The Trylon and Heights Theater’s fabulous series, 1939: Hollywood’s Zenith, continues with George Cukor’s classic, The Women.
Review by Trylon volunteer Maria Gomez.
“I come from a world where a woman’s gotta come out on top….or it’s just too darn bad.” –Miriam Aarons
Men have long been trying to understand the workings of the female mind, and it seems that women have been fighting to be understood and recognized as strong, independent, self-sufficient beings for just as long. But are we not beings who still ache for the love of another to support us in our endeavors? George Cukor’s 1939 classic, appropriately titled The Women, tackles this very conundrum like no other film before or since.
Centering on a high-society group of New York women, The Women tells the story of how seemingly happily married socialite Mary Haines becomes the talk of the town when her husband steps out with another woman. Soon after being publicly humiliated and shamelessly gossiped about by her friends, Mary soon finds that all the women are finding themselves betrayed by their lovers.
Now the real fun begins! How will she go on? Will she dump that no good, two-timing so-and-so or will she swallow her famous pride and take him back?
What is even more intriguing about this film is the amazingly stellar all-female cast. Heading the bill is Norma Shearer as Mary, followed by Rosalind Russell as her scheming cousin Sylvia Fowler, Paulette Goddard as Mary’s scrappy gal-pal Miriam, Joan Fontaine as Mary’s confidante Peggy, Mary Boland as the love-struck Countess de Lave, and Joan Crawford as the reigning mistress Crystal Allen. Legend has it that even all the animals used in the film were all-female.
You would imagine a certain level of cattiness may have been an ongoing issue on the set, considering all this estrogen floating around, and you would be right. According to Rosalind Russell’s autobiography, she stated that she called in ‘sick’ to the set every day until Norma Shearer and Joan Crawford agreed to share top billing. Joan Crawford and Norma Shearer were said to also have some tension between them on-set but no more than what you would expect from a pair of Hollywood divas.
Filled with witty one-liners, The Women gives us a peek into the social consciousness of women at the time, and what was expected of them. The film also tackles some controversial issues that were just starting to become common place in the film industry at that time–divorce, extramarital affairs, and child custody weren’t discussed in mixed company. The film also addresses not only being single but, as a woman, being limited within your financial means and still having to rely on a man to survive.
Serious contemporary social issues aside, The Women is jam-packed with back-stabbing cousins, two-timing husbands, cat fights in the mud, totally bizarre aerobic work-outs, crazy outfits, an amazing cast, outrageous dialogue, and a well-executed plot for revenge! The Women has it all… except men, of course.
Maria Gomez was born and raised in Minneapolis and currently resides in St Paul. She likes animals, gardening, paranormal thrillers, and camping on Madeline Island.
The Heights Theater screens The Women on Thursday night at 7:30. Purchase tickets here.