "rotten",[3] while the website gives it two and a half stars out of five, crediting Bacall for giving a "sparkling comic performance".[5] proclaims the comedy as "shiny, polished, and entertaining" and states that "it has held its value well over the years."[6]

Awards and nominations

Award Category Subject Result
Academy Awards Best Story and Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen George Wells Won
Laurel Awards Top Comedy Designing Woman 5th
Top Female Comedy Performance Lauren Bacall 3rd
Writers Guild of America Awards Best Written American Comedy George Wells Nominated

See also


  1. The Eddie Mannix Ledger, Los Angeles: Margaret Herrick Library, Center for Motion Picture Study
  2. Guardian newspaper - Bacall: 14 of her best quotes, 1 August 2014
  3. "Rotten Tomatoes reviews".
  4. Dargis, Manohla (May 17, 1957). "The Screen: 'Designing Woman' Bows; Gregory Peck; Lauren Bacall Are Stars". The New York Times. Retrieved May 1, 2010.
  5. "allmovie review".
  6. "DVD Verdict review". Archived from the original on 2006-09-25.
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