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Criterion Collection: Design for Living [DVD] [1933] [Region 1] [US Import] [NTSC]

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Product details

  • Actors: Fredric March, Gary Cooper, Edward Everett Horton
  • Directors: Ernst Lubitsch
  • Format: Black & White, DVD-Video, Full Screen, Subtitled, NTSC
  • Language: English
  • Subtitles: English
  • Region: Region 1 (US and Canada DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 4:3 - 1.33:1
  • Number of discs: 2
  • Classification: Unrated (US MPAA rating. See details.)
  • Studio: Criterion
  • DVD Release Date: 6 Dec 2011
  • Run Time: 91 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B005ND87UY
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 98,192 in DVD & Blu-ray (See Top 100 in DVD & Blu-ray)

Customer Reviews

3.7 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Trevor Willsmer HALL OF FAMETOP 50 REVIEWER on 30 April 2012
Format: DVD
Previously available in a barebones edition as part of the US Gary Cooper Collection [DVD] [Region 1] [US Import] [NTSC], Criterion's edition of Ernst Lubitsch's rarely revived take on Noel Coward's sophisticated comedy of sexual manners does it proud.

It tends to be forgotten that in the 30s Gary Cooper was as much a romantic idol as an action hero, and in the right film was surprisingly at home with sophisticated comedy. Design For Living is at least 70% delightful before the film starts to take the implications of its menage a trois plot more seriously in that traditional third act downer that most comedies feel obliged to offer to build up the rallying finale. But that 70% is so superb that I could forgive it anything, with the American stars (Frederic March and Miriam Hopkins making up the other corners of the triangle) giving Coward's words a more natural reading than the usual arch and stilted overplaying they're often treated to on the stage, allowing them to be funny instead of clever for once. It's also pleasingly amoral, with everyone getting the girl at one time or another and Miriam Hopkins making no secret of her own lust for Gary Cooper and Frederic March. Quite a pleasant little surprise.

Rounding out a fine new transfer are a decent selecton of extras: a 1964 British TV production of the play, the brief but hilarious Lubitsch-directed Charles Laughton episode from If I Had a Million, interview with critic Joseph McBride, selected scene commentary from film historian William Paul and a booklet.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Stephanie De Pue TOP 1000 REVIEWER on 1 Feb 2013
Format: DVD
"Design for Living," (1933), is another pre-World War II, pre-Hays code Hollywood classic, a brisk, sophisticated 91 minute black and white romantic comedy. With attitude, a starry cast, and world-famous talent behind the camera, too.

It wasn't unusual in the early twentieth century for Americans, Britons, and others who wanted careers in the arts, to gravitate to Paris. Remember Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald? Of course, they wanted to write the Great American Novel. At any rate, three attractive young Americans living in Paris in the early twentieth century meet cute. Playwright Thomas B. (Tom) Chambers, played by Fredric March, (Les Misérables ), and painter George Curtis, played by Gary Cooper (and who knew he was so adept at comedy?), (Mr Deeds Goes to Town), are poverty-stricken roommates. They meet free-spirited fashion editor Gilda Farrell, played by that great Lubitsch favorite Miriam Hopkins, (TROUBLE IN PARADISE (Masters of Cinema)). She can't decide who she likes better -- whoever could?--so proposes a "gentleman's agreement." She will live with them as friend and critic of their work, but there will be no sex. However Tom, in his first taste of success, goes to London to supervise the production of his very first play to be staged. And George and Gilda are left on their own. As Gilda's boss at the mag, Max Plunkett, Edward Everett Horton, (TROUBLE IN PARADISE), delivers with his usual yeoman rom/com competence.
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1 of 5 people found the following review helpful By raffaello on 6 Mar 2012
Format: DVD
No English subtitles available , as erroneously reported in your product details.
Quality of the product is definitely good , but lack of english subtitles made me give a poor rating .
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 17 reviews
16 of 18 people found the following review helpful
Classic Lubitsch 4 Dec 2011
By Michael B. Druxman - Published on
Format: DVD
A disgruntled screenwriter stormed into director Ernst Lubitsch's office, threw 120 blank pieces of paper down onto his desk and said "Here! Give this the Lubitsch touch!"

