Friday, August 9, 2013

Classic Film Reviews: The Women

By Liz Balderston

Come to the penultimate movie in the HBO Bryant Park SummerFilm Festival presented by Bank of America where women are taking over the screen! There are only two more weeks until the end of this signature summer series, so be sure to come down and enjoy some food from the Hester Street Fair. Bring your blankets, some friends, and settle into the Lawn at 5pm. The movie will start around 8:40pm. 

Based on the play by Clare Boothe Luce, George Cukor’s “The Women” is the study of various women’s lives and how they intersect and overlap with one another. Anita Loos and Jane Murfin were charged with adapting the play for the screen and bringing it up to Production Code so it could be released to the public. The film gathered a group of all star women, including Norma Shearer, Joan Crawford, Rosalind Russell, Paulette Goddard, Joan Fontaine, Lucile Watson, Mary Boland, and Virginia Grey. Marjorie Main and Phyllis Povah also joined the cast, reprising their stage roles. Crawford is as venomous as ever and Russell shows just what a comedienne she is. Shearer, despite playing the “good girl,” is never outshone by the other two powerhouses making for an unstoppable trifecta of women.

The play’s all-female tradition was honored in the film adaptation with over 130 female speaking roles and even in the props, portraits, and animals (one of which is Toto from “The Wizard of Oz”). Only female figures are represented throughout the entire movie with the single exception of a bull in an ad on the back of a magazine. (See if you can catch it!) Although men are not seen, they are certainly a topic of conversation as the central theme of the movie revolves around women’s relationships with the opposite sex. The movie is not without weight, however, when it presents scorching commentary about pampered lives and frivolous power struggles among rich, bored housewives and those women they come into contact with.

More on the Film: 
  • George Cukor was fired as director of Gone with the Wind only a month before The Women was scheduled to begin filming. Producer Hunt Stromberg enlisted Cukor's services immediately upon his sudden availability.
  • Although uncredited, F. Scott Fitzgerald contributed to the writing of the screenplay.
  • Sydney's, the beauty salon where the initial action takes place, was named after Sydney Guilaroff, the chief hairstylist at MGM from 1934 to the late 1970s. He was brought to MGM from New York at the request of Joan Crawford.
  • No doubles were used in the fight sequence where Rosalind Russell bites Paulette Goddard. Despite the permanent scar resulting from the bite, the actresses remained friends.
  • According to her autobiography, Rosalind Russell called in sick after Norma Shearer refused to share top billing. She stayed "sick" until Shearer finally relented.
  • While the rest was filmed in black and white, the film includes a ten-minute fashion parade shot in Technicolor, which was technically innovative for the time the movie was shot.

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