Monday, December 30, 2013

Project Gemini Corned Beef Sandwich in Space Cool Napkins

A little about Project Gemini... Space Mission Patches, Napkins, Sandwich in space?

Project Gemini: GT 3: Grissom / Young Cloth Napkin Every rocket or astronaut party has space food. Have you heard about the corned beef sandwich that went into space? It wasn't on the list of NASA-approved meals.

Fly me to the moon and let me eat around the stars.... Napkins for your space food. Yum

Project Gemini: GT 3: Grissom / Young Cloth Napkin by NASA_and_Beyond Very cool for a party or every day

NASA offers an impressive historical and current variety of items, art, postage & invitations, clothing and for your electronics and home, more.... *This is the real thing, items created and licensed by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.  

Think of Father's Day, birthdays and holidays. Have in your workshop, your cabin, picnic basket.

Encourage your kids to greatness and never forget 

Set of 4 napkins. Choose size: Size 20"x20" (dinner napkins) and 12"x12" (cocktail napkins). 100% grade A woven cotton. Fabric is made from natural fibers. Machine washable.
Made in the USA. Teach your young astronauts to be tidy and stylish.

What's on Special? Check out All Zazzle Sale Items, Coupon Codes Customize! Create Your Own. 

George Bailey: What is it you want, Mary? What do you want? You want the moon? Just say the word and I'll throw a lasso around it and pull it down. Hey. That's a pretty good idea. I'll give you the moon, Mary.

Mary: I'll take it. Then what?

George Bailey: Well, then you can swallow it, and it'll all dissolve, see... and the moonbeams would shoot out of your fingers and your toes and the ends of your hair... am I talking too much? 
-- Jimmy Stewart and Donna Reed, It's a Wonderful Life 1946

Project Gemini was the second human spaceflight program of NASA 

Crew: Virgil I. "Gus" Grissom, Command Pilot 
John W. Young, Pilot 
Back-up Crew: Schirra, Stafford 

On March 23, 1965, the spacecraft, nicknamed Molly Brown, performed the seventh manned US spaceflight, and the 17th manned spaceflight overall (including X-15 flights over 100 kilometers). 

It was also the final manned flight controlled from Cape Canaveral, Florida before mission control functions were shifted to the Manned Spacecraft Center in Houston, Texas. 

Project Gemini was conducted between projects Mercury and Apollo, with ten manned flights occurring in 1965 and 1966 

Gemini 3 was the first manned mission in NASA's Gemini program, the second American manned space program 

Grissom was at the time the first person to fly in space twice. Sadly, Project Gemini would be his last flight. He was killed in the tragic Apollo 1 fire on January 27, 1967. 

The Gemini 3 capsule was unofficially dubbed Molly Brown in reference to the Unsinkable Molly Brown of Titanic fame. 

Grissom's capsule sank and was lost during his first space flight, Mercury MR-4, thus precipitating this Molly Brown nickname. 

Considering napkins for your party, for your home? 

Here's another interesting historical tidbit regarding the Project Gemini Mission:
A corned beef sandwich had been smuggled on board the spacecraft. Grissom reportedly only took a few bites for fear of the potential safety risk that would be caused by any crumbs floating around the cabin. 

A sandwich was not the normal type of space food prepared for the astronauts!
-- Information from NASA sites
Retro Vintage Kitsch Biscuit Space Boy Ad Hooded Pullovers 
Retro Vintage Kitsch Biscuit Space Boy Tees and more Sandwiches in Space??! by seemonkee

The Right Stuff (Two-Disc Special Edition) Gus Grissom is depicted in different films and TV shows, but perhaps the best is The Right Stuff from 1983. You can rent the movie and stream it or catch it on cable now and then. It's good to know our history.

  Mars Global Surveyor Printed Napkins
Mars Global Surveyor Printed Napkins by NASA_and_Beyond

Project Gemini video footage Missions 3-12
A rough edit in chronological order of the Gemini missions from III-XII. Contains clips from suit-up, ingress, launch, on-boards and recovery. There are a few audio clips from crew members.
-- amazing footage, from description

Can your kids dress up like space men or like astronauts?
Encourage them to use their imaginations and make up stories.
Recycle materials for costumes, make your own equipment, and have fun with it!
The more they learn about science the more ideas they'll have.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Joan Fontaine Suspicion talk and games

Suspicion Saturday Short: Joan Fontaine reminisces about the film, plays some games

Suspicion Poster French
Cary Grant Joan Fontaine
Feeling suspicious? There is a nice short clip from a 1979 CBC interview where Joan Fontaine discusses the 1941 film, Suspicion.

In the interview she talks about how the ending of the film was changed so that Cary Grant's character was not a murderer. 

She also tells us her real feelings about a hat she wore in the movie. 

Johnnie Aysgarth (Grant) called his wife, Lina (Fontaine) Monkey Face

Ms. Fontaine will be greatly missed by all of her fans.

