23 January 2015

Friday is the (Inspirational) Movie Night: Designing Woman (1957)

Guess, when did Hollywood decided that it was OK for a woman to have a life beyond romantic aspirations! Well, around 1957.

Designing Women (1957, Vincente Minnelli), while following much of the style of other misunderstanding-based romantic comedies (see Bringing Up Baby (1938)), introduces some elements that make it much more advanced than you would expect.

The heroine (the most amazing Lauren Bacall, mind you) is a very successful fashion designer. So, contrary to the female employment patterns in US at that time (work until marriage, then full-time caretaker), she has no intentions of quitting even if stumbling upon a person she'd like to marry.

While vacationing, she enjoys the party and actually does find somebody she likes. She proceeds to take time off from work to enjoy the romance.

She eats! A lot! Claiming that she eats ridiculous amounts when in love, Marilla proceeds to devour stuff. Implication? Women - even the very beautiful and successful - are humans. They require calory intake. Good news fro women everywhere, taking account how complex the dominant culture makes our relationship with food.

When starting to build an everyday life together, turns out that she earns more than her partner. He suffers about it a bit, then gets over and life goes on. The tension does not go back to that. Ha! Even more, they have very different lifestyles and social circles. And that is deemed to be OK. They can live with it.

It's not all feminist dream (and, obviously, a very privileged, high class scenario), as the plot spinner is jealousy of Marilla fuelled by the nondisclosure of information by Mike in the name of protecting Marilla. But the amazing part (for 1957!) is that once overcome the misunderstandings, there's no insinuation that Marilla should quit her job, change her friends or somehow differently adjust to her partner. Nice, eh?

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