The lunar ingénue, not Baudelaire's "beauté sur de nombreux coussins" but the ponytailed flamingo of Broadway, Otto Preminger shaves her professed sophistication close to the nub. Manhattan in the fog, from skyline diorama to the top of the Empire State Building in a pantomimed prelude (Bluebeard's Eighth Wife) to the continuous dialogue. The TV actress (Maggie McNamara) and the wolfish architect (William Holden) in a mutual pick-up, the button in need of sewing leads them to his bachelor pad and into the night. "Appreciation but no passion" is the pact (Design for Living), the ex-fiancée (Dawn Addams) skulks in and out of elevators while her father (David Niven) arrives armed with cocktails and suave irony. "Only playboys have an instinctive respect for innocence." Lubitsch, then, but Lubitsch in an era when his values no longer exist, the decade of innuendos at once coy and sledgehammer. Seducers and papas and seducing papas, a Picasso on the wall to cap the modernist arena of dangerous words ("virgin," "mistress," "pregnant," etc.) and triangular shifts. "I always feel uncomfortable on a high moral plane." At the center of this laboratory distillate lies Die Jungfraud auf dem Dach, the "look of wholesome rapture" rising out of beer foam, a midnight vision for the Lothario's swollen eye. The heroine's perpetual wide-eyed frankness is her own calculated mask, the roué's awareness of his cynicism finally emerges as the most honest emotion in the arrangement. The overflowing bathtub, Niven's Southern impression, the ejaculating ketchup bottle. "Now who's preoccupied with sex?" A watershed for Fifties smarmfests, for Preminger a purposefully sour midpoint between Angel Face and Bonjour Tristesse. With Tom Tully, Fortunio Bonanova, and Gregory Ratoff. In black and white.
--- Fernando F. Croce