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The Women (Full Screen) [Import]
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This scorching comedy finds Norma Shearer, Joan Crawford, Rosalind Russell, Joan Fontaine and Paulette Goddard fighting with no-holds-barred cattiness for their own (and each other's) husbands and lovers.
George Cukor, Hollywood's legendary "woman's director," had his hands full with the all-female cast of this 1939 film adaptation of the Clare Boothe play. The story finds a group of catty, competitive friends destroying reputations at social gatherings. The dialogue sparkles, Joan Crawford's performance as a husband stealer is still a classic, the film looks wonderful in Cukor's hands, and the Technicolor fashion-show scene is a one-of-a-kind Hollywood experience. --Tom Keogh --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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The script is wickedly, mercilessly funny, fast paced, razor sharp and filled with such memorable invective that you'll be quoting it for weeks and months afterward: "He says he'd like to do Sylvia's nails right down to the wrist with a buzz-saw;" "Why that old gasoline truck, she's sixty if she's a minute;" "Gimme a bromide--and put some gin in it!" And the all-female cast, which includes every one from Cora Witherspoon to Butterfly McQueen to Hedda Hopper, plays it with tremendous spark.
This was the last significant starring role for Norma Shearer, one of MGM's greatest stars of the 1930s, and she aquits herself very well as the much-wronged Mary Haines. But the real winners are the members of the supporting cast. Joan Crawford is truly astonishing as Crystal Allen, the shop girl who leads Mary's husband astray, and Rosalind Russell gives an outrageously funny performance as the back-biting gossip whose nasty comments precipitate Mary's divorce. Indeed, it is hard to do anything except rave about the entire the cast, which includes such diverse performers as Marjorie Main, Paulette Goddard, Joan Fontaine, and Lucille Watson. Even the smallest bit parts score with one-liners that have the impact of a slap in the face, and director George Cukor does an incredible job of keeping everything and every one in sharp focus.
Perhaps one of the most interesting things about THE WOMEN is the way in which director Cukor ties the behavior of its characters to their social status. Possessed of absolute leisure and considerable wealth, their energies are inevitably directed into competition for the ultimate status symbol: a successful man. Cukor allows us to sympathize with Mary (Shearer) and laugh at Sylvia (Russell), but he also requires us to pity them--and indirectly encourages gruding admiration for the devious Crystal (Crawford) and the savvy Miriam (Goddard), characters who are considerably more self-reliant. Consequently, not only does THE WOMEN paint a poisoniously funny portait of women as a sex, it takes a hatchet to the society that has shaped their characters as well.
Unfortunately, this landmark comedy has not received the full benefit of what DVD offers. Although the print is crisp, the film has not been restored, and the extras are spurious and hardly do the film justice; while I would recommend the DVD simply because you're likely to wear out a VHS, the DVD has no great advantage over the VHS release. But whether you have it on VHS or DVD, this is one title that you must have in your collection: you'll watch it again and again. A must-have.
GFT, Amazon Reviewer
The film details the marital travails of Mary Haines, played by screen great, Norma Shearer. Mary has a coterie of bitchy, gossipy, back biting friends, and included in that group is her cousin Sylvia, played with madcap zaniness by Rosalind Russell. Mary is happily married to wealthy Stephen Haines, or so she thinks. Apparently, her perfect husband is stepping out on her with perfume salesgirl, Crystal Allen, played with bad girl abandon by Joan Crawford, and it seems that all New York knows it.
Mary's so called friends ensure that Mary finds herself in a position to discover her husband's betrayal. Mary's mother, Mrs. Moorehead, played with characteristic stateliness and grace by Lucille Watson, counsels her daughter to handle the matter the old fashioned way, promising that the affair will soon burn itself out. She advises her daughter not to betray her feelings about the affair, not to mention it to her husband, not to discuss it among her friends, and to turn a blind eye to the whole matter.
Mary reluctanly tries to adhere to her mother's counsel, until a chance encounter with the now full of herself Crystal Allen causes Mary to lose control, and the fur begins to fly. Mary, now taking a more contemporary approach, totally disregards her mother's advice and refuses to overlook the affair or forgive her husband for the pain and humiliation he has caused her. Leaving him, the inevitable happens, but all's well that ends well. The performances by this all star cast are to be lauded, as each and every one of those cast in this film contribute to making it a truly great film.
Norma Shearer is perfectly cast as the somewhat prim and proper Mary Haines. She plays her role with studied restraint, until the final shot in the film, when she crosses the line. While the fact that she was the widow of Irving Thalberg, a well respected studio head who had died about two years prior to the filming of this movie, may have contributed to her getting the lead, she certainly deserved it in her own right, as she had been a leading lady for many years (Romeo and Juliet, Marie Antoinette, The Barretts of Wimpole Street, Private Lives, etc.) and a big star. Norma Shearer and Joan Crawford were actually real life rivals and had never much liked each other, so I am sure that playing rivals in this film was not a stretch. Joan Crawford is wonderful as the "man trap" who steals Mary's husband. She plays the role of Crystal as a hard edged girl from the wrong side of the tracks who grabs for the brass ring. Though she does not have all that many scenes in the film, her presence is such that the viewer does not immediately realize it.
