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7 Women

French poster for 7 Women
Directed by John Ford
Produced by Bernard Smith
John Ford
Written by Janet Green
John McCormick
Norah Lofts (story)
Starring Anne Bancroft
Margaret Leighton
Flora Robson
Sue Lyon
Music by Elmer Bernstein
Cinematography Joseph LaShelle
Editing by Otho Lovering
Distributed by MGM
Release date(s) 1966
Running time 87 min.
Country USA
Language English

7 Women, also known as Seven Women, is a 1966 film drama made by MGM. It was directed by John Ford, produced by Bernard Smith and John Ford, from a screenplay by Janet Green and John McCormick, based on the story Chinese Finale by Norah Lofts. The music score was by Elmer Bernstein and the cinematography by Joseph LaShelle. This was the last feature film directed by Ford, ending a career which spanned over fifty years.

The film starred Anne Bancroft, Sue Lyon, Margaret Leighton, Flora Robson, Mildred Dunnock, Betty Field, Anna Lee, with Eddie Albert, Mike Mazurki and Woody Strode.



The story takes place in China in 1935 on a remote missionary post.

The mission, made up predominantly of women, is threatened from within as well as from outside. Everything is calm on the surface as the head of the mission, Miss Agatha Andrews (Margaret Leighton) runs things fairly rigidly, self-righteously believing her idea of Christian piety is the only correct way to live. The other women at the mission are Miss Argent (Mildred Dunnock), her loyal assistant; Miss Binns (Flora Robson) and Mrs. Russell (Anna Lee) from the nearby British mission, who are seeking safety from the war atrocities; Mrs. Florrie Pether (Betty Field), whose husband, Charles Pether (Eddie Albert) is a mission teacher and the only male there; Miss Ling (Jane Chang), the demure Chinese mission teacher and translator and Emma Clark (Sue Lyon), a member of the staff and the youngest girl at the mission.

Neurotic tension is brewing and Miss Andrews soon turns out to be a repressed lesbian, the object of whose affection is Emma. The arrival of an elegant, humanistic, cynical, atheist doctor, Dr. Cartwright (Anne Bancroft), soon disrupts the fragile peace, especially when Emma becomes the doctor's admirer. Cartwright stands apart from the group of women and she and Andrews clash over Cartwright's attitude, her profane speech, her smoking, and her total lack of interest in participating in the daily prayers. Florrie is pregnant but fears she is too old to give birth without problems. Cartwright has to deal with the pregnant woman giving birth in very primitive conditions, then a cholera outbreak, and finally an attack by Mongol marauders who commit atrocities, gross indignities, and acts of barbarism. She inspires the women to great bravery and they manage to cope with extremely dangerous situations, but in the end Cartwright is forced to offer herself up to the Mongol leader, Tunga Khan (Mike Mazurki), as a concubine to save the group. This sets a rift among the missionaries with Agatha appalled by Cartwright's decision, while Miss Binns applauds her courage and spirit. Each member of the group offers a different response to the danger, which gives the film a certain depth and diversity. At the film's conclusion, Cartwright toasts her captor Tunga Khan with a poisoned cup of tea which he drinks and immediately keels over as she coldly utters: "So long ya bastard!"



Fred Camper, Richard Combs and Simon Galiero all rated it among the top ten greatest movies of all time. The film also appeared in several other lists. These include:

  • Most Misappreciated American Films of All Time (1977, Andrew Sarris)
  • Most Misappreciated American Films of All Time (1977, Pascal Bonitzer)
  • Most Misappreciated American Films of All Time (1977, Serge Daney)
  • Most Important American Films (1977, Erno Patalas)
  • Most Important American Films (1977, Luc Moullet)
  • Genre Favorites: Adventure (1993)
  • Alternative Choices to Sight and Sound's 360 Films Classics List (1998)
  • 100 Essential Films (2003-Present, Slant Magazine)
  • Favorite Films (1975, Syndicat Francais de la Critique de Cinema)

Cahiers du cinéma voted it the 6th best film of 1966[1] and Andrew Sarris rated it the third-best of 1966 (only being beaten by Blow-up and Gertrud) [2].

The film was voted by They Shoot Pictures, Don't They? as the 680th greatest films of all time, in a poll of 1,825 film critics, scholars, cinephiles, etc and as well in a culmination of over 900 'greatest film' lists of all kinds, that were already existing.


  • Anne Bancroft took over the role of Dr. Cartwright when Patricia Neal, who had begun the film, had a stroke.


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