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The Women (1939 film): Wikis


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The Women
Directed by George Cukor
Produced by Hunt Stromberg
Written by Claire Boothe Luce (play)
Anita Loos
Jane Murfin
Starring Norma Shearer
Joan Crawford
Rosalind Russell
Music by David Snell
Edward Ward
Cinematography Joseph Ruttenberg
Oliver T. Marsh
Editing by Robert Kern
Distributed by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (original release)
Warner Bros. (current owners)
Release date(s) September 1, 1939
Running time 133 min.
Country  United States
Language English

The Women is a 1939 film directed by George Cukor. The film is based on Claire Boothe Luce's play of the same name, and was adapted for the screen by Anita Loos and Jane Murfin, who toned down the innuendo for a movie audience. One of the great successes of its day, the film starred Norma Shearer, Joan Crawford, Rosalind Russell, Paulette Goddard, Joan Fontaine, Lucile Watson, Mary Boland, Marjorie Main (recreating her performance as "Lucy" from the Broadway production), Virginia Grey, Phyllis Povah, Florence Nash, Ruth Hussey, Virginia Weidler, Butterfly McQueen and Hedda Hopper.

The film continued the play's all-female tradition - the entire cast of more than 130 speaking roles was female. Set in the glamorous Manhattan apartments of high society evoked by Cedric Gibbons, and in Reno where they obtain their divorces, it presents an acidic commentary on the pampered lives and power struggles of various rich, bored wives and other women they come into contact with. Throughout the film, not a single male is seen — although the males are much talked about, and the central theme is the women's relationships with them. Lesbianism is intimated in the portrayal of only one character, Nancy Blake. The attention to detail was such that even in props such as portraits only female figures are represented, and several animals which appeared as pets were also female. The only exceptions are a poster-drawing clearly of a bull in the fashion show segment and an ad on the back of the magazine Peggy reads at Mary's house before lunch.

Filmed in black and white, it includes a ten-minute fashion parade filmed in Technicolor, featuring Adrian's most outré designs; often cut in modern screenings, it has been restored by Turner Classic Movies. On DVD, the original black and white fashion show, which is a different take, is available for the first time.



Based on the 1936 play by Claire Boothe Luce, The Women follows the lives of a handful of wealthy Manhattan women, focusing in particular on Mary Haines (Norma Shearer), a cheerful, contented wife of Stephen and mother of Little Mary. After a bit of gossip flies around the salon these wealthy women visit, Mary's friend and cousin Sylvia Fowler (Rosalind Russell) learns from a manicurist that Mary's husband has been having an affair with a predatory perfume counter girl named Crystal Allen (Joan Crawford). A notorious gossip, Sylvia delights in sharing the news with Mary's other friends; she sets up Mary with an appointment with the same manicurist so that she hears the same rumor about Stephen's infidelity. While Mary's mother urges her to ignore the gossip concerning the affair and continue on as if nothing has happened, Mary begins to have her own suspicions about her husband's increasingly frequent claims that he needs to work late, and decides to travel to Bermuda with her mother to think about the situation and hope that the affair and the rumors surrounding it will fade. Upon her return from Bermuda a few weeks later, feeling well-rested and more sure of herself, Mary heads out to a fashion show at a high-end clothing salon and learns that Crystal is in attendance, trying on clothes from the show in the dressing room across the hall. Mary, at Sylvia's insistence, heads with great dignity into Crystal's dressing room and confronts her about the affair, but Crystal is completely unapologetic and slyly suggests that Mary keep the status quo unless she wants to lose Stephen in a divorce. Heartbroken and humiliated, Mary leaves quickly. The meeting will not fade from gossip circles, however, and the situation is only exacerbated by Sylvia, who manages to turn the whole affair into a tabloid scandal by recounting the entire story to a notorious gossip columnist. To save her own pride, Mary chooses to divorce her husband despite his efforts to convince her to stay. Mary explains the divorce to her daughter Little Mary (Virginia Weidler), and the household prepares for Mary's departure.

