The Opposite Sex (1956)

115-117 mins | Musical comedy | 26 October 1956

Director:

David Miller

Producer:

Joe Pasternak

Cinematographer:

Robert Bronner

Production Designers:

Cedric Gibbons, Daniel B. Cathcart

Production Company:

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Corp.
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HISTORY

The onscreen screenwriting credit reads: "Screenplay by Fay and Michael Kanin." The opening and closing cast credits vary slightly in order. A written foreword reads: "Manhattan Island... A body of land consisting of four million square miles--completely surrounded by women." Throughout the film, Ann Sheridan provides voice-over narration as her character, "Amanda Penrose." The Opposite Sex was based on the 1936 play by Clare Boothe Luce (credited onscreen as Clare Boothe) entitled The Women . A previous adaptation of the play, also called The Women , had been produced by M-G-M in 1939, directed by George Cukor and starring Norma Shearer, Joan Crawford and Rosalind Russell (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1931-40 ). The screenplay for that version was written by Anita Loos and Jane Murfin and, like the play, contained no onscreen male characters. In a 19 Feb 1956 LAT article, the Kanins stated that the studio included men in The Opposite Sex because "you can't play a love scene alone." Although that article also noted that there would be no big production numbers in the picture, several were included in the final film.
       Modern sources state that M-G-M originally considered Grace Kelly for the role of "Kay Ashley Hilliard." In May 1955, DV announced that M-G-M was preparing The Opposite Sex for Esther Williams. By Aug 1955, according to an HR news item, the studio planned to star Doris Day and Howard Keel in the film, but later cast Eleanor Parker in the lead role. As noted in a 29 Nov 1955 HR item, Parker refused the role, citing ... More Less

The onscreen screenwriting credit reads: "Screenplay by Fay and Michael Kanin." The opening and closing cast credits vary slightly in order. A written foreword reads: "Manhattan Island... A body of land consisting of four million square miles--completely surrounded by women." Throughout the film, Ann Sheridan provides voice-over narration as her character, "Amanda Penrose." The Opposite Sex was based on the 1936 play by Clare Boothe Luce (credited onscreen as Clare Boothe) entitled The Women . A previous adaptation of the play, also called The Women , had been produced by M-G-M in 1939, directed by George Cukor and starring Norma Shearer, Joan Crawford and Rosalind Russell (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1931-40 ). The screenplay for that version was written by Anita Loos and Jane Murfin and, like the play, contained no onscreen male characters. In a 19 Feb 1956 LAT article, the Kanins stated that the studio included men in The Opposite Sex because "you can't play a love scene alone." Although that article also noted that there would be no big production numbers in the picture, several were included in the final film.
       Modern sources state that M-G-M originally considered Grace Kelly for the role of "Kay Ashley Hilliard." In May 1955, DV announced that M-G-M was preparing The Opposite Sex for Esther Williams. By Aug 1955, according to an HR news item, the studio planned to star Doris Day and Howard Keel in the film, but later cast Eleanor Parker in the lead role. As noted in a 29 Nov 1955 HR item, Parker refused the role, citing her desire to rest after a strenuous two-year schedule, and was subsequently placed under suspension by M-G-M. A Dec 1955 “Rambling Reporter” piece in HR stated that Peter Graves was considered for the role of “Buck Winston,” and as of 19 Feb 1956, a LAT article about the film included Vivienne Segal in the cast as “Countess.” In Mar 1956, however, HR noted that Segal withdrew from the production because “the broadness of the script characterization was too pronounced for her,” and the role was taken over by Agnes Moorehead. Although a 13 Jan 1956 HR news item adds Arthur O’Connell to the cast, he did not appear in the final film. Another HR news item states that dancer Roberta Lane was cast, but her appearance in the film has not been confirmed.
       Dolores Gray sang the title song over the opening credits. According to a 26 Apr HR item, the titles were to run over five pantomime vignettes written by Sammy Cahn, but no vignettes were seen in the viewed print. Contemporary sources note that some scenes were filmed on location in New York City. An article in the Oct 1956 issue of Cosmopolitan claimed that Joan Collins contracted a severe allergy to bath bubbles, making her two bath scenes painful, and that during the scene in which Kay slaps “Crystal Allen,” June Allyson’s punch knocked Collins unconscious. The article added that Allyson was paid $3,000 per day for her role in the film.
       Upon the release of The Opposite Sex , many critics compared the picture unfavorably to the earlier film version, stating that the biting humor of Luce’s original play had been lost. In addition, the MPD reviewer expressed disappointment that celebrated entertainers Gray and Ann Miller were not given the opportunity to sing or dance in the film. The film marked Allyson's last role at M-G-M, where she had been a contract player since 1942. More Less

