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Design for Living

From Academic Kids

Design for Living is a black comedy written by Noel Coward which premiered in 1932. It concerns a threesome of neurotic, camp but intensely artistic characters, Gilda, Otto and Leo.

Originally written for Alfred Lunt and Lynn Fontanne (as Otto and Gilda respectively), with Coward himself taking the role of Leo, the play is darkly humorous throughout and filled with sparkling trademark Coward quips and dialogue, but it explores deeper themes which can seem controversial even today. Moral justification for infidelity, analysis of the pressures of fame on an unstable mind, and a strongly hinted homosexual ménage à trois are among some of the topics alluded to or tackled head-on in the course of Design for Living; the fact that it was a roaring success on its debut is testament to the play's excellent structure and enduring wit.

Many years later, a 1995 revival of the play featured a then-unknown actress named Rachel Weisz in the role of Gilda, prompting her rise to national recognition and thus effectively kick-starting her career.

The 1933 Ernst Lubitsch movie Design for Living, with a screenplay by Ben Hecht based on the Coward play, starred Gary Cooper, Fredric March, Miriam Hopkins, and Edward Everett Horton.

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