("Who's that old biscuit face?" Grant's character asks in Mr. Lucky. Can't remember who he's talking about.)

Cary Grant and Joan Fontaine
1941 Hitchcock film, Suspicion 8x10 Photo

They play Anagrams in the movie. It's a game similar to Scrabble. Maybe someone close to you will let you know a secret while playing a game -- something they wouldn't tell you openly?? :)

Joan Fontaine appeared on the classic panel game show
What's My Line? at least twice, in 1954 and 1973.

Rebecca Judith Anderson, Joan Fontaine
8X10 Photo

Related Links of interest:

20 Famous Movie Milk Scenes

My Favorite Wife: Santa Shows Up Early 

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Flying with Tools-Knitting Needles on a Plane

Marilyn Monroe Knitting, Yves Montand
Let's Make Love

Scissors on a plane?

Quilters' Cases for Travel, Crafters, Knitting in Public, etc.

Are you a crafter, jewelry designer, beader or a quilter? Maybe you're a woodworker and you travel, what do you to about taking your tools?

Is it best to ship them or bring them on the plane? Where is the latest information?

My friends who knit can't imagine hours at the airport without their knitting needles and latest project! But what are the regulations and how often do they change?

If you're a musician who flies, you've probably heard songs such as Tom Paxton's Thank You Republic Airlines for breaking the neck on my guitar. Where do you look for the current rules about instruments? My husband is a woodworker and luthier. What if he needs to bring a guitar that he made to someone and we're flying?

If traveling by air, you may want to review and even print out and carry a current copy of the TSA Tool Rules

Hand Tools

None of the included hand tools is more than seven inches long and I do not carry scissors. I believe these pages will be updated as rules are changed or will provide links to current regulations. These rules seem to change frequently. Please check the sites for the TSA and your airline if necessary before you travel.

"Wrenches and Pliers (seven inches or less in length)"

"Scissors - metal with pointed tips and blades shorter than 4 inches are allowed, but blades longer than 4 inches are prohibited."

While I don't see mention of something like wire cutters for jewelry makers who may want to travel with their tools, they would probably fall under the scissors category.

You can find zip cases for beading tools with slots for your pliers and wire cutters, a slip-resistant mat and room for your beads, threads and wire. Be sure to have items such as needles secure such as in a plastic or paper container of their own. When choosing travel cases and supplies for your beads and tools.

Decide when, where and how you plan to use your materials while on the road and at your destination. I did some beading, for instance, while visiting a relative in the hospital in another state.

If you sew, here's one thing I found on a search for travel with sewing needles:

Sharp objects and "Tools (greater than seven inches in length)," when allowed, need to be in your carry on. 

"Scissors with blades smaller than 4 inches, small needles carried for special medical needs and other sharp objects that do not contain a blade may be placed in carry-on baggage.

Any sharp objects placed in carry-on or checked baggage should be properly sheathed or securely wrapped to prevent injury to TSOs and baggage handlers."

A professional case designed for traveling
Includes organizer with inner storage options, shoulder strap
Different sizes and styles can be found.

As a woodworker, luthier, etc. you might visit acquire tools on a trip and need to get them home.

There are separate rules about drills and power tools. We've always checked in advance and on some occasions chosen to ship some items rather than try to bring them on the plane. Always double check all of this information with both your airline and the TSA as it appears to be changed regularly.

Knitting needles on a plane? Eeeek! When last checked, knitting needles were not mentioned on the above list of tools. Here's their rule as of May 2013: Knitting needles are permitted in your carry-on baggage or checked baggage.

"Items needed are permitted in your carry-on baggage or checked baggage with the exception of circular thread cutters or any cutter with a blade contained inside which cannot go through the checkpoint and must go in your checked baggage."

"It's important to know that even if an item is generally permitted, it may be subject to additional screening or not allowed through the checkpoint if it triggers an alarm during the screening process, appears to have been tampered with or poses other security concerns. The final decision rests with TSA on whether to allow any items on the plane."
-- May 2013

Joan Crawford 1970s knits Canvas Bags
May 1972 Lady's Circle Magazine.
Joan Crawford Displaying her mohair afghan.

Joan Crawford 1970s knits Canvas Bags Magazine Cover
Choose size, style, color of  bags by Jakestuff
Create unique customized canvas tote bags
"Women who love fine needlework are the same friendly and helpful souls the world over, whether they are in sophisticated New York or casual Kansas."
-- excerpt from article, cover image is on bag

A 1980s issue of New York Magazine talks about Alice Maynard's Yarn Shop in New York City.

Musical Instruments

Flying with musical instruments TSA; Find your type of instrument, etc.

"Owners should be present when an instrument is removed from its case for screening. For this reason, musicians are advised to add at least 30 minutes to the airline's recommended arrival window when checking their instrument."
-- excerpt January 2013

Roy Orbison Fastest Guitar Alive
8x10" Photo

Think about other places where your tools may not be allowed: My sister-in-law was called for jury duty and found out that she could not bring her knitting needles into the courthouse while waiting to see if she would be chosen to be on a jury.

