With great dialogue and broad, acid-tongued characters, this film is funny, sophisticated, and delightful to watch. THE WOMEN was a ground-breaking movie in 1939. It's about women, written by women, with an all-female cast (not a single man appears on-screen). The movie takes a brash look at the lives and manners of a group of gossipy, catty "friends" in New York City. They're rich; they're self-centered. Some are social-climbers; some are saintly. Its simple plot is accompanied by a number of fully drawn set pieces evoking the world of the very rich in 1939: the beauty salon, the exercise studio, department store fitting rooms and, though the rest of the movie is in beautiful black-and-white, a lengthy fashion show in bright Technicolor that dazzles with the fabulous costumes of the day.
The stellar cast, which includes Rosalind Russell, Paulette Goddard, and Joan Fontaine in addition to Norma Shearer and Joan Crawford, bring charm and wit to the already sparkling written word.
Director: George Cukor
by Stella Papamichael
Sex And The City with sharper nails - although nary a mention of the dreaded 's-word' - George Cukor's 1939 satire The Women offers a scathing portrait of backbiting and betrayal among Manhattan socialites. Joan Crawford and Rosalind Russell are among the screen legends lined up for this adaptation of Clare Boothe Luce's play, which is ahead of its time in many ways, but eventually trips on its skirt and falls headfirst into old-fashioned, chocolate box sentiment.
Mary Haines (Norma Shearer) is the last to discover that her husband (unseen) has been playing away with perfume salesgirl Crystal Allen (Joan Crawford). The subsequent outpouring of sympathy from her so-called friends is laced with venom: assuring Mary she has her best interests at heart, Sylvia (Rosalind Russell) forces her into a confrontation with the home-wrecking riff-raff, but the incident ignites public scandal. With her reputation in tatters and Crystal digging her stilettos in, Mary must decide whether to bow out gracefully or bare her claws.
Employing her gift for understatement, Joan Crawford rises head and shoulders above a cast of 135 women: "There's a word for you ladies, but it's seldom used in high society outside of a kennel," she hisses. Also served by some brilliantly double-edged dialogue, Russell employs a more obvious tack - doing Lucille Ball with a chip on her shoulder. By contrast Shearer has little to play with, weighed down by too much sugar and not enough spice.
Cukor meanwhile, weaves a wonderfully elaborate web of deception and duplicity, but the film risks outstaying its welcome at over two hours long. When the resolution finally unspools, all notions of sexual liberation and female emancipation are thrown away like last year's Gucci handbag in favour of a ridiculously contrived fairytale ending. The Women is fun for a while, but beware that parting slap in the face.