The Women (1939)
Wealthy Mary Haines (Norma Shearer) doesn't know that her Husband is seeing shopgirl Crystal Allen (Joan Crawford). Her friends Sylvia Fowler (Rosalind Russell) and Edith Potter (Phyllis Povar) hear this juicy piece of gossip from a manicurist and maliciously arrange for Mary to hear the same gossip. They suggest Mary go and try the "Jungle Red" nail polish from the gossip-spreading manicurist. Mary soon makes the unsettling discovery that not only is her Husband cheating on her but her friends aren't being all that friendly. And, the fun begins.
What's not to like about this film as not only is George Cukor (My Fair Lady, A Star Is Born) directing but also the cast has the creme de la creme of Hollywood's 1930s glamour girls. Norma Shearer, Joan Crawford, Rosalind Russell, Joan Fontaine, Paulette Goddard and character actors Marjorie Main and Mary Boland. To top it off Clare Boothe Luce wrote the imaginative screenplay with both charm and humour.
The Women is noted as the first film to cast only Female actors. No men are seen on screen at all, but they are definitely talked about.
The film was rebooted in 2008 with Meg Ryan as Mary Haines and a similar quality cast of noughties glamour girls like Annette Bening, Eva Mendes, Jada Pinkett Smith, Debra Messing and character actors Carrie Fisher, Bette Midler and Candice Bergen. Sounds good huh, well I'll be reviewing this film separately soon.
The Women (1939) is one of my favourite films and as a big Norma Shearer fan I wasn't disappointed. There are, of course, some 1930's ideas about women that have to be adjusted to when looking back from the 21st Century but the comedy more than makes up for a Patriarchal society of privileged bossy Husbands. Oh wait, perhaps not too much of an adjustment.
So, Mary has learned that Steven, her husband, is having an affair and she automatically wants a Divorce. Her Mother advises her to stay married but Mary has her pride to deal with and off she goes to Reno to get her divorce. The day she signs the piece of paper is the day she realises that her pride isn't worth her husband. But she is too late because Steven has married Crystal.
The whole trip to Reno is hilarious as we meet Mary Boland as the Countess De Lave, or Flora, as she prefers to be called, whose cowboy love interest is very young. There is also the plucky Miriam (Goddard), who is having an affair with Sylvia Fowler's Husband. The plot thickens and tears and fights break out eventually.
Her daughter, also named Mary, has met the dreaded Crystal and doesn't like her at all. Crystal spends all her time in her bath talking on the phone and it is soon revealed that she is talking to a new lover. Eventually, Sylvia answers the phone and discovers that Crystal's love interest is Flora's cowboy Buck. And, she can't wait to tell her friends.
The final scenes are in a nightclub with Crystal and all Mary's "friends". Mary is wearing jungle red nail polish and her claws are out. She's had enough of the meanness and decides to fight back.
The ending where Mary gets the ultimate revenge on Crystal and Sylvia is perfect. Crystal is informed that Buck has no money as it all belongs to Flora. Crystal takes her bitter pill with style and exits back to her shopgirl status. Mary pretends she's been having an affair with Sylvia's Doctor friend and Sylvia just can't deal with that bitter pill.
It's hilarious to think that in 1939 The Women made $214.00 at the Box Office. If you compare it to Gone With The Wind which made $1758.00 then it is an eye-opener. But, both films were in the top 136 films of 1939 according to the Ultimate Moving Rankings.