Tucked away on an obscure corner of the Federal Broadcasting Company is a small research department run by Bunny Watson (Katherine Hepburn). Bunny and her colleagues Peg (Joan Blondell), Sylvia (Dina Merrill) and Ruthie (Sue Randall) answer all manner of arcane questions submitted to them from throughout the building, and their encyclopedic knowledge is bolstered by an office jammed with every reference book imaginable. The busy career women are all single, and Peg, Sylvia and Ruthie dream of finding the perfect man, knowing that they’re unlikely to find romance in their bookish enclave. Bunny isn’t as desperate for male company, especially since she spends so much time fending off the unwelcome advances of her supervisor Mike (Gig Young).
But the arrival of efficiency expert Richard Sumner (Spencer Tracy) turns the women’s world upside down. Sumner brings in a computer to collate information, and the women feel threatened by the encroaching technology. How long before the computer takes all of their jobs? As Sumner eagerly tries to prove that the computer can do a more efficient job than the humans can, he grudgingly comes around to the notion that the researchers are more capable than he gave them credit for; and after a good deal of verbal fencing the possibility of romance begins to bloom between Sumner and Bunny.
As technological threats go, this isn’t exactly The Terminator. Desk Set has a quaint midcentury optimism that computers, for all their clanking and buzzing, are just corporate playthings that shouldn’t be taken that seriously. This is the lightest of light-hearted romantic comedies, and the durable team of Katherine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy are quite winning in their eighth 0n-screen pairing. Their ninth and final film together would be Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner a decade later. — Michael Popham
DESK SET screens Friday and Saturday, June 19 and 20, at 7:00 and 9:00, and Sunday, June 21 at 5:00 and 7:00 at the Trylon. Tickets are $8.00, and you can purchase them here.