The Women (1939)

133 mins | Comedy-drama | 1 September 1939

Director:

George Cukor

Producer:

Hunt Stromberg

Cinematographers:

Joseph Ruttenberg, Oliver T. Marsh

Editor:

Robert J. Kern

Production Designer:

Cedric Gibbons

Production Company:

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Corp.
Full page view
HISTORY

The title card of the film reads The Women "as presented for 666 performances in its Triumphant run at the Ethel Barrymore Theater, New York." According to a news item in HR , in 1937, Max Gordon and Harry M. Goetz of Max Gordon Plays and Pictures Corporation (the company that produced the Broadway play) signed Gregory LaCava to direct Claudette Colbert in a motion picture version of The Women . HR news items from 1938 note that M-G-M purchased the play as a vehicle for Norma Shearer, who was to be directed by Clarence Brown, and that Ilka Chase was originally slated for the role of Sylvia Fowler. In the opening cast credits, photographs of animals dissolve into photographs of the actresses to suggest their analagous natures. Thus, an image of a deer dissolves into the image of Norma Shearer, a lamb into Joan Fontaine, a black cat into Rosalind Russell, a lion into Joan Crawford, a fox into Paulette Goddard, etc. According to studio publicity contained in the Production Files at the AMPAS Library, the cast consisted of 135 women and no men. Even the animals appearing in the film were female. In addition to its cast of sound film stars, the picture also boasted a large roster of silent film actresses, such as Maude Allen, Flora Finch and Nell Craig. Phyllis Povah reprised her Broadway role as Edith for this film.
       The fashion show was shot in color, using the Technicolor process. According to a news item in HR , this combination of color and black and white photography in the same shot was a technical innovation. Another ... More Less

The title card of the film reads The Women "as presented for 666 performances in its Triumphant run at the Ethel Barrymore Theater, New York." According to a news item in HR , in 1937, Max Gordon and Harry M. Goetz of Max Gordon Plays and Pictures Corporation (the company that produced the Broadway play) signed Gregory LaCava to direct Claudette Colbert in a motion picture version of The Women . HR news items from 1938 note that M-G-M purchased the play as a vehicle for Norma Shearer, who was to be directed by Clarence Brown, and that Ilka Chase was originally slated for the role of Sylvia Fowler. In the opening cast credits, photographs of animals dissolve into photographs of the actresses to suggest their analagous natures. Thus, an image of a deer dissolves into the image of Norma Shearer, a lamb into Joan Fontaine, a black cat into Rosalind Russell, a lion into Joan Crawford, a fox into Paulette Goddard, etc. According to studio publicity contained in the Production Files at the AMPAS Library, the cast consisted of 135 women and no men. Even the animals appearing in the film were female. In addition to its cast of sound film stars, the picture also boasted a large roster of silent film actresses, such as Maude Allen, Flora Finch and Nell Craig. Phyllis Povah reprised her Broadway role as Edith for this film.
       The fashion show was shot in color, using the Technicolor process. According to a news item in HR , this combination of color and black and white photography in the same shot was a technical innovation. Another item in HR adds that the film was also innovative in it use of "light charts" which mapped out the lighting arrangements for each actor. Developed by photographer Oliver Marsh, the chart cut set-up time by twenty percent. M-G-M publicity notes that no doubles were used in the fight sequence in which Rosalind Russell bites Paulette Goddard. In interviews, Russell stated that Goddard suffered a permanent scar from the bite, but that the two actresses remained friends.
       A modern source has alleged that George S. Kaufman either ghost wrote the entire play or rewrote Luce's original version. In 1956, M-G-M produced The Opposite Sex , which was also based on the Clare Boothe Luce play, starring June Allyson, Joan Collins, Joan Blondell, Ann Miller and Agnes Moorehead and directed by David Miller. Unlike the 1940 version, the 1956 film featured men in the cast. Another adaptation of the play, also entitled The Women , was released in 2008. That version, which again featured an all-female cast, was directed by Diane English and starred Meg Ryan, Eva Mendes and Jada Pinkett Smith. More Less

BIBLIOGRAPHIC SOURCES
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Daily Variety
25 Aug 39
p. 3.
Film Daily
15 Mar 38
p. 7.
Film Daily
29 Aug 39
p. 12.
Hollywood Reporter
8 Sep 37
p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter
3 Nov 38
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
29 Mar 39
p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter
25 Apr 39
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
22 Apr 39
p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter
27 Apr 39
p. 11.
Hollywood Reporter
23 Jun 39
p. 7.
Hollywood Reporter
6 Jul 39
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
25 Aug 39
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
1 Sep 39
p. 9.
Motion Picture Daily
29 Aug 39
p. 1, 6
Motion Picture Herald
10 Jun 39
p. 35.
Motion Picture Herald
2 Sep 39
p. 44.
New York Times
22 Sep 39
p. 27.
Variety
6 Sep 39
p. 14.
CAST
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
Barbara Jo Allen
+
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Asst dir
PRODUCER
WRITERS
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
Dir of photog
ART DIRECTORS
Art dir
Art dir assoc
FILM EDITOR
Film ed
SET DECORATORS
Set dec
Set dec
COSTUMES
Gowns and fashion show by
MUSIC
Mus score
Mus score
SOUND
Rec dir
DANCE
Dance teacher
MAKEUP
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the play The Women by Clare Boothe Luce (New York, 26 Dec 1936) by arrangement with Max Gordon Plays and Pictures Corporation.
SONGS
"Forevermore," words and music by Chet Forrest, Bob Wright and Edward Ward.
DETAILS
Release Date:
1 September 1939
Production Date:
25 April--7 July 1939
Copyright Claimant:
Loew's Inc.
Copyright Date:
25 August 1939
Copyright Number:
LP9088
Physical Properties:
Sound
Western Electric Sound System
Black & white with color sequences
Technicolor
Duration(in mins):
133
Length(in reels):
14
Country:
United States
Language:
English
PCA No:
5546
SYNOPSIS