"So TSA made a very deliberate and careful study of the amount of time and effort screeners were putting into looking for potential weapons that could be used to get into a cockpit, as opposed to explosive devices.

"And judging the difference in the risk, based on some very concrete steps that had been taken to secure those cockpits and make sure people cannot take over airplanes, the common-sense judgment, backed up by reliable data, was, we ought to shift our focus away from some things like nail scissors or sewing scissors or little screwdrivers, and into areas like increased training and increased focus on possible explosive devices."

Excerpt from Remarks by Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff on DHS Accomplishments and Priorities
Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Related Links: 

Ergonomic Tips for Musicians

Art & Craft Podcasts: Listen while you work... And for those times when your tools aren't allowed?

Left my cell phone or iPad on the Plane: Reuniting with your electronics
And Do these things Before flying with your cameras, tablets, cell phones, etc. 

10 Points about Sewing Ergonomics

Flying with pets, keep pets happy, safe in the airport on the plane, animal relief areas in airports

Knit with Joan Crawford

Flight Delays/Layovers Flying with Kids and Pets 

One Million Lawyers and Other Disasters, Tom Paxton, CD includes Thank You Republic Airlines. Also MP3 versions

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Charles Boyer receives a Gift

He may not be what I expected
but he's still my son

Charles Boyer
Photograph Master Print
Happy Holidays
The Gift, from 1953, was part of the Four Star Playhouse series. You sometimes catch it on TCM on Dramatic Anthologies. Its stars are Charles Boyer and Maureen O'Sullivan as Carl and Minna Baxter. It's set at Christmastime.

The story unfolds as you watch. Carl doesn't care for Christmas, he doesn't believe in Christmas gifts. This post contains spoilers.

"I have everything I need already. I have you."

"Yes," she answers. "You have me. The question is do I have you?"

She talks about how she'd like to celebrate the holiday. He tells her, "Why don't you order yourself something nice for Christmas?"

He doesn't want to talk about their son or look at the gifts they received from him in the mail.

You can tell that Carl Baxter has been hurt somehow and that hurt comes out at Christmastime.

The head of a company, he complains about Christmas bonus checks. But he started the idea of handing out Christmas bonuses to employees.
Maureen O'Sullivan
Photograph Master Print

Throughout the movie you hear about their son and finally find that Carl Baxter's pain comes from the fact that his son did not choose to follow in his footsteps. How could he have turned out to be so different from his dad??

It's Christmas Eve. His secretary is anxious to leave work. Her husband is back from the Pacific after two years. Baxter suggests that she would be fired if she insisted on leaving early. Finally she tells him she'd rather leave early and work somewhere else.

The holidays are a time for family, a good time for repairing relationships, letting go of grudges. There are lessons about parenting, forgiveness and redemption. Being able to forgive and be forgiven, to start over new is a real gift even though it can be hard.

The Gift is the second of the two short films shown

His son became a geologist, not a businessman working in his father's company. Their son is halfway around the world. He'd refused a Christmas gift from his father, the offer of a partnership in the business. Baxter has seen everything in terms of business.

"Look what we invested in him and what are the returns? All that time and money you think you've got everything because you've got a son but you're fooling yourself. One day he's grown up and he's gone."

After leaving work, he decides to go buy something for his wife. Baxter sees his wife at a department store  bringing a bunch of kids from the orphanage to see Santa before the store closes. She's done this for the past three years.

A sales lady believes Minna is a widow and this surprises Carl. The sales lady says, “There's a loneliness about a widow that you just can't mistake. When you serve the public as long as I have you get to know people."

This has a big impact on him. The end of the movie is poignant and happy.

Maureen O'Sullivan is the mother of actress Mia Farrow*

Watching The Gift, I remembered a book I heard about recently.
Andrew Solomon's book, Far from the Tree: Parents, Children and the Search for Identity examines how parents deal with children who are very different from them. The children may have physical or emotional challenges.

Charles Boyer is now feeling free!
Original Hollywood Prints Vintage
One of A Kind Collectible

The Gift is available on different DVD sets. At least one along includes a Cavalcade of America holiday episode, The Blessed Midnight, also featuring Maureen O'Sullivan.

A boy turn to stealing for his aunt on Christmas Eve. A friend tries to set things straight.

Danny Richards Jr. was the bellboy in the movie Some Like it Hot.  Frances Bavier, who would later play Aunt Bee on The Andy Griffith Show, is also in this movie.

Tarzan Johnny Weissmuller; Maureen O'Sullivan was Jane
11X14 Vintage Photo Silver Gelatin

Maureen O'Sullivan appeared in A Connecticut Yankee at King Arthur's  Court with Will Rogers in 1931. She played Jane six times, even marrying Johnny Weismuller's Tarzan in Tarzan the Ape Man, 1932.

