The Women, 1939

The Women - Released September 1,1939. Directed by George Cukor

The Women is often praised for the simple gimmick of not having any men in the cast. Some male voices appear here and there, and the lifes of men isn't too far off screen, but the main thing is how women react to each other and take sides, or play spectator, while their friends go through the trauma of divorce, betrayal, building plots to achieve their ends, and just getting along (or not getting along) with each other. The Women has that special Hollywood feeling of some films of the thirties which seemed to say, yes things are bad and this thing that happened is a disaster, but with a little lightheartedness and determination, we can just walk right through it, because if we can just survive, life will turn out okay. Hollywood meant, of course, we just had to make it to the end title credit.

This 1939 film has the speed and efficiency of many of the best films of that year (often called Hollywood's best year, and with good reason), and it is with a precise screenplay moving the tale through the paces so that we get to the final, triumphant scene where our main lead actress (Norma Shearer) has finally conquered her enemies, her family, and in the end, herself, so that she can finally be with her husband that (foolishly, as we know all along throughout the film) had an affair with Joan Crawford (who plays a bad lady to the hilt and makes the comic book-ish portrayal good and strong and tinged with humor).

Infidelity fuels the gossip that rules the private world of a group of women in this comedy/drama about peer-pressure, revenge, and being clever enough to save your home from professional home wrecker Joan Crawford (as Crystal Allen). She has stolen the husband of Mrs. Stephen Haines (Norma Shearer) and its not originally meant to be a slight against the disposed wife, just the debris of moving ahead as a girl on the make who knows how to use marriage as a cash register.

Norma Shearer, Joan Crawford, Rosalind Russell, Paulette Goddard, Joan Fontaine, Marjorie Main, Virginia Grey are just the top of the all-female cast. Not a single male appears in the entire film, though we're always hearing about men from the characters. Director George Cukor gives us many funny scenes about how women behave and react to one another, but the bottom-line is that marriage and home is to be preserved, even if it means using underhanded tricks and if necessary, the loss of (at least superficially) one's own self-respect.

Classic 1939 comedy-drama released September 1, 1939, and based on the Clare Booth Luce play with the same name in which an entirely female cast (no males are seen) wrestle with personal problems and each other.

The cast features Joan Crawford in a villain role (as Crystal Allen) who has swiped the husband of Norma Shearer (Mary Haines) and soon has trouble hanging on to her conquest as mechanizations between the women of their extended social set (elite Manhatten society) moves the plot toward a particular purpose: Mary Haines growing claws ("jungle red") and developing an independent mind.

Paulette Goddard, Joan Fontaine, Rosaline Russell, Butterfly McQueen, Theresa Harris and many other M-G-M female stars and supporting players are on hand in a unique movie about what "really happens" between women.

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Original page September 2015 | Updated April 2021