226 user 71 critic

The Women (1939)

Not Rated | | Comedy, Drama | 1 September 1939 (USA)
3:26 | Trailer
A study of the lives and romantic entanglements of various interconnected women.


George Cukor


Clare Boothe Luce (from the play by) (as Clare Boothe), Anita Loos (screen play) | 1 more credit »
2 wins. See more awards »





Cast overview, first billed only:
Norma Shearer ... Mrs. Stephen Haines - Mary
Joan Crawford ... Crystal Allen
Rosalind Russell ... Mrs. Howard Fowler - Sylvia
Mary Boland ... The Countess De Lave - Flora
Paulette Goddard ... Miriam Aarons
Joan Fontaine ... Mrs. John Day - Peggy
Lucile Watson ... Mrs. Morehead
Phyllis Povah ... Mrs. Phelps Potter - Edith
Virginia Weidler ... Little Mary
Marjorie Main ... Lucy
Virginia Grey ... Pat
Ruth Hussey ... Miss Watts
Muriel Hutchison ... Jane
Hedda Hopper ... Dolly DuPuyster
Florence Nash ... Nancy Blake


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 <stephan@cc.wwu.edu>

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


The Female Of The Species . . . when the men aren't watching ! See more »


Comedy | Drama


Not Rated | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

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Did You Know?


Even though the overall atmosphere was one of great professionalism, there were still some reports of legitimate tension on the set between Norma Shearer and Joan Crawford. One frequently repeated story told of one day when the two actresses were running lines to prepare for their big dressing room confrontation scene. As writer Gavin Lambert tells it in his 1990 book "Norma Shearer", "[George Cukor] filmed the master shot, then lined up a close-up of Norma. While he rehearsed her, Joan, who still brought her knitting to the set, clacked away at an afghan with her large, heavy needles. Then Cukor asked her to stand behind the camera during the take and speak her lines off-screen to Norma. She did so, trailing her afghan, and as Cukor held the shot for Norma's silent reaction, the needles clacked away again. Norma lost her concentration, looked up sharply, and asked Joan to stop needling during the retake. Joan pretended not to hear, repeated the treatment, and this time Norma broke off in mid-reaction. Her voice as steely as the needles, she asked Cukor to send Miss Crawford home and read the lines himself." Cukor, angry, asked Crawford to apologize. Crawford refused and walked off the set, though she did later send a telegram of apology to Shearer once she had cooled off. See more »


While Miriam Aarons is in the process of convincing the Countess De Lave to romantically pursue cowboy Buck Winston (specifically urging the Countess to put him into radio), the Countess appears to refer to him as "Buck Newport." However, she actually says, "I fear I'd never make a success of Buck at Newport," referring to the renowned upper-class, elitist, social scene in Newport, Rhode Island. See more »


Miriam Aarons: You should have licked that girl where she licked you; in his arms. It's where you win in the first round and if I know men, it's still Custer's Last Stand.
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Crazy Credits

In the opening credits, before the photo images of the actresses are shown, their characters are revealed by images of various animals. See more »

Alternate Versions

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 »


Referenced in The Aviator (2004) See more »


She'll Be Comin' 'Round the Mountain When She Comes
Played as background music for Marjorie Main's photo credit
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User Reviews

You could never recreate this cast on the stage
3 September 2006 | by MOscarbradleySee all my reviews

One of the best films of the 1930's and one of the greatest comedies ever made. This typically uncinematic George Cukor movie may possibly be the very pinnacle of his work on screen because he had the intelligence to film it straight knowing the material and the cast would speak for themselves. And the cast is to die for. You could never recreate it on stage, (even Norma Shearer is wonderful in this one). It may be very un-pc but there are few films that capture that uber-bitch mentality of upper-crust New York society dames and their gold-digging counterparts better than this. It is the zenith of the all the smart-assed, hard-boiled women's pictures of the thirties.

Adapted by Anita Loos and Jane Murfin from Clare Booth Luce's hit play it's about how 'Mrs Stephen Haines', (Shearer at her very best), loses her husband to Crystal Allen, (Joan Crawford before she went all serious on us), with more than a little help from her so-called 'friends', in particular catty Rosalind Russell, (terrific), before winning him back thanks to some new-found friends, (Paulette Goddard and Mary Boland among them). Men are conspicuous by their absence and it's to everyone's credit that you never miss them. A joy from start to finish.

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Frequently Asked Questions

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English | French

Release Date:

1 September 1939 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

The Women See more »


Box Office


$1,688,000 (estimated)

Cumulative Worldwide Gross:

See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

Mono (Western Electric Sound System)


Black and White | Color (Technicolor) (one sequence)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
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