Obviously, that's a writer's story...but the truth is that when Lubitsch did have a good script...or even a fair one, he was, indeed, able to bring that extra special "touch" to the material, thereby creating a series of risque' sophisticated comedies in the 1930s and 40s that have yet to be equaled. He was never vulgar in his "touches," but employed often hilarious visual suggestions, thus making it quite clear as to what was really going on behind those closed bedroom doors.

DESIGN FOR LIVING (1933) was adapted to the screen by Ben Hecht from Noel Coward's play. Miriam Hopkins stars as a commercial artist, who becomes smitten with both Gary Cooper, a struggling painter, and starving playwright Fredric March. The trio decides to live together...platonically...but you can imagine how long that aspect of the relationship lasts...and the problems that it causes. Edward Everett Horton co-stars in this witty, well-played comedy.

The Criterion Collection has released a marvelous 2-disc edition of DESIGN FOR LIVING that, aside from a new high-definition digital restoration with uncompressed monaural sound, also includes selected scene commentary by film professor William Paul, an interview with Joseph McBride on Lubitsch, plus a 1964 British television version of the play introduced by Coward and, best of all, the short sequence that Lubitsch directed for IF I HAD A MILLION (1932) featuring Charles Laughton. It was the funniest bit in that picture.

Finally, there is a booklet containing an essay by film critic Kim Morgan.

© Michael B. Druxman
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Don't miss this threesome! 3 Dec 2009
By Andrew Ellington - Published on
One of the most delectable ménage-trois in the history of cinema, the pairing of Fredric March, Gary Cooper and the GLORIOUS Miriam Hopkins for this hilarious 1933 romantic comedy was truly inspired and is really hard to top, even today. Sadly, this cannot be purchased except for within a collection of Gary Cooper hits, so it may not be an easily accessible film (I saw it on TCM and have locked it only my DVR) but if you can get your hands on it (local library maybe) I strongly suggest you take the time to see it.

The film tells of two American men, playwright Tom Chambers and painter George Curtis, who meet and fall for Gilda while on a train. The three soon move into the same Paris flat and start a strange yet charmingly workable relationship (no touchy-touchy). The relationship is tested when each man tries to get exclusive rites to Gilda's affections, and when the intrusive (well-meaning) Max Plunkett makes his feelings for Gilda and her situation clear, things begin to get dicey.

For me, this is just delightful from start to finish. I think I mentioned this when reviewing `Trouble in Paradise'. Miriam Hopkins did three films basically back-to-back with director Ernst Lubitsch, and this is one of the best. My favorite is still `The Smiling Lieutenant', but this one sports Hopkins shining moment. It is the most universally sound, especially in the comedic department. It has the gags and the intellectual banter down to a science.

Such a blessed pairing across the board.

Of the two leading men, my vote goes to March, who is just stunning here. It is nice to see Cooper take on a role that was very far removed from what he was used to, but he does at times feel a little out of place. March is perfection here, truly outstanding. He matches Miriam and really provides her with a worthy suiter, a believably charming lover. Edward Everett Horton is also really well used here, funny and annoying, but in a good way.

It works.

The relationship displayed here was sure to stir up some controversy. It is a bit risqué for the time it was released, but Lubitsch was always good for that. If you want some cheeky fun you really can't do much better than this one. I really wish it had a separate DVD release. Maybe soon. If you can get your hands on this then DO IT ASAP!
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
A Lubitsch masterpiece of sly and joyous sex 31 Dec 2011
By C. O. DeRiemer - Published on
Format: DVD
There's no doubt about what's going on in Design for Living, a delightful high comedy about a ménage a trois, written by Noel Coward as rewritten by Ben Hecht and directed by Ernst Lubitsch...and it's not hanky panky. No, it's just joyous, straightforward sex.

Please note, before any fastidious persons who fancy themselves "reviewers" nail me to a tree. I have watched this movie more than once when it was released as part of The Gary Cooper Collection. It looked good then, and - I plead guilty to not having watched it yet in the newly released Criterion edition - I expect Criterion has done it proud. I plan to buy it. I have no idea what the extras may be like, but then I seldom watch the extras or listen to any film's commentary.