You can catch Ms. O'Sullivan in a variety of films such as The Devil Doll (1936), the Marx Brothers' A Day at the Races (1937), A Yank at Oxford with Robert Taylor (1938), Pride and Prejudice with Greer Garson (1940) and Woody Allen's Hannah and Her Sisters (1986) where she played the mother of her real-life daughter, Mia Farrow.

A name template for wrapping paper, to cover photo board at a party. Replace "Samantha." Have a single word or name or try putting two words together, may work better than more than one word.

Charles Boyer had a long career in films. Some of his most famous were Algiers (1938) with Sigrid Gurie, and Hedy Lamarr, All This, And Heaven Too with Bette Davis (1941),  Back Street (1941) with Margaret Sullavan and Hold Back the Dawn (1941) with Olivia de Havilland and Paulette Goddard. He received multiple Oscar nominations including one for Fanny in 1961.

Boyer co-starred in 1944's Gaslight, directed by George Cukor. Other stars were Ingrid Bergman and Joseph Cotten. This film was famously the screen debut of Angela Lansbury who was then 18-years-old.

Sources include:
the film itself, Wikipedia, IMDB

* Cannot confirm that the child in the photo with Ms. O'Sullivan is a young Mia Farrow

Monday, December 23, 2013

Donna Reed welcomes Buster Keaton

Buster Keaton appears on The Donna Reed Show
Christmas Episode December 24, 1958

Other famous friends of Donna Reed's such as Esther Williams, Jimmy Hawkins appeared on her show in guest roles.

Reed won an Academy Award for her work in the film From Here to Eternity.
Around this time of year she may be best remembered as playing Mary Bailey to Jimmy Stewart's George Bailey in the 1946 film, It's a Wonderful Life.

More Retro TV Christmas Holiday episodes Comedy, Drama, Musical, Suspense

In 1984, she replaced Barbara Bel Geddes in the role of Miss Ellie Ewing on the TV show Dallas in the 1984-85 season.

The Donna Reed Show ran 1958-1966

Buster Keaton is an icon of early silent film era. He was very adept at physical comedy while being a talented film writer and director as well. His films can still be seen on the big screen, and you can attend events such as Buster Keaton Film Festivals.

Watch for his movies, including Sherlock, Jr., One Week, The Three Ages, The Navigator and most definitely The General. These are from the 1920s.

Buster Keaton rocked his pork pie hat before Ed Norton on The Honeymooners or Bryan Cranston as Walter White on Breaking Bad wore theirs.

Enjoy Judy Garland's 1963 Christmas Special . There are many more videos on the page linked above. Happy holidays!

As always thank you to the kind folks who upload these videos. Give their videos comments and Likes as thanks.

Eight maids at Christmas not a-milking

Eight Maids at Holiday Time or Any Time

Can you name the TV shows that featured these fun and hard-working maids aka housekeepers? What families did they work for? Do you have a favorite? It isn't the eighth day of Christmas. I don't recall any of them a-milking, but it's fun anyway. Here's a little quiz to see how well you know famous television maids and housekeepers.

Friends like to throw theme parties. This is a great idea. Maybe guests will be more inclined to clean up after themselves? Ask about these maids, make it part of a game at your next bridesmaids luncheon or the wedding favor-making session.

Maybe it's their holiday task, one maid to tend each of Santa's reindeer: Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen, Comet, Cupid, Donner and Blitzen. But what about Rudolph? A maid to tend Comet?

The Alice Nelson Costume comes in a version for women and for men.

Most of these characters did not wear a distinctive costume. If you and seven friends want to portray the Eight Maids, you can probably create the costumes out of items from your closets or find things in your local thrift shop. You may find some cool vintage aprons.

1) Alice Nelson

2) Florence Johnston

3) Tony Micelli

4) Rosario Salazar

5) Florida Evans

6) Nell Harper

7) Mr. Belvedere

8) Rosie the Robot

There are different versions of the Rosie The Maid Costume

Probably the most famous look is the French Maid Costume. You could be Magenta from The Rocky Horror Picture Show?

Do I look like your maid? Tshirt
Do I look like your maid? Tshirt
Look at more Maid T-Shirts to customize at zazzle

In honor of the 8 Maids, why not check out 10 favorite Milk Scenes on Television 

Hazel was a TV show that ran from 1961-1966. It was broadcast in both black and white and then in color. The great film and Broadway actress, Shirley Booth starred, playing Hazel Burke. She worked for The Baxters.

Since posting this list, friends have mentioned characters in shows who could also be included, Upstairs, Downstairs, Downton Abbey even Jeeves & Wooster.

Here are the answers to the questions above. 

1) Alice Nelson (Ann B. Davis) was on The Brady Bunch. First she worked for Mike Brady. When Mike married Carol, she worked for the whole bunch of them. Later she married her true love, Sam.

2) Florence Johnston worked for George and Louise on The Jeffersons.

3) Tony Micelli (Tony Danza) worked for Angela Bower on Who's the Boss? 

