Ernst Lubitsch

Design for Living

Design for Living

Gary Cooper, Fredric March, and Miriam Hopkins play a trio of Americans in Paris who enter into a very adult “gentleman’s agree­ment” in this continental pre-Code comedy, freely adapted by Ben Hecht from a play by Noël Coward and directed by Ernst Lubitsch. A risqué relationship story and a witty take on creative pursuits, the film concerns a commercial artist (Hopkins) unable—or unwilling—to choose between the equally dashing painter (Cooper) and playwright (March) she meets on a train en route to the City of Light. Design for Living is Lubitsch at his sexiest, an entertainment at once debonair and racy, featuring three stars at the height of their allure.

Film Info

  • Ernst Lubitsch
  • United States
  • 1933
  • 91 minutes
  • Black & White
  • 1.33:1
  • English
  • Spine #592

Special Features

  • New high-definition digital restoration, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray edition
  • “The Clerk,” starring Charles Laughton, director Ernst Lubitsch’s segment of the 1932 omnibus film If I Had a Million
  • Selected-scene commentary by film scholar William Paul
  • British television production of the play Design for Living from 1964, introduced on camera by playwright Noël Coward
  • New interview with film scholar and screenwriter Joseph McBride on Lubitsch and screenwriter Ben Hecht’s adaptation of the Coward play
  • PLUS: A booklet featuring a new essay by film critic Kim Morgan

New cover by F. Ron Miller

Purchase Options

Special Features

  • New high-definition digital restoration, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray edition
  • “The Clerk,” starring Charles Laughton, director Ernst Lubitsch’s segment of the 1932 omnibus film If I Had a Million
  • Selected-scene commentary by film scholar William Paul
  • British television production of the play Design for Living from 1964, introduced on camera by playwright Noël Coward
  • New interview with film scholar and screenwriter Joseph McBride on Lubitsch and screenwriter Ben Hecht’s adaptation of the Coward play
  • PLUS: A booklet featuring a new essay by film critic Kim Morgan

New cover by F. Ron Miller

Design for Living
Cast
Fredric March
Tom Chambers
Gary Cooper
George Curtis
Miriam Hopkins
Gilda
Edward Everett Horton
Max Plunkett
Franklin Pangborn
Mr. Douglas
Isabel Jewell
Stenographer
Jane Darwell
Housekeeper
Credits
Director
Ernst Lubitsch
Producer
Ernst Lubitsch
From the play by
Noël Coward
Screenplay
Ben Hecht
Original music
John Liepold
Cinematography
Victor Milner
Editing
Frances Marsh
Art direction
Hans Dreier
Costume design
Travis Banton

From The Current

Three Reasons: Design for Living
Design for Living: It Takes Three
Design for Living: It Takes Three

Ernst Lubitsch’s Design for Living (1933) is what sexy should be—delightful, romantic, agonizing ecstasy. And it’s not just sexy but also revolutionary, daring, sweet, sour, cynical, carefree, poignant, and so far ahead of its time that one cou…

By Kim Morgan

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Noël Coward in New York
Noël Coward in New York

A celebration of one of the great cosmopolites of the twentieth century, in one of the cosmopolises he adored.

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Design for Living: Notes on the Play
Design for Living: Notes on the Play

Noël Coward’s play Design for Living was produced for Broadway in 1933, starring Coward, Alfred Lunt, and Lynn Fontanne. But it started life back in 1921. Coward was on his first impoverished visit to America. He arrived in New York with a few man…

By Barry Day

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Explore

Ernst Lubitsch

Producer, Director

It’s difficult to put into words exactly what is meant by “the Lubitsch touch.” It alludes to the director’s delicate hand, effervescent humor, and economy with words and images. The ineffable style the term attempts to capture was with Lubitsch from his cinematic beginnings in Berlin to his early days in the American studio system and his final years as a Hollywood stalwart. Born January 28, 1892, in Berlin, this clothing manufacturer’s son left the family firm for a life in show business. After starting out as a performer in Max Reinhardt’s fabled theater company, Lubitsch went on to star in silent slapsticks for Berlin’s Bioscop film studio (he became well-known as the comic character Meyer), eventually writing and directing his own movies and becoming part of the legendary UFA studio. The international success of some of those films, such as Carmen (1918) and Madame du Barry (1919), led American film superstar Mary Pickford to invite him to Hollywood. On the basis of movies like The Marriage Circle (1924) and Lady Windermere’s Fan (1925), Lubitsch earned a reputation in America as a hit-maker, and unlike many of his peers, he took to the transition to sound like a duck to water, pioneering the narrative movie musical with such Maurice Chevalier vehicles as The Love Parade (1929) and The Smiling Lieutenant (1931), in which he indulged his fondness for Viennese operettas. An adept of sparkling dialogue and naughty innuendo, Lubitsch flourished particularly in the pre-Hays-code Hollywood era—his continental romantic comedies and fanciful period pieces were flush with sexual repartee; such glittering confections as Trouble in Paradise (1932), Design for Living (1933), and The Merry Widow (1934) were perfect escapes for the beleaguered audiences of the Great Depression. So great was Lubitsch’s success that in 1935 he was named head of production at Paramount, though he held that position for only one year. He would continue to craft more studio smashes, however, for MGM and 20th Century-Fox, many of which are still beloved today, including Ninotchka (1939), To Be or Not to Be (1942), and Heaven Can Wait (1943). Early in 1947, shortly before his death from a heart attack, Lubitsch was awarded a lifetime achievement Oscar, recognizing his “twenty-five-year contribution to motion pictures.”