Rosalind Russell, in her first comedic role is terrific. She had previously done only dramatic roles and actually auditioned for the role of Sylvia, playing it three different ways. She played it straight. She played it with a light comedic touch. She played it with total, over the top, comedic abandon. When George Cukor selected her for the role, he told her that the third way was the way he wanted her to play it. At first, Ms. Russell balked, thinking that such comedic excess would be the end of her career. He convinced her that madcap zaniness was the way to go, and she complied, giving an over the top, zany performance that was an instant hit. This film kicked off her start as a comedic actress.
Kudos also go to Mary Boland, as Flora, the Countess DeLave ("l'amour, l'amour"), as well as to Paulette Goddard, as Miriam Aarons, the divorcee who steals Sylvia's husband, and to Joan Fontaine, as the sweetly naive Peggy. Ms. Fontaine looks remarkably like her estranged sister, Olivia DeHaviland, in this film. Marjorie Main plays the role of Lucy, the crude, rough, no nonsence country woman. It is a role reminiscent of a young Ma Kettle, a role she would play in the 1947 film, "The Egg and I." It would be a role that she would take to the bank, as it would spin off into a wildly popular series of "Ma and Pa Kettle" films for Universal Pictures.
Virginia Weidler is affecting as little Mary, the Haines' young daughter. Butterfly McQueen, of "Gone With The Wind" fame, has the small part of Lulu, the cosmetics counter maid. Keep your eye open for Hedda Hopper, the real life gossip columnist. Staying true to form, she plays the role of Dolly Dupuyster, a gossip columnist, who appears towards the very end of the film. Don't blink, or you'll miss her. The film is shot in black and white, though it has a fashion show segment that is shot entirely in color. The elegant and chic wardrobe for the cast is provided by the noted designer, Adrian.
This is a film that will be enjoyed by viewers who enjoy vintage films, as well as by those who simply love a great movie. Bravo!
The amazing thing about "The Women" is that, if one doesn't pay attention to the trailer, it's possible to watch it and never realize that there are no men at all in the picture! As the trailer says, 135 women and no men. But of course it's all about men!
This is the basic story of Mary, played by Norma Shearer, who discovers her husband is seeing another women. It follows her through her divorce and reunion with her husband. Naturally it's not that cut-and-dried. Her bitchy, back-biting friends go through many of the same travails on a cross-country route to a happy ending. Sounds boring written here, but the movie definitely isn't. Every time Ms. Shearer threatens to get too sugary, a few choice cracks by one of the other characters brings things back into line.
I really can't remember another movie I've seen with Norma Shearer, so this movie defines her work for me. She is a very unusual-looking woman, hard to define as pretty, yet definitely with screen presence. Of course, being Mrs. Thalberg didn't hurt her ability to get this part, and she plays it beautifully. All of the others who support her are equally appropriate, particularly Joan Crawford as the 'other woman'. This movie was made in one of the low periods in her career, and once again placed her as an A-level actress. Mary Boland also stands out as the Countess and later Mrs. Buck Winston. In the recent PBS production on television, Rue McClanahan played this part and the resemblance to Boland was uncanny!
Wardrobe for the movie was provided by Adrian at his best. Standouts for me are the gowns worn by Joan Crawford and Norma Shearer in the final scene of the movie, at the nightclub. Ms. Shearer's looks almost like something from a sci-fi film!
There is no escaping that this movie, and play from which it was derived, were made pre-WW-II. The extravagance shown in this film was never revived after the War, so this gives an insight into the lives of the wealthy. In particular, homes post-War were never staffed with the number of servants shown here.
Art Deco never looked better in movies than it does in this one. The beauty salon at the beginning of the movie, and the night club at the end, are creamy and curvaceous like never before, or since.
A final note on casting: Marjorie Main leaps from the screen with her screeching voice and uncouth manners. Strangely, she was younger than many of the others in the movie, but as usual she was made to appear frumpy and worn-out. In some ways this appears to be a rehearsal for her part as Ma Kettle in "The Egg and I". Look closely, though, and you'll see her youth, here.
This is a fairly long movie, well over two hours, but it is so enjoyable that the time isn't noticed. There truly isn't a 'slow' part to the movie, something or someone is always on the go.
Nineteen thirty-nine was an amazing year for movies, seemingly one last pre-War gasp at screen opulence. "The Women" on DVD can be a welcome addition to anyone's film library, waiting for the right evening when light comedy combined with beautiful women and sassy dialogue is called for. It would be a great buy at twice the price.
Should you upgrade? Yes! The original DVD looked fine to my eyes, but this is obviously remastered for the 75th anniversary and the bigger your TV screen the more you'll notice the improvements. As I've mentioned in reviews of other successful B/W Blu-rays…the upgrade achieves that long-lost "silvery grain" image you used to only get in the theater with 35mm. If you don't care about that or know what it means...you can probably stick with your DVD.
The supplements are the same except for the addition of a cartoon and an audio-only sound cue session (the audio is very robust and clear). Would like to have seen Criterion-level supplements for this film…but Warners has pretty much discontinued that practice with their classic films.
As for the movie itself…I don't trust people who don't like this film.
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