The Women (1939) Poster



There are over 130 roles in this movie, all played by women. Phyllis Povah, Marjorie Main, Mary Cecil and Marjorie Wood originated their roles in the play, which opened on 7 September 1937 and had 666 performances at the Ethel Barrymore Theatre in New York. No doubles were used in the fight sequence where Rosalind Russell bites Paulette Goddard. Despite the permanent scar resulting from the bite, the actresses remained friends.
In addition to its all-female cast, every animal that was used in the film (the many dogs and horses) was female as well. In addition, none of the works of art seen in the backgrounds were representative of the male form.
When Norma Shearer and Joan Crawford were called to shoot publicity stills, neither actress would enter the studio first. Instead, they remained in their limousines and circled the parking lot until director George Cukor summoned them and they instantly behaved like best friends.
Myrna Loy and Greta Garbo were the only top-tier female stars at MGM who did not star in this film, although Loy was considered for the role of Crystal Allen.
The enormous square-cut ring Mary wears on her wedding finger at the film's start was the most expensive piece of jewelry in the film. Borrowed for filming, it was worth $175,000.
Sydney's, the beauty salon where the initial action takes place, was named after Sydney Guilaroff, the chief hairstylist at MGM from 1934 to the late 1970s. He was brought to MGM from New York at the request of Joan Crawford.
After Sylvia bites Mirium on the leg, Mirium's line, "Yeah, got to be careful of hydrophobia" is her veiled way of calling Sylvia a bitch. The actual definition of hydrophobia is not a fear of water but a fear of rabies contracted by a dog, and the technical term for a female dog is "bitch." And near the end a second allusion to the word bitch is used when Crystal says, "There's a name for you ladies, but it isn't used in high society... outside a kennel."
Although uncredited, F. Scott Fitzgerald contributed to the writing of the screenplay.
Butterfly McQueen's film debut.
"The Women's" screenwriter Anita Loos who wrote this film's original 1939 screenplay, started her writing career in 1912 with her first full film screenplay The Musketeers of Pig Alley (1912) starring Lillian Gish and directed by D.W. Griffith for the American Mutoscope & Biograph Co. which is still in existence today. After writing many scripts for Biograph, Loos went on to write such other films such as Saratoga (1937), Another Thin Man (1939), San Francisco (1936), A Tree Grows in Brooklyn (1945), and Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1953).
The beauty salon and spa featured in the film's opening sequence was based on cosmetics mogul Elizabeth Arden's parlor in New York City. At the premiere of the film, Arden scoffed that the film's salon was an exact copy of hers.
Remade as a musical, "The opposite sex," with June Allyson, Dolores Gray, and Joan Collins in the roles played, respectively, by Norma Shearer, Rosalind Russell, and Joan Crawford.
In the dressing room after the fashion show, Crystal Allen says to Mary Haines, "... because he's the kind that lets that old-fashioned sentiment put the Indian sign on him, and that's all." "The Indian sign" was a popular phrase of the time. It meant to control or dominate. It comes from a technique used by Native Americans to train horses.
At Mary Haines' luncheon, author Nancy Blake asks Sylvia Fowler, "What are you made up for, The Seeing Eye?" The Seeing Eye is America's first guide dog school. It was founded in 1929.
The lines Mary reads alone in bed are from "The Prophet" by Kahlil Gibran: "Then it is better for you that you cover your nakedness and pass out of love's threshing floor, Into the seasonless world where you shall laugh, but not all of your laughter, and weep, but not all of your tears," but MGM omitted the reference to "nakedness" to avoid offending the censors.
George Cukor was fired as director of Gone with the Wind (1939) only a month before The Women (1939) was scheduled to begin filming. Producer Hunt Stromberg enlisted Cukor's services immediately upon his sudden availability.
Re-released in France in May 1974.
The stage actress who originated the role of Sylvia Fowler (Rosalind Russell's role in the film) was Ilka Chase. She is probably best recognized by today's audiences as the Stepmother in the original Julie Andrews live TV musical production of Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II's Cinderella (1957), the kinescope of which was recently rediscovered and released on DVD.
Judith Allen, who plays the corset model, had previously worked as a model in New York (under the name Mari Colman) before her acting career began.
When Sylvia bites Miriam's leg during the fight at the dude ranch, Miriam is pulled away while complaining that she will probably get 'hydrophobia.' Hydrophobia is another word for 'rabies.'
In the play "The Women" Joan Crawford's name is mentioned in the dialogue by one of the characters.
Dorothy Lamour was originally sought to play the role of Crystal but she turned the role down citing the character as being far to "less then desirable".
Though many people view Joan Crawford as the "bad girl" of the movie, Clare Boothe Luce, who wrote (as Clare Boothe) the play that the film was based on, sympathized most with Crystal Allen, Crawford's character.
Remade in 2008 with Meg Ryan, Annette Bening and Eve Mendes as Mary, Sylvie, and Crystal.
According to her autobiography, Rosalind Russell called in sick because Norma Shearer refused to share top billing. She stayed "sick" until Shearer finally relented.
In addition to those cast members already listed, Beatrice Cole and Beryl Wallace also appeared in the stage play.
In the play, Stephen and Mary also have a son, Little Stevie, who is younger than Little Mary and who is never seen.

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