4) Rosario Salazar (Shelley Morrison) was on Will & Grace. She worked for Karen Walker.

5) Florida Evans worked for Maude & Walter Findlay on the show, Maude from 1972–1974. Florida and he family got their own show, Good Times which ran 1974-1979. She was portrayed by Emmy Award-winning actress Esther Rolle.

6) Nell Harper (Nell Harper) on Gimme a Break! She worked for widower Carl Kanisky and his family.

7) Mr. Belvedere (Christopher Hewett) worked for George & Marsha Owens on, yes, the show called Mr. Belvedere.

8) Rosie the Robot worked for George and Jane Jetson. These are the only animated characters on the list.

Related Articles of Interest:

Old Hollywood Stars Thanksgiving Menus Quiz: Match the stars to the menus they served Their traditional Thanksgiving meals 

Movie trivia quiz questions Hollywood 1920s-30s era

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Christmas with Katharine Hepburn Spencer Tracy and the Electronic Brain Desk Set

Celebrate the holidays with The Desk Set

Desk Set Movie Poster 11x17
Desk Set is a 1957 American romantic comedy starring Katharine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy. It was originally a stage play by William Marchant. The film was released as His Other Woman in the UK.

The play opened on Broadway in October 1955. Shirley Booth as Bunny Watson received rave reviews. Among the actors to appear in the theatrical version were Joyce Van Patten, Louis Gossett Jr and Doris Roberts.

In the play notes Bunny is described as "a woman with encyclopedic knowledge and facts and figures at her fingertips." 

It’s set at Christmastime in New York City. Hepburn plays Bunny Watson, the head of the reference & research department in the large "Federal Broadcasting Network." Her last name is apparently in honor of IBM founder and CEO Thomas J Watson who died in mid-1956.

We see the exterior of Rockefeller Center (headquarters of NBC) decorated for the holidays. 

The time of year makes it more festive but also adds some motivation for people to reevaluate their lives – and to have one swell office party!

From the notes of the mid-1950s play: "In the midst of all the mayhem there is a typical office party at Christmastime when all the girls get to kiss the boss and when some young men think it's time they told him what they really think of
him. And running throughout is romance and just a little heartache."

This article will have a lot of spoilers. If you don’t want to know what happens before seeing it, my suggestion is that you take a break and enjoy the movie now.

"In the event of an air raid alarm remain in your seats and obey the instructions of the management." From the Director of Civil Defense. 
-- Inside cover of the Broadhurst Theatre Desk Set Playbill 1955


"Those Christmas parties where everything goes and anything can happen!"

There are two main threads to the story, the romantic comedy and the fact that new computer systems are being installed to manage the company’s accounting and research departments. 

Bunny has been seeing her boss, Mike Cutler, for the past seven years. She’s also been doing much of his job for him. She hopes that he’ll pop the question. 

Parts of the film are fanciful and typical of the time period. Some young women were sent to college or work supposedly to meet a man or in hopes of marrying the boss.

The computer, called EMERAC, is referred to as the Electronic Brain. The characters call it She, even naming it Emily or Emmie. Making it female is reasonable since the thing looks like someone parked a battleship in their office. It’s somewhat anthropomorphic. She's really another character in the movie.

I read that the computer was modeled after two real computers, the ENIAC and the UNIVAC, both invented by IBM rivals, Eckert and Mauchly. The suggestion was that calling the computer in Desk Set EMERAC might “perpetuate the public impression that all computers are made by IBM.”

UNIVAC I used 5,200 vacuum tubes, weighed 29,000 pounds (13 metric tons), consumed 125 kW, and could perform about 1,905 operations per second running on a 2.25 MHz clock. The Central Complex alone (i.e. the processor and memory unit) was 4.3 m by 2.4 m by 2.6 m high. The complete system occupied more than 35.5 m² of floor space.
-- info from Wikipedia

Spencer Tracy is Richard Sumner, Methods Engineer. "Efficiency Expert is an obsolete term," he says. He is the inventor of the computers, the one who’ll install them and acquaint the workers with them.

This is the eighth of nine movies that Hepburn and Tracy made together. The first was Woman of the Year in 1942, Desk Set was 1957. Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner 1967 would be their final movie together. Mr. Tracy died just days after the completion of that film.

The credits proclaim, "We gratefully acknowledge the cooperation and assistance of the International Business Machines Corporation." The opening credits are efficiently typed out for you on a state of the art line printer. 

It’s important to note that IBM was essentially a partner in the production of Desk Set. Between the colorful IBM Selectric typewriters that the characters have at their stations to the computers that are central to the plot, IBM is in the movie one way or another start to finish. 

A little bit of full disclosure: I first started using computers in the late 1970s early 1980s. This included some that didn’t have monitors. They had the keyboard and one of those line printers. Windows wasn’t in existence yet. 

If there was a mouse on the desk, we’d tell our cat and he’d go after it. My experience with computers and my experience working in university libraries from the mid-1980s through the 2000s makes this film even more meaningful.