While having her nails painted "jungle red," the vindictively swivel-tongued Sylvia Fowler learns from Olga, the manicurist, that her good friend Mary Haines's husband Stephen is embroiled in an affair with perfume clerk Crystal Allen. Mary is hosting a luncheon that afternoon, and Sylvia cannot wait to spread the good news among their Park Avenue friends, who will be there. Soon the sweet, trusting Mary becomes the victim of vicious insinuations regarding her husband, which are made worse when Stephen calls to cancel a trip they had been planning. Sylvia strikes the final blow by sending Mary for a jungle red manicure with Olga, who stupidly blurts out the entire story of Stephen's infidelity, not realizing that Mary is Mrs. Haines. Mary's mother, Mrs. Morehead, counsels her to keep silent and ignore the advice of her friends, but while at a fashion show, Mary unexpectedly encounters the conniving gold digger Crystal. Much to Sylvia's delight, the two rivals' meeting erupts into a major conflagration that makes the front page of the society columns. Her pride wounded, Mary demands a divorce and is soon on her way to Reno. On the train, Mary meets her confused friend, Peggy Day, who has just left her new husband, as well as Miriam Aarons and Flora, the Countess De Lave, as they all flock to Reno to file for divorce. Soon after arriving at a dude ranch for women, they are joined by Sylvia, who has been cast aside by her husband for the kinder Miriam. On the day that Mary's divorce is to become final, the worldly and wise Miriam sternly lectures her to foresake her ... +


While having her nails painted "jungle red," the vindictively swivel-tongued Sylvia Fowler learns from Olga, the manicurist, that her good friend Mary Haines's husband Stephen is embroiled in an affair with perfume clerk Crystal Allen. Mary is hosting a luncheon that afternoon, and Sylvia cannot wait to spread the good news among their Park Avenue friends, who will be there. Soon the sweet, trusting Mary becomes the victim of vicious insinuations regarding her husband, which are made worse when Stephen calls to cancel a trip they had been planning. Sylvia strikes the final blow by sending Mary for a jungle red manicure with Olga, who stupidly blurts out the entire story of Stephen's infidelity, not realizing that Mary is Mrs. Haines. Mary's mother, Mrs. Morehead, counsels her to keep silent and ignore the advice of her friends, but while at a fashion show, Mary unexpectedly encounters the conniving gold digger Crystal. Much to Sylvia's delight, the two rivals' meeting erupts into a major conflagration that makes the front page of the society columns. Her pride wounded, Mary demands a divorce and is soon on her way to Reno. On the train, Mary meets her confused friend, Peggy Day, who has just left her new husband, as well as Miriam Aarons and Flora, the Countess De Lave, as they all flock to Reno to file for divorce. Soon after arriving at a dude ranch for women, they are joined by Sylvia, who has been cast aside by her husband for the kinder Miriam. On the day that Mary's divorce is to become final, the worldly and wise Miriam sternly lectures her to foresake her pride and take back her husband, but Mary is too late, for Stephen has been ensnared by Crystal. Two years later, Crystal, now bored with Stephen, turns to singing cowboy Buck Winston, the countess' new, young husband, for entertainment. Mary still longs for Stephen, but has abandoned all hope of ever reconciling with him until her daughter, Little Mary, confides Stephen's misery with his new wife. Deciding to fight finally for the man she loves with "jungle red" claws, Mary tricks Sylvia, who has become friendly with Crystal, into publicly disclosing her friend's infidelity. With Crystal eliminated, Stephen asks to see Mary, who goes to him with open arms. +

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

TOP SEARCHES

CASABLANCA

During World War II, Casablanca, Morocco is a waiting point for throngs of desperate refugees fleeing Nazi-occupied Europe. Exit visas, which are necessary to leave the country, are at ... >>

CITIZEN KANE

Seventy-year-old newspaper tycoon Charles Foster Kane dies in his palatial Florida home, Xanadu, after uttering the single word “Rosebud.” While watching a newsreel summarizing the years during which Kane ... >>

REAR WINDOW

Laid up with a broken leg during the height of summer, renowned New York magazine photographer L. B. “Jeff” Jeffries enters his last week of home confinement, bored and ... >>

RAGING BULL

In 1941, at a boxing match in Cleveland, Ohio, pandemonium breaks out when Jake La Motta, an up-and-coming young boxer, loses a decision to Jimmy Reeves, suffering his first ... >>

CITY LIGHTS

At an outdoor dedication ceremony, a tramp is discovered sleeping in the arms of a statue as it is being unveiled before a crowd. He is chased into ... >>

The American Film Institute is grateful to Sir Paul Getty KBE and the Sir Paul Getty KBE Estate for their dedication to the art of the moving image and their support for the AFI Catalog of Feature Films and without whose support AFI would not have been able to achieve this historical landmark in this epic scholarly endeavor.