"The Women" (1939)
"The Women" I can honestly say is one of my favorite classic films. Why? Because it has an all-star cast, it has a unique film approach, and its funny as all heck!
The all-star cast includes; Norma Shearer, Joan Crawford, Rosalind Russell, Paulette Goddard, Joan Fontaine, Lucile Watson, Mary Boland, Virginia Grey, Marjorie Main, and Phyllis Povah. Yes! The entire cast is made of only women! To tell you the truth, after I watched this film for the first time I had to ask myself, "Where there men in it?" Only because the women in the film talk about men ALL the time! After a while you begin to think you have seen Stephen cheating on his wife Mary, but in reality you haven't.
The cast of "The Women"
What a unique approach to casting and film making to have a cast with only one gender--and boy what a cast this has! The only surviving member of the original cast is Joan Fontaine who happens to also be the sister of Olivia de Havilland who played "Melanie Wilkes" in "Gone with the Wind". Olivia de Havilland is one of five surviving cast members from that film-just amazing!
The film is about men cheating on their wives and women stealing other women's husbands, but it also about finding and losing love. The choices women felt they had, the decisions they had to make, and the approach to living that they would take based on their love lives. I suppose some things haven't changed over seventy years later!
"The Women" follows the lives of a select few Manhattan women, primarily on "Mary Haines" (Shearer). Gossip is flying around that her husband Stephen is cheating on her with a perfume girl (Crawford). Mary's friends (Russell, Fontaine, Boland, Goddard) are in the mix...some feeding the gossip to others and some supporting Mary's decision to divorce Stephen.
While in Reno getting her divorce (I do wonder why they all went to Reno??), Mary reconsiders divorcing Stephen and before she calls him, he calls her saying that he married Crystal Allen (Crawford). Two years pass and she finds out from her daughter that Stephen is miserable and that Crystal has been speaking lovey-dovey with Buck Winston (who happened to marry an older friend of Mary's named, The Countess de Lave).
She decides to join her friends at their two year anniversary and fight to get Stephen back. She goes to her mother and tells her, "I've had two years to grow claws, Mother -- Jungle Red!" That is a fantastic line and this film has so many clever and hilarious lines in it. At the party all is revealed that Crystal and Buck are having and affair and Crystal also finds out that Buck is penniless. As she walks out of the room in defeat she says to the ladies in attendance, "And by the way, there's a name for you ladies, but it isn't used in high society -- outside of a kennel." OUCH! I told you those lines were clever!
Mary then leaves the room and goes straight to Stephen who is waiting for her. Many, many people do not like the ending at all. They find that a strong willed Mary shouldn't say she is wrong about anything and she shouldn't go running after her cheating ex.
Here is another way to look at it....perhaps given time away from the person you love you can manage to love them more than hate them, you can forgive them for their wrongs, and you can admit to yourself that you may have done some wrongs as well. Food for thought!
I love this movie so much and oh ladies-the hats are TO DIE FOR! If you see this film the wardrobe and hats are just eye candy-1930's style!! Hope this post inspires you to watch it one day-its the original "chick flick"!!