As a student worker I answered phones in the Reference department back in the late 1980s. A few callers could dial up and access our system. It was confusing as I read from a sheet and asked them about their speed and their baud rate.

As a staff member, I remember overhearing touring freshmen ask, “Why do we need the library now when everything’s online?” The concerns of the characters in Desk Set are perennial.

ADAM'S RIB, from left: Spencer Tracy, Katharine Hepburn, 1949

The head of the network orders Tracy’s character to remain secretive about the computers. This serves to increase the anxiety. Staff members are consequently sure they’re losing their jobs and very suspicious of Sumner.

We see examples of what were probably the first bad search results if you can call them that. Human beings retrieved information from different sources and entered that data into the computer. Later someone asked a question and that data had to be retrieved.

Every step could have a mistake or misunderstanding. The computer was installed to help the librarians give callers answers faster. A person was between most of us and the answer that a computer would spit out. A librarian would evaluate & interpret the computer’s answer.

Many of the problems we face today with computers popped up right off the bat in Desk Set. How you phrase your search is important. Do you use Boolean searches?

Is the question vague, is part of it misspelled? How had the information been input in the first place? Garbage In Garbage Out they say.

The women in Reference were used to interpreting and distilling the callers' questions before even beginning to look for an answer. They knew where to look for the answer.

In the early days of computers, there was no Internet. There were no search engines; you didn’t get a list to choose from. With one huge computer, you asked one question at a time. No one cared if ‘you were feeling lucky.’

Whatever came up first was your answer, even if it was pages and pages long, you had to wait for it to type itself to the finish. 

Would we do better today, over 50 years later, answering the questions that callers asked then on today's Internet? Some of the questions are at the end of this post along with some IQ questions that Sumner asked Bunny.

Desk Set Katharine Hepburn, Neva Patterson, Spencer Tracy
Canvas Art Picture

"You know you can't interrupt EMERAC in the middle of a sequence!" Sumner says when a misspelling in a search mistakenly starts the computer typing out an 80 stanza poem. Hope you won’t get caught in an infinite loop.

The 1950s also saw IBM’s My Fair Ladies program luring women to careers in technology. The brochure, which was handed out - in part- to women on college campuses, had a bunch of purple flowers on the front and blossoms scattered throughout.

Shirley Booth's Broadway Bunny didn’t strike up a romance with efficiency expert Richard Sumner. The screenwriters added the romantic storyline to take advantage of the Tracy-Hepburn chemistry and box office magic.

His Other Woman/Desk Set
Katharine Hepburn, Spencer Tracy, Joan Blondell Lobby Card

The Christmas and New Year’s backdrop is important in Desk Set. Even though Richard Sumner’s arrival (as the bearer of the machine) appears to mean the potential loss of jobs, Bunny gives him a Christmas gift.

She’s researched him as much as he has researched her. She gives him a 6-foot long knit scarf in his college colors. Looks like he really likes the gift.

The coworkers are close friends. They seem like a second family. The characters have qualities you’d look for in a holiday movie, people you’d like to see year after year. It’s nice to see a love story about smart, witty characters that aren’t so young. I know several people who watch Desk Set yearly at Christmastime.

Just like Sumner, Bunny Watson has a college degree. The women in the Reference department are great characters, especially for that time. They’re working women with different personalities, at different times of their lives. Would they continue working if they got married? Who knows?

They remain as calm as possible when faced with the probability of losing their jobs and when faced with the cacophony of ringing phones and a behemoth smoking beeeep-booping machine in their office.

His Other Woman/Desk Set
The Librarians rule, Computers Drool
Original Lobby Card

The supporting players are terrific. Perhaps top of the list is Joan Blondell as Peg Costello, Bunny's good friend and co-worker. She reminds Bunny that Cutler is using her and Bunny can do better. 

Blondell is well known for many films such as Golddiggers of 1933 and Nightmare Alley (1947). She went on to appear in The Cincinnati Kid (1965), Grease (1978), The Champ (1979) and television such as the 1960s ABC western series Here Come the Brides. 

Sue Randall is Ruthie Saylor, best known for her role as the Miss Landers, Beaver Cleaver’s teacher on Leave it to Beaver.

Dina Merrill as Sylvia Blair. She made her film debut in Desk Set. Ms. Merrill was asked to participate in the documentary, The Hollywood Librarian: Librarians in Cinema and Society.  

Ann Seidl, the writer and director of the documentary, said she was thrilled to have Ms. Merrill participate in the film. "Desk Set contains some of the most recognizable librarians in American cinema. And the issue of technology in libraries is one of the major themes of the movie and of the time period. Being able to talk with one of its stars on camera will add greatly to the documentary." -- Library Worklife, ALA-APA News, October 2005.

Neva Patterson (Miss Warriner) had a long career. In 1957, she played Cary Grant's fiancee in An Affair to Remember. In 1984, she was also in All of Me with Steve Martin and Lily Tomlin in 1984.

