No Rashomon last night, as it turned out. Instead, the racy Lubitsch comedy Design For Living, which posits that the only way bohemian artist pals Frederic March and Gary Cooper can find happiness is in a non-traditional threeway with Miriam Hopkins. Goddamn, I love pre-code Hollywood. Design For Living started life as a Noel Coward play, but Lubistch handed the script over to Ben Hecht*, an uneasy mix at best. Coward hated the movie. But whatever got lost in translation from Coward to Hecht is more than made up by the trinity of actors at the core. Hopkins is a real corker in this. She's like the prototype Manic Pixie Dream Girl but without the inevitable "Surprise! She's dying of Tragic Movie Disease! That's why she coughed once in the first reel!" nonsense that usually accompanies a M.P.D.G. In a movie that is meant to be a trifle, her equal attraction to both men is surprisingly believable. Gary Cooper is dependably Cooperish, and Frederic March is ridiculously great in it**, as the sad-sack playwright who only seems to be happy when Hopkins is around. Well, who could blame him, really. Even without the Code in full effect, they really had to tone down a lot of the innuendo in Design For Living. Not that a Lubitsch movie would ever go into full-on ribaldry - Lubitsch is the template for every attempt at "sophisticated" comedy that followed, usually poorly - but I do wish we had gotten a little bit more scenes like when Hopkins lounges on a fainting couch and comes-on to Cooper: "It's true we had a gentlemen's agreement... but unfortunately, I am no gentleman." Hopkins also gets a nice little speech about falling in love with two men at the same time: "Interesting elimination"! Fantastic. * Arguably the greatest screenwriter of all time. Hecht wrote the play The Front Page (later adapted into a pile of movies, including His Girl Friday), the script for the original Scarface (in 11 days!), Gunga Din, Wuthering Heights, Spellbound, Notorious, and was one of the highest paid script doctors in the business, polishing everything from Gone With The Wind to Strangers On A Train. ** You know how people have this insane idea that acting was too stiff in old movies? Watch anything with Frederic March in it.