Design for Living (1933)

My eyebrows furrow. My lips are sealed and puckered. I sit here writing on my phone.

“Hmm.” I say in a form of interest. Then I sigh.

So…they’re in a threesome relationship…without sex.

Oh, I’m sorry. It’s a “gentleman’s agreement”.

I loved the hell out of this film…I am…I am just dazed. Why…why would anyone share their partner with someone else…They were an odd group, I should say. Were this to have been in 2016, a shot of all in the same bed acting on their love would have opened a scene. But, luckily, it’s not graphic. Not explicit pornography or maniacal moaning. It’s just something that is discussed, and that I find acceptable. Much better than a boob shot.

Welcome to a real pre-code film, Isadora!!!

The word sex is mentioned and I gasped. Well, in my mind? It’s 1933 and those actors in black and white are talking about such filth.

Well, believe it or not, even back in those good old thirties, people did fornicate.

Ha-ha! Such humor of mine! Of course they did! I’ve just never been…..used to hearing this type of talk before in 30’s films. I haven’t been super exposed to the world of pre-code.

So let me recollect the happenings of one of the most interestingly and curiously odd films I’ve ever seen…

Miriam Hopkins goes in a train, yes! Then….she sees Fredric March and Gary Cooper. She draws them.

Soon they start a relationship. She dates March. She dates Cooper. Soon this is discovered by the men and….they come to a “gentleman’s agreement”….They can both date her…but no sex!


Gary Cooper happens to be the one who can’t fully commit. (Notice his facial expression.)

I swoon. I ignore Miriam Hopkins.

So…they’re all just….living together…in a relationship. Huh. She supports them both and gets them job opportunities. They cheat on each other, but it’s all fine because there is love.

They already fell to temptation and slept with each other. (Not Gary Cooper and Fredric March even though I kind of expected it.)

But, it’s all fine.



Miriam Hopkins and her boys.

Hmm. Make out with your two attractive boyfriends in the car. Sounds like a good music video.

Ernst Lubitsch, you perv!

Or Noel Coward, who came up with the story.

Brilliant humor in this. The ending left me smiling awkwardly. I mean, should I be happy or just annoyed with how manipulative Miriam is? She was cool. The girl had these men clenched in each fist.

And, anyway, to bring it up again…I seriously expected Fredric March and Gary Cooper to end up gay.


It may have been 1933, it would’ve been a good ending…but no…they needed a girl.

I have to say that this is a very, very unique film. Will never leave your mind. It artistically stands out. Hard to find a story like this. They just weren’t ashamed or embarassed one minute…it was all acceptable in the reality in a film of Ernst Lubitsch. One of a kind!

How did I get this after all? Well, it was in the Criterion section in Barnes and Noble. I had just recently learned that Lubitsch had been Criterioned and I know the movies would be given one hell of a restoration. Sadly, it was $29.99.

But, we drove to the record store…and it also had a Criterion section! I found it for $15.95. A used copy, of course. I have to enjoy film somehow! Barnes and Noble just like stealing your money. So, you could imagine that I jumped and jumped….

Near the end of this film, I wondered if I liked it. That’s what happens every time I watch a movie. Did it have the Lubitsch touch? Did it stand out in any way? Did it seem cliche and so typical 30’s? Now that I finished it….I think that it was certainly a special film and I liked it because I am always impressed by originality and some small (not GRAPHIC) taboo discussion.

Some brilliant highlights:



And, dear me, if I had been in the shoes of Miriam Hopkins, I would’ve easily chosen Gary Cooper. Now that’s a big obvious.


When I bought this, all I raved about was, “Gary Cooper! Gary Cooper…”

Fredric March looked like soft bread. Gary Cooper was a butter croissant.


One of the most memorable quotes in this film is when Miriam Hopkins says: “It’s true we have a gentleman’s agreement, but I am no gentleman.”

This is advanced for its time. It deals with the value of friendship and if it’s powerful enough to surpass betrayal due to temptation. Don’t I always say Lubitsch films are advanced for its time? I think the films he directed were always like the funny, unconventional side of Hollywood.

I also loved how we were taking to another scene during a mid scene.

I stop writing for a few seconds. Look up from my phone. I notice the dirty faces from the actors on the cover:


I raise my eyebrows and purse my lips.

“Hmm,” I think.

You know, I think after this movie The Hays Code of 1934 was established.

I watched this (and bought this) in honor of Mr. Lubitsch’s birthday yesterday.


4 thoughts on “Design for Living (1933)

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