Starring: Norma Shearer, Joan Crawford, Rosalind Russell, Mary Boland, Paulette Goddard, Joan Fontaine
Director: George Cukor
An unusual film, The Women was adapted for the screen from the Clare Luce Boothe play, and has 130 speaking roles, all of whom are women. In fact, almost all of the portraits on the sets show women and all of the pets in the film are female. And yet, the film shows that women’s lives, at least in the late 30’s, revolve around men.
Based in the wealthy and pampered world of elite Manhattan, the film takes in their pampered lives, and the ways that they gossip about each other. Various interconnected lives are shown, all of which revolve around their relationships with their husbands or lovers. The film also takes us to Reno, where the women all know each other and are there to get quickie divorces. Women are shown in this film as vulnerable and tough, calculating and innocent, loyal and gossipy. They are mothers, friends, frienemies and sisters, but always they are wives and lovers.
Looking back, this is an interesting film for focusing on women and their lives, and it has a really incredible cast, with Norma Shearer, Joan Crawford and Rosalind Russell taking big credits. But it’s a film that could be interpreted a few ways. Is it sexist because the women do nothing but talk about men and get manicures? Or is it making a commentary on the way that women were pushed into finding their own value only through the men in their lives?
Often very funny and acerbic, this film is swiftly paced and neatly plotted, with an amazing technicolor catwalk fashion show in the middle. There are women you will love to hate, women that you hope will get their man, a few cat fights and witty comebacks, and some beautiful actresses who are always a pleasure to watch. It’s not my favourite classic film by a long stretch, but it’s certainly entertaining.
See It If: an arch eye-browed tramp has ever stolen your man! An unusual film with it’s ensemble style and all female cast, it has it’s charms for drama fans.
2 thoughts on “Classic Movie Of The Week: The Women (1939)”
So much better than that insipid remake a few years ago, for all its flaws. 🙂
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Saw this years ago. Good reminder to see it again, just for the actresses. I thought the story off-putting and shallow.
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