The Women (1939) - Rotten Tomatoes

The Women (1939)

The Women (1939)

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AUDIENCE SCORE

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.

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Cast

Norma Shearer
as Mary Haines
Joan Crawford
as Chrystal Allen
Rosalind Russell
as Sylvia Fowler
Joan Fontaine
as Peggy Day
Mary Boland
as Countess DeLave
Paulette Goddard
as Miriam Aarons
Lucile Watson
as Mrs. Moorehead
Phyllis Povah
as Edith Potter
Florence Nash
as Nancy Blake
Virginia Weidler
as Little Mary
Ruth Hussey
as Miss Watts
Margaret Dumont
as Mrs. Wagstaff
Mary Cecil
as Maggie
Hedda Hopper
as Dolly Dupuyster
Mildred Shay
as Helene the French Maid
Priscilla Lawson
as Hairdresser
Estelle Etterre
as Hairdresser
Ann Morriss
as Exercise Instructor
Mary Beth Hughes
as Miss Trimmerback
Cora Witherspoon
as Mrs. Van Adams
Charlotte Treadway
as Her Companion
Virginia Howell
as Receptionist
Vera Vague
as Receptionist
May Beatty
as Fat Woman
May Hale
as Mud Mask
Ruth Findlay
as Podiatrist
Charlotte Wynters
as Miss Batchelor
Aileen Pringle
as Miss Carter
Florence Shirley
as Miss Archer
Hilda Plowright
as Miss Fordyce
Mariska Aldrich
as Singing Teacher
Leila McIntyre
as Woman Wwith Bundles
Dot Farley
as Large Woman
Flora Finch
as Woman Window Tapper
Renie Riano
as Saleswoman
Grace Goodall
as Head Saleswoman
Lilian Bond
as Mrs. Erskine
Winifred Harris
as Mrs. North
Carolyn Hughes
as Salesgirl at Modiste Salon
Grace Hayle
as Cyclist
Butterfly McQueen
as Lulu, Cosmetics Counter Maid
Maude Allen
as Cyclist
Natalie Moorhead
as Woman in Modiste Salon
Jo Ann Sayers
as Debutante
Carole Lee Kilby
as Theatrical Child
Lita Chevret
as Woman Under Sunlamps
Dora Clement
as Woman Under Sunlamps
Ruth Alder
as Woman Under Sunlamps
Marie Blake
as Stock Room Girl
Dorothy Adams
as Miss Atkinson
Carol Hughes
as Salesgirl at Modiste Salon
Peggy Shannon
as Mrs. Jones
Josephine Whittell
as Mrs. Spencer
Rita Gould
as Dietician
Dennie Moore
as Olga, Manicurist
Gertrude Simpson
as Stage Mother
Betty Blythe
as Mrs. South
Lillian Bond
as Mrs. Erskine
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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).

September 11, 2008 | Rating: 4.5/5 | Full Review…

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.

September 11, 2008 | Full Review…

[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.

September 11, 2008 | Full Review…

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

May 30, 2008 | Full Review…

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.

January 26, 2006 | Full Review…
Top Critic

A pretty superb and remarkable film...

May 31, 2014 | Full Review…

Audience Reviews for The Women

½

The concept and execution is very much of its time. (Other timely examples of comedy of manners include The Philadelphia Story and Trouble in Paradise.) The film featured all of MGM's biggest female stars: Norma Shearer, Joan Crawford, Paulette Goddard, Rosalind Russell, and Joan Fontaine. The story focuses on Mary Haines (Shearer) a wealthy wife and mother who discovers that her husband is cheating on her with a perfume girl (Crawford). Mary then decides to divorce him, goes to Reno to get said divorce (since this is 1939), and the rest of the film features partner switching, infidelity, scandal, and intrigue as other female characters face the same issues as Mary and her daughter. Though the casting gimmick makes for an interesting watch, and the film does focus on basic issues that women have, it's not revolutionary. The women all depend on men. Their issues all stem from men. Their livelihoods, interests, careers, and aspirations are constantly linked to the men around them, even though they are completely unseen. Even when the women are alone, men are their only obligation. Perhaps Clara Boothe Luce and screenwriter Anita Loos were trying to slipin some commentary about the lack of agency in women's lives. A more likely explanation is that executives thought a film solely about women wouldn't interest anyone unless it was solely about finding and keeping men. The one scene that is supposedly solely intended just for women viewers is a fashion show, which is the only color section of the entire film. Director George Cukor hated it so much that he tried to have it cut from the film. It definitely feels forced and kind of patronizing, since the entire sequence is a lengthy 10 minutes, and it does nothing for the plot. It's as if the film doesn't trust women to be entertained by wit and humor, and decided we needed a palette cleanser, which is obviously ridiculous. What the original has over all subsequent remakes is a sense of poise and sophistication. Norma Shearer wins because she is a woman of substance, who cannot be replaced by the sultry Joan Crawford. Shearer was clean and concise, and she was known as an actress for her historical roles up until the advent of Turner Classic Movies. Any remake is going to be subpar, because this is a film very much of its time, and we no longer possess the same views on sexuality, marriage, equality, or feminism that we did in the Depression era 1930s. Of course, this didn't stop the 2008 remake from happening.

Spencer S.
Spencer S.

Super Reviewer

½

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

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