Introducing Susan England and Desk Set

Susan England nee Fletcher was born and raised in Summerville, Georgia, USA.  She has a Bachelor’s of Arts in Journalism from the University of Georgia in Athens, Georgia and a Bachelor’s of Science in Nursing from Kennesaw College in Marietta, Georgia.  She relocated to England in 1997 after marrying an Englishman.

While still in Georgia, she had 3 articles published in a USA humor magazine for nurses and also had articles published in several Georgia newspapers.  An article of hers entitled “My Mum’s Sweet Southern Ice Tea,” was published in the Guardian July 2017.

Susan enjoys all sorts of films, but has a special place in her heart for classic Hollywood films. Her favourite film is Pride of the Yankees, starring Gary Cooper.  The first film she saw in cinema was the Beatles Yellow Submarine.  That was back in the days when you could still stay and watch the same film over and over and only pay for one screening.  Susan made her sister Martha stay through 3 viewings of Yellow Submarine because she enjoyed watching Ringo drive the car around in the long hallway.

She loves crafts, particularly crochet and sewing.  Living near Liverpool gives her ample opportunities to indulge in all things Beatles.  From the time she was in nappies, Susan listened to Beatles music with her big sister Martha.

Susan and her husband David live in Formby with their four cats Desmond, Molly, Lucy and Loretta.  Susan and David celebrated their 20th wedding anniversary May 2017.


Desk Set

Released:  1957

Available on:  DVD, Amazon Prime, Sky Movies, recently shown on Talking Pictures TV

Director:  Walter Lang

Reviewer:  Susan England

Desk Set, a romantic comedy set in the reference department of the fictional FBC TV Network, is one of Katharine Hepburn’s and Spencer Tracy’s lesser-known films.  The first colour film by the famous couple, the palette and lavish 1950s wardrobe is a delightful feast for the eyes.  Although not their best work, the legendary Tracy/Hepburn chemistry is still present. Rapid-fire dialogue, characteristic of many of the romantic comedies of the period, powers the film forward. The screenplay was written by Phoebe and Henry Ephron, parents of Nora Ephron, who wrote the screenplay for the hugely successful When Harry Met Sally (1989).  One can’t help but notice the influence her screenwriting parents had on Nora Ephron’s career.

Tracy’s character, Richard Sumner, is an engineer hired to make the reference department more efficient.  Efficiency in 1957 called for the installation of EMERAC, IBM’s new “electronic brain.” EMERAC is a computer that occupies an entire wall, and gurgles, squeaks and sputters as it spits out answers.  A bit of a diva, EMERAC is sensitive to extremes in temperature and occasionally goes haywire if strict rules aren’t followed.

Today’s research is largely run by Google searches, but 60 years ago, network research was done by actual humans relying on their own eidetic memories or searching for the information in books.  They dispatch info via phone call or courier to whomever requested the information.  Machines like EMERAC were pioneers in the battle of computer vs. human.

FBC’s reference department is run by Bunny Watson (Hepburn), a woman who is strong, intelligent and articulate around anyone other than her narcissistic Neanderthal boyfriend Mike played splendidly by Gig Young.  Around Mike, Bunny turns into a wobbly pile of goo.  During their first film encounter, Mike playfully tells Bunny, “Who do you think you’re kidding?  Everybody knows you don’t have a brain in your head!”  I was ready to climb through the TV screen and strangle the smug git, but Bunny just smiled and flitted about the room babbling on about a dance she wants Mike to invite her to.  Don’t worry, dear readers,  Mike gets his comeuppance by the quick-witted, fatherly Sumner (Tracy) and Watson (Hepburn) in the end.  I don’t think it’s a tremendous spoiler to divulge that things all work out in the end for the research department.

One has to constantly bear in mind the film was made 60 years ago when gender and sexual roles more rigidly defined. It was also made on the cusp of the Swinging 60s, when things would be turned upside down in America and much of the Western world.  Seen in this context, Desk Set is an amusing, infuriating, illuminating time capsule that is worth a watch.

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