In California covering a golf tournament, New York sports reporter Mike Hagen (Gregory Peck) correctly chooses the winning golfer in the reporters' betting pool. With the $1200 he won, Mike begins buying drinks. The next morning he awakes with no memory of the night before. Hung over and believing that he failed to file his story, Mike sits beside the hotel pool drinking coffee. When an unfamiliar woman, Marilla Brown (Lauren Bacall), approaches him, Mike, through a series of misunderstandings, assumes she is a prostitute. As Marilla heatedly begins to correct him, he receives a call from his editor telling him he had received Mike's story, but that a corrupt boxing promoter was threatening Mike. Ending the call, Mike returns to Marilla who explains that she had helped him write his story. This begins a whirlwind eight day romance which ends with marriage. Only on the flight back to New York does Mike begin to discover that Marilla had hidden the details of her job, wealth and family connections in order to land Mike. This quickly causes friction.
Mike is a sportswriter and poker enthusiast with working-class friends. Marilla designs clothes for a wide array of artistic personalities. Their friends clash memorably one Wednesday night when his Poker Club and her Drama Society both convene at Marilla's apartment.
Marilla becomes suspicious of Mike after she finds a photograph of Lori Shannon (Dolores Gray), Mike's former girlfriend. Mike tries to hide his former relationship, but fails miserably. Complicating matters even further is Mike's continuing series of exposés of the activities of crooked boxing promoter Martin Daylor (Edward Platt). Mike's life is in danger, but he hides that from his wife too. What results is a series of misunderstandings and mishaps.Gregory Peck as Mike Hagen
Lauren Bacall as Marilla Brown Hagen
Dolores Gray as Lori Shannon
Sam Levene as Ned Hammerstein, Mike's editor
Tom Helmore as Zachary Wilde, Marilla's former boyfriend
Mickey Shaughnessy as Maxie Stultz, a punch-drunk ex-boxer friend of Mike's
Jesse White as Charlie Arneg
Edward Platt as Martin J. Daylor
Chuck Connors as Johnnie 'O', one of Daylor's henchmen
Richard Deacon as Larry Musso (uncredited)
Dean Jones as Assistant Stage Manager in Boston (uncredited)
Sid Melton as Miltie, Henchman (uncredited)
One of the supporting actors was the famed choreographer Jack Cole.
The original concept for the film reportedly came from Helen Rose, who designed dozens of gowns and dresses for Bacall for Designing Woman. She gives an interview / screen test in the DVD's special features.
Lauren Bacall was dealing with husband Humphrey Bogart's eventually-fatal illness during the shooting. According to her autobiography, she took the role (which was originally intended for Grace Kelly) in order to avoid her home situation, but in interviews she said that this film was among her favorites, and that she desperately wanted the part, even accepting a lower salary. She said that Grace Kelly considered the part to have been written for her, and would never forgive Bacall, adding "She got the prince, I got the part".
Bogart died January 14, 1957, four months before the film's release.
Both James Stewart and Cary Grant turned down the role that went to Peck (Grant citing the heavy drinking of the character as the main reason).
According to MGM records the film earned $2,175,000 in the US and Canada and $1,575,000 elsewhere resulting in a small loss of $136,000.
The movie ended up being one of both Bacall and Peck's more successful films both critically and commercially, with Bosley Crowther of the New York Times comparing the leading couple with Katharine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy and stating, "(the film) obviously endeavors to generate the same kind of verve and general sardonic humor as flowed from that older comedy team. It does, too — at least, in certain stretches."
As for modern reviews, Rotten Tomatoes has given Designing Woman an overall positive note, regarding it 72 percent "fresh" as opposed to "rotten", while the website Allmovie.com gives it two and a half stars out of five, crediting Bacall for giving a "sparkling comic performance".
DVDverdict.com proclaims the comedy as "shiny, polished, and entertaining" and states that "it has held its value well over the years."Academy Award for Best Writing, Story and Screenplay - Written Directly for the Screen (George Wells) - won
Laurel Award for Top Female Comedy Performance (Lauren Bacall) - 3rd place
Laurel Award for Top Comedy - fifth place
Writers Guild of America's WGA Award for Best Written American Comedy - nominated