Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Desk Set - the Movie

In this most classic of all library films Katharine Hepburn plays Bunny Watson - head reference librarian at a television network. Watson has a keen wit, a sharp mind, a green thumb, a super-cool apartment, and a tosser of a boyfriend (Mike Cutler, played by Gig Young). Spencer Tracy plays Richard Sumner, who keeps hanging around the library and measuring everything. Watson and her three co-workers Peg Costello (Joan Blondell); Sylvia Blair (Dina Merrill); and Ruthie Saylor (Sue Randall, a.k.a. Miss Landers for any Leave It to Beaver fans) are wary and wonder if they will be losing their jobs to a computer, even though they are fully (and accurately) aware that computers cannot replace librarians! This film was made before I was born, but the same questions are relevant. Computers may not take up entire rooms any more, and they may have more information than ever, but it still takes people to provide the information, and to evaluate it. Fortunately Sumner understands that the computer only supplements the work of the librarian. In fact. he points out that their time will be freed up to do real research, and that there will be more work than ever. Again, this point is still relevant today. Just because people can Google for themselves what the Seven Wonders of the World are, doesn't mean librarians don't have real work to do. It has shifted. We do more research and teaching, and less helping people with crossword puzzles.

This film passes the Bechdel test in spades. It was refreshing to see a film about women lifting each other up, both professionally and personally, although I do admit to being a bit let down by the end of the film when the (woman) computer programmer came in and everyone ganged up on her.

No stereotypes here. These librarians were smart, fetching, stylish, and clearly had off-screen sex lives. Gold stars all around.

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