Desk Set

Critics Consensus

Desk Set reunites one of cinema's most well-loved pairings for a solidly crafted romantic comedy that charmingly encapsulates their timeless appeal.



Total Count: 22


Audience Score

User Ratings: 6,043
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Movie Info

Based on the Broadway play by Robert Fryer and Lawrence Carr, Desk Set represents the eighth screen teaming of Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn. Hepburn plays the head of a TV network research department; Tracy plays an efficiency expert, hired to modernize Hepburn's operation. When Tracy has a huge computer installed, Hepburn and her co-workers (including Joan Blondell and Sue "Miss Landers" Randall) fear that they're going to lose their jobs. Their suspicions are confirmed when the computer merrily begins issuing pink termination slips. But something is obviously amiss: the computer not only fires the ladies, but also the head of the network--and Tracy, who isn't even on the company payroll! At this point, Tracy explains that the computer was designed to help Hepburn and her staff and not replace them; he also confesses that, given the pink-slip incident, this might not have been such a hot idea. But Hepburn, who has fallen in love with Tracy, is in just the right mood to forgive him--and doesn't need to consult her research files to come up with this decision. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

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Spencer Tracy
as Richard Sumner
Katharine Hepburn
as Bunny Watson
Gig Young
as Mike Cutler
Joan Blondell
as Peg Costello
Neva Patterson
as Miss Warringer
Harry Ellerbe
as Smithers
Ida Moore
as Old Lady
Rachel Stephens
as Receptionist
Sammy Ogg
as Kenny
King Mojave
as Board Member
Charles Heard
as Board Member
Harry Evans
as Board Member
Hal Taggart
as Board Member
Jack M. Lee
as Board Member
Bill Duray
as Board Member
Jesslyn Fax
as Mrs. Hewitt
Shirley Mitchell
as Myra Smithers
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News & Interviews for Desk Set

Critic Reviews for Desk Set

All Critics (22) | Top Critics (5)

  • [I]t's still a witty, often diverting romantic comedy that further demonstrates how well the duo fit.

    Jan 24, 2019 | Full Review…
  • Drunken Christmas office parties and antiquated technology notwithstanding, the real fun in Desk Set is watching these two pros and longtime loves play off of each other for one of their final cinematic turns together.

    Jan 24, 2019 | Full Review…

    Gwen Ihnat

    AV Club
    Top Critic
  • [Miss Hepburn and Mr. Tracy] can tote phone books on their heads or balance feathers on their chins and be amusing -- which is about the size of what they do here.

    Mar 25, 2006 | Rating: 3.5/5 | Full Review…
  • The results are some splendidly crisp exchanges between the pair, and the inevitable scene of embarrassment where he is literally 'caught with his pants down'.

    Jan 26, 2006 | Full Review…
  • The least, perhaps, of the Spencer Tracy-Katharine Hepburn collaborations...this 1957 comedy is nevertheless a bright and witty vehicle for its stars, directed well and anonymously by that fine old hack Walter Lang.

    Jan 1, 2000 | Full Review…
  • It doesn't have the emotional heft of something like The Apartment but it's a delightful little comedy with a hint of Christmas in it for the holidays.

    Feb 6, 2019 | Rating: 7/10 | Full Review…

Audience Reviews for Desk Set

  • Apr 15, 2016
    The script is clever, not great, the plot is cute, but not amazing, and the ending is predictable - but I like it anyway, and I've seen it several times over my life. For one thing, I've always liked the rooftop scene, where Spencer Tracy gives Katherine Hepburn a little intelligence test, complete with tricky riddles and difficult recall problems, and she effortlessly nails it, much to his surprise. She works phones with three other women in a reference library, the sort that people called back in the day pre-Internet, pre-Google, with questions ranging from the simple to the obscure. He's the inventor of the EMERAC, a computer or "electronic brain" as they put it, which threatens to take their jobs. Naturally, there is a question of her abilities vs. the computer's. On that note, it's fun to see the massive size of this computer and how it works in the movie, which aside from being a little silly, reflects how they were viewed in 1957. Oh, if only they could have known just how much computers would evolve, and change the world. The movie is refined and any age could watch it, but it does bring a smile to see various inappropriate behavior in the office, culminating in a pretty raucous Christmas party. I have to say, it's also great to see three of the main actors at ages you don't see much in these types of roles - Tracy (57), Hepburn (50), and Joan Blondell (51), who I've also been enjoying lately in her pre-Code roles from the early 1930's. I wish there were more movies like this! All three actors are a joy to watch.
    Antonius B Super Reviewer
  • Jul 04, 2011
    What I really appreciated in this movie was that Hepburn was like - what, 50? - and Tracy approaching 60, and they could still create a magic movie that never, ever alludes to their age (which modern studio execs, particularly Nancy Meyers, would absolutely leap on). Also, I think that Joan Blondell is a ton of fun. It's nice to know she held onto her spark til the end.
    Jennifer X Super Reviewer
  • Nov 28, 2010
    The performances of Tracy and Hepburn - and sometimes the writing - make <i>Desk Set</i> an addictive watch, but to be totally frank it's also a pretty awful film and the computer angle must have seemed ridiculous even in 1957.
    Daniel P Super Reviewer
  • Sep 05, 2010
    Even people today can relate to the problems of modernization in the workplace, which is what this movie deals with, but in a humourous way. Hepburn and Tracy are great together as always, and this movie is a lot of fun.
    Aj V Super Reviewer

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