[Film Review] The Women (1939)

the Women 1939

Title: The Women
Year: 1939
Country: USA
Language: English, French
Genre: Comedy, Drama
Director: George Cukor
Writers:
Clare Boothe Luce
Anita Loos
Jane Murfin
Music: David Snell, Edward Ward
Cinematography: Oliver T. Marsh, Joseph Ruttenberg
Cast:
Norma Shearer
Joan Crawford
Rosalind Russell
Joan Fontaine
Mary Boland
Paulette Goddard
Lucile Watson
Virginia Weidler
Phyllis Povah
Marjorie Main
Ruth Hussey
Muriel Hutchison
Virginia Grey
Florence Nash
Dennie Moore
Hedda Hopper
Butterfly McQueen
Rating: 7.4/10

The groundbreaking gimmick of this vintage George Cukor film is its female-inclusive cast, a bitch-fest orbits around the admiration of their off-screen male counterparts, it is a cornucopia of malicious gossips, cloying feminine bonds, fierce squabbles with vicious innuendoes, and culminates with a tit-for-tat machination to win back a man’s heart.

My tone sounds disparaging, but the film is a hoot to watch, gathering 3 divas, several starlets and many old stagers (all main characters have their respective animal analogs indicate their dispositions before the film starts), Shearer is a worthy leading actress here, notwithstanding the fact that her character is a morally upright woman who may be too perfect to exemplify as a true-to-life impersonation, Shearer’s sincerity and grace alone can effortlessly win over audiences’ heart and against the grain the magnificence of her id outshines the alter ego on screen and retains the limelight.

Crawford is the anti-heroine, a manipulative home-wrecker owns every second during her presence, could be her stock-of-trade by hindsight, but how can one not relish the sparkling confrontations between her and Shearer when words are still able to kill. The last but not the least of the trinity is Russell, a snooty socialite falls into utter caricature, a loudmouth and busybody, oscillates between her chameleon-like affinities (either to Shearer or to Crawford), she might be the most dangerous creature among all the distaff.

Then among secondary tier, a drop-dead gorgeous Fontaine is the romantic dreamer, a reverential Boland is the undying love-pursuer, an elegant and witty Goddard is the tactful helper, then a worldly and sensible Watson is the mother who gives appropriate advice when it is needed, and a lovable and juvenile Weidler pulls through an empathetic daughter-mother rapport between her and Shearer.

A vivid dissection of vicissitudes on Park Avenue, the film may not be able to be connected to the huddled mass, and its thematic point-of-view “pride is a luxury a woman in love cannot afford” might not be align with today’s viewpoint, THE WOMEN still has its unique value in spearheading a paradigm shifting experiment (although ironically women are without exception subordinate to their men in the film) to break the shackles which 74 years later unfortunately is still hedging the film business ubiquitously, not to mention the astonishing fashion-show during the midstream (the only color part in this otherwise monochrome artifact), with a retrospective gaze, everything else is a puff, only haute couture relentlessly subsists!

The Women

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