The Women (1939)



Critic Consensus: No consensus yet.

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Movie Info

Based on the Clare Booth Luce play of the same name, this MGM comedy is famous for its all-female cast and deft direction by George Cukor. The plot centers on a group of gossipy high-society women who spend their days at the beauty salon and haunting fashion shows. The sweet, happily wedded Mary Haines (Norma Shearer) finds her marriage in trouble when shopgirl Crystal Allen (Joan Crawford) gets her hooks into Mary's man. Naturally, this situation becomes the hot talk amongst Mary's catty friends, especially the scandalmonger Sylvia Fowler (Rosalind Russell), who has little room to talk -- she finds herself on a train to Reno and headed for divorce right after Mary. But with a bit of guts and daring, Mary snatches her man right back from Crystal's clutches. Snappy, witty dialogue, much of it courtesy of veteran screenwriter Anita Loos, helps send this film's humor over the top. So do the characterizations -- Crawford is as venomous as they come, and this was Russell's first chance to show what she could do as a comedienne. And don't discount Shearer -- her portrayal of good-girl Mary is never overpowered by these two far-flashier roles. The only part of The Women that misses is the fashion-show sequence. It was shot in color -- an innovative idea in its day -- but now both the concept and clothes are dreary and archaic. Do keep an eye on the supporting players, though, especially Mary Boland as the Countess DeLage. The role was based on a cafe society dame of that era, the Countess DiFrasso, who had a wild affair with Gary Cooper; that romance is satirized here.
Classics , Comedy , Drama
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Paulette Goddard
as Miriam Aarons
Rosalind Russell
as Sylvia Fowler
Joan Fontaine
as Peggy Day
Joan Crawford
as Chrystal Allen
Norma Shearer
as Mary Haines
Mary Beth Hughes
as Miss Trimmerback
Lucile Watson
as Mrs. Moorehead
Lilian Bond
as Mrs. Erskine
Ruth Hussey
as Miss Watts
Butterfly McQueen
as Lulu, Cosmetics Counter Maid
Mary Boland
as Countess DeLave
Hedda Hopper
as Dolly Dupuyster
Barbara Jo Allen
as Receptionist [uncredited]
Cora Witherspoon
as Mrs. Van Adams
Carol Hughes
as Salesgirl at Modiste Salon
Virginia Weidler
as Little Mary
Dot Farley
as Large Woman
Dorothy Adams
as Miss Atkinson
Esther Dale
as Ingrid
Natalie Moorhead
as Woman in Modiste Salon
Margaret Dumont
as Mrs. Wagstaff
Betty Blythe
as Mrs. South
Lita Chevret
as Woman Under Sunlamps
May Beatty
as Fat Woman
Ruth Findlay
as Podiatrist
Marie Blake
as Stock Room Girl
Grace Hayle
as Cyclist
Dorothy Sebastian
as Saleswoman
Hilda Plowright
as Miss Fordyce
Virginia Howell
as Receptionist
Charlotte Treadway
as Her Companion
Charlotte Wynters
as Miss Batchelor
Jo Ann Sayers
as Debutante
Nell Craig
as Nurse
Flora Finch
as Woman Window Tapper
Priscilla Lawson
as Hairdresser
Phyllis Povah
as Edith Potter
Ann Morriss
as Exercise Instructor
Vera Vague
as Receptionist
Aileen Pringle
as Miss Carter
Renie Riano
as Saleswoman
Peggy Shannon
as Mrs. Jones
Estelle Etterre
as Hairdresser
Josephine Whittell
as Mrs. Spencer
Gertrude Simpson
as Stage Mother
Maude Allen
as Cyclist
Dennie Moore
as Olga, Manicurist
Lillian Bond
as Mrs. Erskine
Muriel Hutchinson
as Jane, Mary's Maid
Carolyn Hughes
as Salesgirl at Modiste Salon
Rita Gould
as Dietician
Ruth Alder
as Woman Under Sunlamps
Winifred Harris
as Mrs. North
Dora Clement
as Woman Under Sunlamps
Mildred Shay
as Helene the French Maid
Mariska Aldrich
as Singing Teacher
Grace Goodall
as Head Saleswoman
Florence Shirley
as Miss Archer
Leila McIntyre
as Woman Wwith Bundles
Florence Nash
as Nancy Blake
Mary Cecil
as Maggie
May Hale
as Mud Mask
Carole Lee Kilby
as Theatrical Child
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Critic Reviews for The Women

All Critics (22) | Top Critics (5)

A film that deserves to be seen (or seen again).

Full Review… | September 11, 2008
Arizona Republic
Top Critic

The catty banter and Wildean aphorisms (some of them contributed by Anita Loos) are delivered with impeccable timing by a cast only MGM could have mustered.

Full Review… | September 11, 2008
Chicago Reader
Top Critic

[Cukor is] at his best with a cast that includes Rosalind Russell, Norma Shearer, Joan Crawford, Hedda Hopper, Ruth Hussey, Paulette Goddard, and Joan Fontaine.

Full Review… | September 11, 2008
Chicago Reader
Top Critic

Picture however holds passages that slow movement down to a walk.

Full Review… | May 29, 2008
Top Critic

A more eccentric film than the following year's The Philadelphia Story, with which it shares a couple of faces, it's almost as fabulous.

Full Review… | January 25, 2006
Time Out
Top Critic

A pretty superb and remarkable film...

Full Review… | May 30, 2014
Cinema Crazed

Audience Reviews for The Women


Much preferred to the Meg Ryan remake of this. I didn't enjoy that one so much I almost didn't want to watch this one at all! Thankfully, it was changed quite a bit from this original, and not in a good way - I think I will seriously have to lower my rating for that remake after seeing this one. It deserves to lose points for making this one seem like it would be crap! The main problem this one has is that it is over long and has too many characters to warm to all of them, really it could have been an hour or so shorter and would have been better for it. My favourites here were Joan Crawford and Norma Shearer. I gave this an extra half star just for Joan and that bathroom she sets up for herself! There are better old movies out there to watch, but this one definitely has it's moments and is worth a look.

Nicki Marie
Nicki Marie

Super Reviewer

Left me wondering why any man would step out on warm and beautiful Norma Shearer for creepy and conniving Joan Crawford. *Phenomenal cast includes Rosalind Russell, Paulette Goddard, Joan Fontaine, Hedda Hopper and Marjorie Main

Randy Tippy
Randy Tippy

Super Reviewer

MUCH MUCH better than the new one!...I love Joan Crawfords dress @ the end scene

Morgan Salem
Morgan Salem

Super Reviewer

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