7 Women (Seven Women) (1966)
Set in 1935 China, this melodramatic tale chronicles the courage of dedicated female missionaries who overcome their many differences to stand fast in the face of a vicious Mongolian warlord's attack. This was distinguished director John Ford's final film and is not ranked among his best.
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Critic Reviews for 7 Women (Seven Women)
Those that have seen it consider it one of Ford's finest achievements, but it's still a relatively unknown film.
Thankfully Ford skips his usual sentimentality and cornball humor and drives home a hard-hitting period drama.
Audience Reviews for 7 Women (Seven Women)
Upon its release, "Seven Women" was unceremoniously dumped, becoming John Ford's last movie by default, probably because the studio had no idea what to do with it. Could it be because there is enough lesbian subtext to fill twenty doctoral dissertations?
It is 1935 in northern China at an American mission, headed by Agatha Andrews(Margaret Leighton) who has an unrequited crush on Emma(Sue Lyon), one of the younger workers.(The scene where she nearly has a coronary when walking in on Emma washing up is priceless.) All at the mission wait patiently for the new doctor to arrive except the very much pregnant Florrie Pether(Betty Field), married to Charles(Eddie Albert) who has dreams of becoming a minister, who is freaking out due to hormones and the rumors of brigands in the area. When Dr. D. R. Cartwright(Anne Bancroft) does arrive, Agatha is shocked to discover that not only is she a woman and a very butch one at that, but that she swears, drinks, smokes and has had an affair or two.(There is some mystery about Cartwright's past concerning her not being able to work in America anymore. I would like to think she was performing abortions which while speculative is certainly possible.) That's not to mention the attention she gives Emma. So, it is completely irrelevant to Agatha that she is very competent at her job as she seeks to have her removed from the mission.
To be honest, Sue Lyon did have a weird effect on men during the 60's, so maybe I am reading too much into this after all. Regardless, "Seven Women" is still a highly entertaining movie that disabuses the notion of one faith being any better than any other. While the people of the missions regard themselves as shining perfection, especially Agatha, it is in fact tragic as to what they have been withholding from themselves. And while they may look down on Cartwright, believing her to be beyond redemption, she at least knows who she is.(And personally, I am in awe of her.) Seeing this as John Ford's last film, and that he made a career of defining masculinity, it is totally apt that he makes his last statement that it is not a person's equipment that makes him or her a man, it is their actions.
(Originally reviewed in the blog section on May 14, 2009.)
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