Design for Living

Design for Living

A woman does not want to decide between two men who love her, and the trio agree to a “gentleman’s agreement”, to try living together in a platonic relationship.


Gilda: It’s true we had a gentleman’s agreement, but unfortunately, I am no gentleman.


“None of us thought we were making anything but entertainment for the moment. Only Lubitsch knew we were making art.”

John Ford1


“He really did everything himself. He even cut the film himself; he may have been the only one who did that. I never met any director who actually went into the cutting room with scissors and cut their own films but Lubitsch.”

Gottfried Reinhardt2


Gilda: You see, a man can meet two, three or four women and fall in love with all of them, and then, by a process of interesting elimination, he is able to decide which he prefers. But a woman must decide purely on instinct, guesswork, if she wants to be considered nice. Oh, it’s quite all right for her to try on a hundred hats before she picks one out.

Tom: Very fine. But, which chapeau do you want, Madame?

Gilda: Both.


“With great excitement and forthrightness, the direct vitality felt in the way she moves back and forth between the two men, Gilda makes herself their sexual equal. But, ironically, at the climax of her confession when she reveals that she wants both men, she suddenly becomes quite still so that one of the men has to move toward her, and she takes on a demurely feminine expression of downcast eyes. The gesture may be seen as partly defensive, a way of avoiding direct contact at the most explicit revelations of her feelings, but it is also playful, a challenge made implicit in the defense itself.

If the play deviously maintains a double standard by making Gilda different from other women, the film in far more iconoclastic fashion totally rejects that standard by couching Gilda’s argument in generalized terms and establishing a definitive parity with the men. The sudden femininity of her gesture, then, is not so much an ironic debunking of her femininity as it is a way of saying that all socially defined forms of behaviour have an element of play about them, a give-and-take in which the partners all know the established rules and modes of action and agree to adhere to them as a form of communication even as they offer the most extreme challenges to them.”

William Paul3


Gilda: Now listen, Plunkett, Incorporated. You go to those customers of yours and give ’em a sales talk. Sell them anything you want, but not me. I’m fed up with underwear, cement, linoleum, I’m sick of being a trademark married to a slogan!

Max: Gilda...

Gilda: Don’t you tell ’em I’ve got hiccups. Tell them I’ve got the advertising blues. The billboard collywobbles! Slogans and sales talks morning, noon, and night, and not one human sound out of you and your whole flock of Egelbaurs!


  • 1John Ford, as cited in Scott Eyman, Ernst Lubitsch. Laughter in Paradise, (Baltimore: JHU Press, 1993), 10.
  • 2Gottfried Reinhardt, as cited in Scott Eyman, Ernst Lubitsch. Laughter in Paradise, (Baltimore: JHU Press, 1993), 207.
  • 3William Paul, Ernst Lubitsch’s American Comedy, (New York: Columbia University Press, 1983), 77-78.
UPDATED ON 25.08.2023