Cary and Irene (THE AWFUL TRUTH)

Sunday, October 23, 2011

THE WOMEN (1939) is my favorite film from that golden year

George Cukor is best know as a director of women's films. His deft hand guided many classic films centered on women. Such as Camille, Little Women, The Philadelphia Story, Susan and God, Holiday, Gaslight, parts of Gone With The Wind and of course the 1939 all star classic film The Women. That film had a dream cast of nothing but women as not one single man ever appeared in any parts of this wild and rollicking comedy. But it's ironic because men are all what these ladies talk and fight about. The cast features Norma Shearer as Mary Haines, a loving wife whose husband strays into an affair with the sexy, gold digging Crystal Allen (Joan Crawford in a top notch performance and my favorite character in the film). Mary's friend, Sylvia Fowler (hilariously played by Rosalind Russell) tries to help Mary through this crisis but ends up being the one who likes to stir things up. We all have friends like that don't we?
Sylvia and Edith meeting Crystal...

One loyal friend of Mary is Peggy (a quiet but still good performance by Joan Fontaine). After Mary runs into Crystal and has an argument with her husband, who is kept off camera, and the argument is wonderfully told to the audience by the maid to the cook in the kitchen, Mary heads to Reno for a divorce. There she runs into several more women including Paulette Goddard as Miriam (looking sensational and full of fire) and is seeing Sylvia's husband on the side. We also meet the delightfully eccentric The Countess De Lave (played by Mary Boland) who loves men like most people love candy. She just can't get enough of them.
CATFIGHT!

Once in Reno, the women settle down until Sylvia shows up and says she is getting a divorce too and finds Miriam is the other woman. Which leads to a hilarious catfight with hats, shirts, and skirts soon being ripped to pieces. The Women is an amazing film with Cukor guiding all these talented actresses perfectly and creating a masterpiece. Norma Shearer who started in films in the mid-20's and made several pre-code Hollywood melodramas where she was often cast as the sexy and independent woman is more motherly in this film. And her final screen exit is a little too over melodramatic but for the most part she is good as Mary. Rosalind Russell is a hoot as Sylvia and gets in some choice bits. But it's Joan Crawford who stands out the most as Crystal. Not only is she smart, funny, sexy and gets to deliver most of the film's most memorable lines, she is also drop dead beautiful here. Her classic line at the end of the film is one for the books..."There's a word for you ladies, but it's not used in society..outside of a kennel." Damn. Of course things work out eventually by the end of the movie, but the fun part is getting there to see it.
A meeting of enemies...

Winner of 4 Monties including Best Film, Director, and Supporting Actress (a tie between Roz and Joan).

4 comments:

Laura said...

Best catfight in a movie ever, all because Russell was so gloriously loopy. Great write-up!

Pia said...

I love your blog. Screwball comedies is my favorite movie genre. And "Women" is an excellent movie, so funny.

Heather said...

Norma Shearer at her finest. I refused to watch the remake with Meg Ryan a few years back.

Anonymous said...

I too refused to watch the remake. What Hollywood won't do for a buck these days. It played in theaters for about a week, didn't it??? This is one of my top favorite movies of all time. My favorite line from it is from Crystal: "I'm so sorry-- Mrs. PROWLER." LOL! And I love your blog. Keep it coming.