GEOGRAPHIC LOCATIONS
SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Box Office
22 Sep 1956.
---
Cosmopolitan
Oct 1956
pp. 68-71.
Daily Variety
13 May 1955.
---
Daily Variety
17 Sep 56
p. 3.
Film Daily
17 Sep 56
p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter
12 Aug 1955
p. 15.
Hollywood Reporter
29 Nov 1955
p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter
23 Dec 1955
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
13 Jan 1956
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
3 Feb 1956
p. 12.
Hollywood Reporter
6 Feb 1956
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
7 Mar 1956
p. 11.
Hollywood Reporter
8 Mar 1956
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
12 Mar 1956
p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter
30 Mar 1956
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
26 Apr 1956
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
10 May 1956
p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter
18 May 1956
p. 16.
Hollywood Reporter
25 May 1956
p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter
13 Jul 1956
p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter
17 Sep 56
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
11 Oct 1956
p. 5.
Los Angeles Times
19 Feb 1956
Part IV, p. 2.
Motion Picture Daily
17 Sep 1956
---
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest
22 Sep 56
p. 73.
New York Journal-American
16 Nov 1956.
---
New York Times
16 Nov 56
p. 23.
Time
5 Nov 1956.
---
Variety
19 Sep 56
p. 6.
CAST
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
Barbara Jo Allen
and guest stars
Madie Norman
Jesse Kirkpatrick
Jack Daly
Bob Carson
Dian Fauntelle
+
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Asst dir
PRODUCER
WRITERS
Scr
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
Asst cam
ART DIRECTORS
Art dir
FILM EDITOR
SET DECORATORS
Set dec
Set dec
COSTUMES
Cost
MUSIC
Mus supv
Vocal supv
Mus coord
Rec dir for "There's Gold in the Trees"
Rec dir for "There's Gold in the Trees"
SOUND
Sd ed
Sd ed
VISUAL EFFECTS
Spec eff
DANCE
Dances and mus numbers staged by
MAKEUP
Hair styles
Makeup created by
Joan Collins' makeup
June Allyson's makeup
STAND INS
Singing voice double for June Allyson on "A Perfec
Singing voice double for Jeff Richards
COLOR PERSONNEL
Col consultant
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the play The Women by Clare Boothe Luce (New York, 26 Dec 1936).
SONGS
"There's Gold in the Trees," "The Opposite Sex," "A Perfect Love," "Now, Baby, Now" and "Rock and Roll Tumbleweed," music by Nicholas Brodszky, lyrics by Sammy Cahn
"Young Man with a Horn," music by George Stoll, lyrics by Ralph Freed.
DETAILS
Release Date:
26 October 1956
Production Date:
6 February--23 May 1956
Copyright Claimant:
Loew's Inc.
Copyright Date:
17 September 1956
Copyright Number:
LP7252
Physical Properties:
Sound
Westrex Recording System
Color
Metrocolor
Widescreen/ratio
CinemaScope
Duration(in mins):
115-117
Length(in feet):
10,458
Length(in reels):
14
Country:
United States
Language:
English
PCA No:
18099
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

At Sydney’s salon in Manhattan, society ladies can get a shampoo, set and the latest gossip, all for one fee. One afternoon, Sylvia Fowler learns from manicurist Olga that theater producer Steven Hilliard is having an affair with chorus girl Crystal Allen. Although Sylvia and Steven’s wife Kay are friends, Sylvia is thrilled with the scandal, and rushes to tell another of their friends, Edith Potter. Despite Sylvia’s subsequent hints, Kay remains oblivious to any possible problems with Steven, to whom she has been loyally married for ten years. Later, the ladies meet at the 21 Club to plan their upcoming charity benefit, a theatrical production. While Kay, a former singer, is busy being wooed to return to work by her old agent, Mike Pearl, Kay’s best friend, acerbic writer Amanda Penrose, rebukes Sylvia and Edith for circulating the gossip about Steven. When Kay returns, however, Sylvia suggests that she visit Olga for a manicure, and Kay innocently agrees. After lunch, Sylvia and Edith attend Steven’s show to catch sight of Crystal, and although the pregnant Edith’s morning sickness forces them to leave, later at a coffee shop they happen to sit next to Crystal, and the three exchange barbed remarks. Crystal leaves to call Steven, who has recently broken off their affair, and although she now urges him to see her again, he refuses. Meanwhile, Kay goes to Sydney’s, where Olga, not realizing who she is, repeats the gossip about Steven. Kay is devastated, but tries to abide by Amanda’s advice to pretend nothing is happening until Steven realizes his mistake and corrects it. That night, however, at the couple’s anniversary party, Kay tries to keep up appearances, ... +