When two artists, the painter George Curtis (Gary Cooper) and the playwright Tom Chambers (Fredric March), encounter Gilda Farrell (Miriam Hopkins) on the train to Paris, their 11-year friendship is going to be intriguingly tested. Gilda (with a soft "g") captures them both, and she reciprocates but can't choose. And why should she? She moves in with them. There's only one solution, however, to the inevitable problem. "Boys," she tells them "it's the only thing we can do. Let's forget sex." And with that, of course, neither they nor we can. Says Gilda to George and Tom later, "It's true we had a gentleman's agreement, but unfortunately, I am no gentleman." And says Tom to Gilda later, "George betrayed me for you. Without wishing to flatter you, I understood that. I can still understand it. But you betrayed me for George. An incredible choice!"

Ben Hecht often bragged that only one line of Coward's survived in his screenplay. All I know is that Hecht's words are some of the finest and funniest, as well as the most amusingly realistic, you're likely to find in a high-gloss Hollywood comedy. The movie just barely got in under the wire before the Production Code began to enforce the prude's code of morality on America. Lubitsch and Hecht create a sophisticated world in which going to bed with someone you like is as natural as...well, going to bed with someone you like. There's no leering or innuendo in the movie, just a reliance on the sophistication of the audience. For instance, Gilda explains to Tom and George the differences between how men and women sort things out. "You see," she tells them, "a man can meet two, three or four women and fall in love with all of them, and then, by a process of interesting elimination, he is able to decide which he prefers. But a woman must decide purely on instinct, guesswork, if she wants to be considered nice." The point we're aware of with a smile is that Gilda not only is nice, but smart, and that she's already tested the waters with each of them.

We start the movie with an ménage a trois, but one that turns into a duet with George and then a duet with Tom. After some encounters with business versus art, we all come to our senses and enjoy the sight of Gilda, George and Tom reunited in New York with a plan in mind. "Now we'll have some fun," Gilda says happily. "Back to Paris!" I have a feeling that forgetting sex won't be part of the plan for long.

The frisson of a bi-sexual ménage a trois is substantially toned down by Lubitsch and Hecht. While it wasn't explicit in Coward's stage play, one would have to be deaf and blind not to get the subtext, especially with Coward and Alfred Lunt as the two male leads when the play opened. In the movie, however, this just becomes inconsequential speculation, especially with Gary Cooper and Fredric March in the roles. Cooper manages not to embarrass himself in this highly polished comedy of sex and style, but it's clear that what works in Cooper's favor are his looks, not his line delivery or body language. March and Hopkins, however, are completely at ease and are a joy to watch.

Hollywood wouldn't make movies this adult and amusing until the Fifties, and even then the level of sophistication and respect for the audience, in my opinion, never fully recovered. Every now and then it's possible to come across in pre-Code Hollywood films of such mature pleasure you hope others will like them, too. Says one character in Design for Living, "Immorality may be fun, but it isn't fun enough to take the place of 100 per cent virtue and three square meals a day." How wrong he was...and is.
2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
By Jack E. Levic - Published on
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
I had never heard of DESIGN FOR LIVING but a film starring a young Gary Cooper, Frederic Marsh and Miriam Hopkins directed by Ernst Lubitsch and written by Ben Hecht from a Noel Coward play has to be a class act all the way. Although the film starts to run out of steam near the end, it is a pure joy to watch.

To truly appreciate DESIGN FOR LIVING, you have to put away your modern sensibilities and step back into the early 1930's. Tame but today's standards, DESIGN FOR LIVING must have shocked more than a handful of people in 1933. This was pre-Hays code Hollywood when a few liberties could still be taken in a story about two men in love with the same woman.

Gilda Farrell, played by Miriam Hopkins, is a pretty and progressive young career woman. She's as far from the typical 1930's American girl as she can be. The film is set in Paris, where life was even more open. Gilda has lived and morals and rules are for other people. She meets Tom Chambers, a struggling playwright, played by Frederic March and George Curtis, a starving artist, portrayed by a young and dashing Gary Cooper. Tom and George share a crumbling apartment and both struggle to find fame.