Gig Young was Mike Cutler, the department supervisor and Bunny’s so-called boyfriend. As friend Peg pointed out Bunny was too available to him and he treated her like an old coat in his closet. Relatively quickly he and Richard Sumner become jealous of one another and rivals for her attentions if not affections.

After working late Bunny and Richard leave the office in the pouring rain. They catch a ride in the car with a co-worker, Smithers, and his visiting family, ending up at Bunny’s apartment building.

Gossip in the office, is like the original intranet. One person tells another, then another. The Telephone game. Information morphs into misinformation, it spreads, getting mixed up as it goes along. The ones who talk the loudest and repeat their stories most often get heard and remembered.

Soaking wet from the storm, Bunny invites Richard inside. She unwraps a robe that’s to be a Christmas gift for Mike Cutler and gives it to Richard to put on while his clothes dry. She changes into something else herself. 

Desk Set/His Other Woman
Spencer Tracy, Katharine Hepburn
Gig Young, Joan Blondell

This is reminiscent of a similar scene Hepburn had with Cary Grant in Bringing up Baby back in 1938.

There’s a great idea for a present. Buy something and personalize it yourself. Bunny says she can’t return the robe because she embroidered Cutler’s initials on it. Make it personal and special.

Of course Cutler ends up coming over and finding Sumner in Bunny’s apartment in a bathrobe. Richard makes the most of Cutler’s suspicions. The scene is great and many fans believe that Spencer Tracy was adlibbing some of the funniest bits. I like looking around her 1950's apartment, especially the kitchen.

Maybe this year you can serve floating island for dessert one evening? Sure looks yummy.

The office Christmas party is a highlight. Everyone is dressed up. The men are wearing red vests and holiday ties. The women’s dresses are festive, more glamorous than their usual attire. Someone asks about the policy at Christmastime. You just have to keep the doors open, they say.

This was the era of a panel game show, What’s My Line? Regular panelists came out five nights a week in tuxedos and sparkling evening attire to play a game guessing what people’s occupations were.

When the gals in Reference give the mail boy a cash Christmas gift they tell him to go to other departments and make a big show of what they gave him. They also suggest adding some money to it! The boy last year did it. "He made a big show of what we gave him and it worked. They met our figure."

His Other Woman/Desk Set
Spencer Tracy/Katharine Hepburn
Jingle Bells-Night and Day Bongo Drum rendition
vintage Lobby Card

One of the gifts Cutler gives Bunny is a plush rabbit with a zipper up the back. Inside is a bottle of champagne. Bunny calls the rabbit Harvey, in reference to the Jimmy Stewart film from seven years earlier. 

She keeps expecting Cutler to propose and prove Peg wrong, but it doesn’t happen. Things need to change.

She gives Mike some bongo drums instead of the robe. He isn’t impressed. But Richard likes them. He plays them at the party as Bunny sings and dances.
They wheel in a piano and fill the water cooler with wine. 

His Other Woman/Desk Set
Katharine Hepburn/Spencer Tracy
Original Lobby Card

Sitting in amongst the book stacks, Richard and Bunny get to know each other better. She asks why he’s never settled down.

"I never found any woman to put up with me except Caroline. She was a model. 5’10” in her stocking feet."

"You had occasion to measure her?"

"Among other things, yes. If it hadn’t been for the war..."

"Oh you got a Dear John letter?"

No, he says. "Imagine sitting on an ice cap in Greenland and getting a six-page letter telling me that women’s necklines were going to go up the following year... I don’t exactly look like a fella who’s interested in women’s fashions do I?"

"Not even in men’s," Bunny says.

He had his friend look her up and then he got his Dear John letter. 

Bunny says he hasn't settled down because he's in love with someone else: "Emily EMERAC. That monster machine you created, that’s who. She’s all you ever think about." 

He laughs at this suggestion, and then pauses. "I bet you write wonderful letters," he tells her, but Bunny is called away.

Miss Warriner, a very efficient no-nonsense woman who works with Sumner arrives to install EMERAC and everyone’s spirits take a nosedive. 

In the notes of the original play, Miss Warriner is described as being, “not yet 30. She is most modestly dressed in a grey suit but a certain brisk efficiency in her demeanor suggests that a permanent spinsterhood is most certainly to be hers.” I doubt this would have been in that brochure that IBM handed out to young college women.

James Stewart signed 8X10 sketch of Harvey (Inscribed To Margaret)
Miss Warriner is to program and run the computer. She will tell the librarians  never to touch a bright red lever. Emmie "will get upset and make lots of rude noises."

EMERAC is ultimately able to be tamed with a hairpin. This, among other things in the movie, should help calm anyone worried that machines are out to take over the world.

In short order they receive pink slips with their paychecks, their fears realized. They begin packing up their belongings. When the phones ring with people asking questions, the ladies tell Sumner and Miss Warriner to answer them.

This is where we see that interpreting the questions originally asked and how they’re entered into the computer (the search terms), where you get your answers are all very important.

