Wealthy Mary Haines is unaware her husband is having an affair with shopgirl Crystal Allen. Sylvia Fowler and Edith Potter discover this from a manicurist and arrange for Mary to hear the gossip. On the train taking her to a Reno divorce Mary meets the Countess and Miriam (in an affair with Fowler's husband). While they are at Lucy's dude ranch, Fowler arrives for her own divorce and the Countess meets fifth husband-to-be Buck. Back in New York, Mary's ex is now unhappily married to Crystal who is already in an affair with Buck. When Sylvia lets this story slip at an exclusive nightclub, Crystal brags of her plans for a still wealthier marriage, only to find the Countess is the source of all Buck's money. Crystal must return to the perfume counter and Mary runs back to her husband.Written by
Ed Stephan <email@example.com>
The enormous square-cut ring Mary wears on her wedding ring finger at the film's start was the most expensive piece of jewelry in the film. Borrowed for filming, it was worth $175,000. See more »
Barn doors for a sound stage light appear to be hanging from the 'ceiling' in Mrs. Haines' living room. It is visible during Mary's conversation with her guests from the moment where Peggy helps her put on a necklace, up until they leave the room. See more »
Don't forget that it's being together at the end that really matters. I'm an old woman, my dear. I know my sex.
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In the opening credits, before the photo images of the actresses are shown, their characters are revealed by images of various animals. See more »
At the start of the Technicolor Adrian fashion show, the video and TV versions have traditionally shown a Technicolor stage in the middle of the screen surrounded by pure white (this always struck me as odd but I never thought too much about it). The original 1939 version of the scene shows the Technicolor stage surrounded by the rest of the room IN BLACK AND WHITE, using a stenciling process developed for (but ultimately unused in) The Wizard of Oz. Presumably, because the reel starts right BEFORE the transition, it was either too much trouble and expense to process the small bit of stray black and white footage for television (it would have to have been printed separately onto each release print in 1939)or, more likely, the footage has been lost. The new video and cable versions show The Women in a reconstruction of the original version, with the Technicolor stage printed over a black and white still from later in the film. The image, as now presented, is much less jarring than the original video release. The fashion show was also shot in black and white, with the models interacting with the stars as they move throughout the boutique. After principal photography ended, MGM decided to re-shoot the fashion show in Technicolor (this color footage was not shot by George Cukor)and the models no longer interact with Norma Shearer, 'Rosalind Russell', etc. The original black and white footage, saved in the MGM vault, can now be seen as a special feature on the Warner DVD. Older television prints often showed the fashion show in black and white, but it was not this alternate footage, just the color sequence printed without its tints. See more »
The fact that Norma Shearer and Joan Crawford would consent to appear in a movie together is amazing. Shearer in 1939 was the queen of MGM, being the widow of Irving Thalberg, and had her choice of material and co-stars. Crawford, although a power in her own right, didn't have Shearer's pull and complained bitterly about it. Crawford agreed to take the somewhat supporting, albeit juicy role because she needed an A picture after a string of flops. So she had to suck it up to work with Shearer.
The two stars had only one scene alone together, and there were no reported problems, except one. Director George Cukor sent Crawford home early when she caused a distraction by loudly clicking her knitting needles off camera as Shearer tried to do her close-ups.
Crawford was proved right in taking the movie, it's one of her most memorable and, finally for once, villainous roles. As Crystal Allen, the scheming homewrecker who is out to sleep her way to a Park Avenue penthouse, she was ideally cast. It was her life.
Rosalind Russell, previously not known as a comedienne, surprised everyone with her rapid-fire sarcastic delivery. She would continue to perfect the biting style for 20 years until she reached the pinnacle with Auntie Mame. Roz gives the strongest performance of the film as the viciously catty Sylvia Fowler, and I don't think Shearer or Crawford knew what hit them.
As for the long-suffering, hair-clutching, heavy-sighing Norma Shearer, even she was able to make the difficult role of saintly Mary Haines memorable. One of her best moments is when she raises her nails and growls "I've had two years to grow claws, Mother, and they're Jungle Red!," and then goes to take her husband back from Crawford. Unfortunately, Shearer has a few Silent Screen moments that look out of place, such as collapsing and weeping at her mother's knee. But she makes the character warm and likable and we root for her to win.
There are many gems in the supporting cast. Most spectacular is Mary Boland as the heavy-drinking, high-living Countess De Lave. "L'amour L'amour" she wails as she's about to divorce her fourth studly husband -- for trying to kill her.
Paulette Goddard, the most beautiful member of the cast, is the best I've seen her, as the streetwise Miriam Aarons. Like Crawford, she plays a role she understands, the chorus girl who snags a millionaire. But unlike Crystal, Miriam has a heart -- and Goddard is great at doling out straight-shooting advice and rolling out put-downs under her breath.
Marjorie Main gives a preview of the persona she would later use as Ma Kettle. It was the first time she was able to step out and create the character, and she used it the rest of her career. I never tired of her raucous horse laugh.
I hope Hollywood has the good sense not to attempt a remake with an update of this classic. Time would not be kind. It is a priceless diamond in a golden setting.
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