At Sydney’s salon in Manhattan, society ladies can get a shampoo, set and the latest gossip, all for one fee. One afternoon, Sylvia Fowler learns from manicurist Olga that theater producer Steven Hilliard is having an affair with chorus girl Crystal Allen. Although Sylvia and Steven’s wife Kay are friends, Sylvia is thrilled with the scandal, and rushes to tell another of their friends, Edith Potter. Despite Sylvia’s subsequent hints, Kay remains oblivious to any possible problems with Steven, to whom she has been loyally married for ten years. Later, the ladies meet at the 21 Club to plan their upcoming charity benefit, a theatrical production. While Kay, a former singer, is busy being wooed to return to work by her old agent, Mike Pearl, Kay’s best friend, acerbic writer Amanda Penrose, rebukes Sylvia and Edith for circulating the gossip about Steven. When Kay returns, however, Sylvia suggests that she visit Olga for a manicure, and Kay innocently agrees. After lunch, Sylvia and Edith attend Steven’s show to catch sight of Crystal, and although the pregnant Edith’s morning sickness forces them to leave, later at a coffee shop they happen to sit next to Crystal, and the three exchange barbed remarks. Crystal leaves to call Steven, who has recently broken off their affair, and although she now urges him to see her again, he refuses. Meanwhile, Kay goes to Sydney’s, where Olga, not realizing who she is, repeats the gossip about Steven. Kay is devastated, but tries to abide by Amanda’s advice to pretend nothing is happening until Steven realizes his mistake and corrects it. That night, however, at the couple’s anniversary party, Kay tries to keep up appearances, but when she is asked to sing a love song, she recalls the first time she met Steven, and breaking down, runs from the room. Soon after, Crystal reads in the paper that Kay has gone to Bermuda, and hoping that this signals a rift in the marriage, arranges to “bump into” Steven and the Hilliard's daughter, Debbie, at the park. There, Crystal manipulates Steven into spending the day together. That night, Kay returns home from Bermuda early, and Steven is thrilled to see her. At the charity benefit, Kay runs the show, not realizing that Crystal is performing in one of the numbers. When Crystal sees Kay, she plots to confront her and incite her jealousy. As Crystal has hoped, Kay goes to Crystal’s dressing room, and after Kay calls her dress cheap, Crystal responds, “When Steven doesn’t like something I wear, I take it off.” Kay slaps her and runs out, and although Steven tries to follow her, she refuses to listen to his excuses. Soon after, she is on a train to Reno to obtain a divorce. Along the way she meets the Countess, a colorful older woman on her fourth divorce, and entertainer Gloria Dahl, who help Kay “celebrate” her new freedom. In Reno, the ladies stay at Lucy’s Ranch, where playboy cowboy Buck Winston distracts Kay momentarily by trying to kiss her. Later, at the ranch, Kay is shocked to discover that the newest boarder is Sylvia, whose husband is leaving her for another woman. After reading a newspaper item Edith has mailed, Kay deduces that the other woman is Gloria, prompting Sylvia to initiate a fistfight with Gloria that wrecks the kitchen. Within weeks, Kay’s divorce is finalized. Although the Countess and Gloria are solicitous, Kay clearly still pines for Steven. Amanda shows up to urge her to ask Steven for a reconciliation, but just then, Steven calls to inform Kay that he is marrying Crystal. Forced by financial exigency to return to her singing career, Kay, under her maiden name of Ashley, learns backstage that Sylvia has returned from Reno with Buck as her new paramour and is fast friends with Crystal. At the Hilliard home, meanwhile, Crystal has grown bored with Steven, is habitually nasty to Debbie and is secretly having an affair with Buck, whom Sylvia is grooming to be a singing star, hoping this will spur her friends’ jealousy. The night of Buck’s big opening, Kay refuses to join Amanda, the Countess and Gloria at the club, knowing Steven will be there with Crystal. Before bed, however, Debbie innocently reveals that Steven is unhappy and that Crystal is seeing Buck. Inspired, Kay puts on her most beautiful gown and goes to the club, where she greets Steven charmingly and enlists gossip columnist Dolly DeHaven’s help in getting revenge on Sylvia. To do so, Kay follows Sylvia into the ladies’ room and reveals that Crystal is seeing Buck. Although Sylvia does not believe her, Dolly soon sweeps in and confirms the news. As Buck begins his tune onstage, Sylvia drags Crystal into the ladies’ room, followed by Kay, Dolly, Gloria and Amanda. Kay tries to prevent a fistfight between Sylvia and Crystal, which ends when Dolly threatens to print a story about the affair, which will ruin Crystal’s chances of receiving alimony from Steven. After the Countess enters to report that Buck is a huge hit, Crystal retorts that she will elope with Buck, and then tells Steven that she is leaving him. When she informs Buck of her decision, however, he announces that he has no intention of marrying her. Kay spots Steven sitting alone, and when she calls him over, he is overjoyed finally to sweep her into his arms and onto the dance floor. +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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