Leaving on a train to Reno where she will spend the weeks in residence until their divorce is legal, Mary meets several women with the same destination and purpose: the dramatic, extravagant Countess de Lave (Mary Boland); Miriam Aarons (Paulette Goddard), the tough cookie chorus girl; and, to her surprise, her good friend Peggy Day (Joan Fontaine), a sweet, shy girl. Upon reaching Reno, Mary and her new friends settle in at the ranch to await their final divorces, and given plenty of unsolicited advice by Lucy (Marjorie Main), the plain-spoken and gruffly warm-hearted woman who runs the ranch. Time passes at the ranch, and the women discuss their marriages and impending divorces; the Countess tells tales of her multiple husbands and seems to have found another prospect in Reno, a young cowboy named Buck Winston, whom she will marry shortly; Miriam reveals she has been having an affair with Sylvia Fowler's husband and is going to Reno to get a divorce from her current husband so that she can marry him; and the women convince Peggy (who has discovered that she is pregnant) to call her husband, resolve their misunderstanding, and end the divorce proceedings, which she successfully does. During this time, Sylvia Fowler arrives at the ranch, since her husband has requested a divorce from her. When Sylvia discovers that Miriam is set to become the new Mrs. Fowler, a catfight ensues; Mary succeeds in breaking the fight up, ending with Miriam convincing her that she, too, should forget her pride and call her husband and try to patch things up before their divorce becomes legal in a few hours. Before Mary can decide, it rings—the call is from Stephen, and he informs Mary that he and Crystal have just been married!

Two years pass, and the story picks up at the Haines apartment, where Crystal, the new Mrs. Haines, is taking a bubble bath and talking on the phone to her lover, who turns out to be Buck Winston, now the husband of the Countess de Lave and a successful radio star. Little Mary enters the bathroom and overhears the conversation, before being shooed away by Crystal, who has no time or patience for her. Through Crystal's interaction with Little Mary and phone conversation with Buck, it becomes clear that Stephen has grown weary of Crystal, but seems to be sticking with her since he has no other options. Sylvia Fowler, who is now friends with Crystal, visits during this time, too, and figures out with whom Crystal has been speaking and having an affair. Still an unrelenting gossip, Sylvia tucks this information away for use later. Meanwhile, Mary hosts a dinner for all of her Reno friends, to celebrate the two-year anniversary of the Countess and Buck, as well has her own divorce. When the dinner concludes, the Countess, Miriam, and Peggy decide to head out to a party and urge Mary to come along, but Mary begs off and decides to stay home. While getting ready for bed, she chats with Little Mary, who inadvertently reveals how unhappy Stephen is, and mentions Crystal's "lovey dovey" talk with Buck on the telephone. This news changes Mary's mind, who decides to get out of bed, get dressed up, and head off to the party, intent on fighting to get her ex-husband back: "I've had two years to grow claws, Mother----Jungle Red!"

At the party, Mary winds up in the ladies room with Peggy. Soon the other principals arrive. Mary manages to worm the details of the affair out of Sylvia, and makes sure that a gossip columnist is alerted the whole story of Crystal's affair as she banters with Sylvia. The Countess arrives in the ladies' lounge with Edith; Mary tells the Countess that her husband Buck has been having an affair with Crystal, and eventually informs Crystal that everyone knows what's been happening with Buck and that Stephen is unhappy with her. Crystal, however, doesn't care about Stephen's lack of affection and tells Mary she can have him back, since she'll now have Buck to support her. The Countess reveals that she has been funding Buck's radio career and that without her he will be penniless and out of a job. This leaves Crystal resigned to the fact that she'll be heading to Reno herself and then back to the perfume counter: "And by the way, there's a name for you ladies, but it isn't used in high society---outside of a kennel." Mary, completely triumphant, heads out the door and up the stairs dramatically and lovingly to win back Stephen, who is waiting for her there. THE END.


The film proved to be a great success, both commercially and critically, and although it received no Academy Award nominations, many critics now describe it as one of the major films of what was a stellar year in Hollywood film production.

It was remade as a 1956 musical comedy, The Opposite Sex, starring June Allyson, Joan Collins, and Ann Miller.

In 2008, Diane English wrote and directed a remake of the same title, her feature film directorial debut. The comedy starred Meg Ryan, Eva Mendes, Annette Bening, Jada Pinkett Smith, Bette Midler and Debra Messing, and was released in 2008.[1]

In 2007, The Women was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant".

Technicolor Sequence

The Women has one color sequence by Technicolor. The Technicolor sequence was a fashion show. TCM host Robert Osborne was talking to George Cukor about this movie and George Cukor said that he didn't like the Technicolor sequence, he wanted to remove it from the movie.


External links


  • Gutner, Howard. Gowns by Adrian: The MGM Years 1928-1941

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