Some questions don’t even seem to require the computer. Sumner is asked to name Santa's reindeer and he answers something along the lines of, “Dasher, Dancer, Bashful, Dopey, Doc and Rudolph.” 

Rudolph was around in book and song form in 1957 but he’s not one of the reindeer listed in ‘Twas the Night before Christmas. Snow White was also a famous film but her seven dwarves wouldn’t appreciate being mistaken for reindeer.

Bunny is finally beginning to accept Cutler for who he really is.  It turns out a malfunction with the electronic brain’s counterpart in Payroll is responsible for the pink slips. Everyone in the building got one, including the president of the network. Even Sumner himself and he doesn’t even there.

The movie ends with events that bring about some personal clarity on the parts of both Bunny and Richard. Cutler gets a promotion and wants Bunny to accompany him to the west coast. After all, she does most of his work for him. There are meltdowns by both EMERAC and Miss Warriner.

Instead of directly expressing his feelings for her, Sumner suggests that Bunny ask the computer if she should marry him or Mike Cutler. She gets the message loud and clear. It’s a happy ending for another maybe non-traditional Christmas movie.

Christmas and New Year’s are good times to think about your life. If coincidentally there’s an upheaval in your workplace, and an interesting new man into your life, maybe you should take advantage of gifts that are given to you take a new path.

Katharine Hepburn. (1907-2003)
Autograph Letter sending Christmas and New Year's Greetings.
These clips contain Sumner's asking Bunny the IQ Questions,
The end of part 4 and beginning of Part 5

Part 4, IQ questions start about 2:30

Part 5 begins at the beginning

Activity One:

This was the gist of the IQ test that Sumner gave Bunny on the roof of the building at lunchtime. Chances are that he intentionally took her to spot where she would be uncomfortable and he would not. 

If you want to try it, read the questions aloud to someone and see what their answers are. Should be asked aloud since you’re supposed to use your head to solve the problems.

The IQ questions

1) A train started out at Grand Central with 17 passengers aboard and a crew of
This is part of the
Christmas Movie Blogathon

At 125th street 4 got off and 9 got on.  
At White Plains 3 got off and 1 got on.  
At Chappaqua 9 got off and 4 got on.
At each successive stop nobody got on, nobody got on until the train reached its next to the last stop, where 5 people got off and 1 got on. 

Then it reached the terminal.

She says 11 passengers and a crew of 9. He tells her that's not the Question
How many people got off at Chappaqua?

2) Do you notice anything unusual about the following sentence?
“Able Was I Ere I Saw Elba”
(It’s a Palindrome)

3) He says three telephone numbers and asks her to repeat them back to him

4) Advice Never Assume* A detective broke into an apartment and found Harry and Grace lying on the floor dead. Beside them was a small pool of water and some fragments of broken glass. Above them on a sofa looking down on them was a pet cat, his back arched. The detective concluded without further investigation that the victims had died of strangulation. How was this conclusion possible?

In a class by itself is the question of....
All available statistics on Corfu [** Query was input as Curfew and the computer printed out an 80-stanza poem; Curfew Must Not Ring Tonight is a narrative poem written by Rose Hartwick Thorpe when she was 16 years old, in 1867. "You know you can't interrupt EMERAC in the middle of a sequence!" You also couldn’t ask anything else until this was finished.]

In 1989 Katharine Hepburn won the American Comedy Awards
Lifetime Achievement Award

The statue is available as a one of a kind movie collectible

Christmas Card featuring
Katharine Hepburn and Snowman friend in Little Women, 1933

Activity Two:

Here are some of the questions that people called and asked on the phone. You may want to print these out, hand them out to different people and see what answers people get with today’s technology. 

It’s really not a fair comparison for a few reasons. To begin with, in the film the questions were asked over the phone. On the parts of the callers and those entering the questions into the machines, there were spelling errors which brought very wrong answers.  Also these were asked in 1957.

What are the names of Santa's Reindeer

What is Scrooge's first name?

How many brothers and sisters did Tiny Tim have?

What was Scrooge's partner's name?

What is the total weight of the earth?

Does the king of the Watusis, like those in the movie, King Solomon’s Mines, drive an automobile? (The caller was asked to spell it and explain what the Watusis were and then even say what publication would probably hold the answer to the question.  Somehow the person on the phone suggested a recent issue of a newspaper, the Herald Tribune. Not sure how the caller knows all of this). How would you answer this question?

Can you confirm the Eskimo habit of rubbing noses as their way of kissing?

What is the traditional Thanksgiving song?
How much damage is done annually to the American forest by the spruce bud worm?

The entire text of A Visit from St. Nick (which you had to read to them) 

Why not read it to someone you love?

Related Pages of Interest
There's a Skeleton in My Love Story: Adam's Rib and Bringing Up Baby? How is the 1923 Silent movie Adam's Rib similar to the 1938 classic screwball comedy Bringing Up Baby?