Worlds collide when Tom and George realize they both are in love with Gilda and both have "made love" to Gilda. The word "sex" and "making love" are actually used in a 1930's film. How shocking! Gilda loves them both and the only option is for the men to come to a "gentlemen's aggreement" regarding her. Everything will be strictly platonic as the three share the apartment and Gilda works her magic to advance Tom and George's careers. Needless to say, things are never that simple and here is the fun of the story.

Of course, it doesn't seem so shocking by our standards to have two single men living with a woman nor is it unusual to have a young lady be a free spirit in all senses of the word. It seems somewhat innocent in today's Hollywood but the film must have caused a stir in 1933 with Miriam Hopkins showing her legs and with her plunging neckline. Of course, her "come hither" look and "damsel in distress" personality only add to the charm.

I watched the CRITERION version. Of course, CRITERION never disappoints and is worth the extra cost. The film looks clean and crisp like it must have been at its premiere.
There is such a charm in old films. Hang a sign written in French, get a couple of French speaking actors as extras and show a quick generic establishing shot of the Eiffel Tower and you're in Paris without ever having to leave a Hollywood soundstage.

Also starring is character actor Edward Everett Horton as Max Plunkett. It's clear Max is in love with Miriam but she only allows him to be her friend and protector - well, until much later. I always remember Horton as an older actor in the 1950's. His distinctive voice always stands out. He must have been in his late 40's in DESIGN FOR LIVING. There is a scene where he is sitting in a theater and he looks heavily made-up. He looks like a silent screens star with the thick make-up. It made me wonder why this was done. Both Cooper and March look "natural" in the film. Of course, Hopkins is "dolled up" in true 1930's fashion.

As for the movie losing steam, it's a fun and light-hearted film until Gilda decides she was to be a responsible and respectable woman. You have to see what happens next.

It's fun to step back in time to another era and imagine how audiences would have reacted to this film. Watching a trio of three actors who had big careers ahead of them in early roles has a nostalgic film. Gary Cooper will always be ruggedly handsome. Miriam Hopkins will always be frozen in time with her 1930's clothes and hair. Forget the modern day and step back in time and enjoy a forgotten gem.
2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Shimmering 8 Jan 2012
By WSH - Published on
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
There is something to be said for an era that could produce a film like this. The decade of the 1930s gets a bad press, much deserved. Perhaps, if it had appointed Ernst Lubitsch as its official publicist, we would have better memories. But we'll take these couple of hours and cherish them.

'Design For Living' is a comedy that plays with everything: gender roles; being an artist; social climbing; business; sex... oh, and especially the audience. The commentary/interviews included with this Criterion issue offer a good deal of insight into just how clever Lubitsch was as a filmmaker. My only quibble is with critics who think this particular 'design for living' - one woman, two men - is anything of the sort. It is facile to suggest we are meant to conclude from the story that people should have what they desire, rather than submit to social convention. Anyone can make a play along those lines, and many have. This film, on the contrary, sends up the whole idea of constructing a design for living, self-indulgent, self-controlled, or otherwise. Enjoy the situations, enjoy the acting, enjoy the wit and humour, enjoy the games - all of which will stimulate enough grey matter to have you thinking long after the curtain falls - but don't look for a philosophy lesson.

The restored print used here is superb. It is hard to believe its age. The cast is wonderful. Miriam Hopkins (who appears in two other splendid Lubitsch films, 'The Smiling Lieutenant' and 'Trouble in Paradise') could generate the power supply for a small town. She shimmers in this part. Sexy and smart, she attracts the amour of two men (if you exclude the whole male audience) without ever submitting or pouting or simpering. There is a certain teflon quality to her rapidity of mind and movement that seems to deflect their advances onto each other and back onto themselves, and yet the character is never cold or aloof. Something magical is achieved in the characterisation and Hopkins' performance. Gary Cooper does very well in a role somewhat outside his usual range. Frederic Marsh is truly very funny. Edward Everett Horton plays to his strengths, and they, too, are considerable.
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