Directed by: George Cukor
Starring: Norma Shearer, Joan Crawford, Paulette Goddard, Rosalind Russell, Mary Boland, Marjorie Main
It was probably inevitable that George Cukor would be the film director of Clare Boothe Luce’s play The Women (1939). After all, the first thing that came to mind as a description of the director was “woman’s director.” That was old Hollywood-speak for gay, but it also meant he was a director who could get the best out of an actress and make her look good. Who better for a film with the built-in gimmick that there wasn’t a man anywhere to be seen—though they were certainly talked about. In fact, the unseen males are both the film’s major topic of conversation, and what drives its plot about infidelities, divorces, marriages etc. The film—and the play—rises or falls on the bitchy talk of its titular women (it should be noted the Clare Boothe Luce was skewering a type of New York society woman she absolutely loathed). And Cukor brought it all out beautifully with what can only be described as a dream cast. That said, the whole thing is pretty much a hollow affair for all its clever turns of phrase, and it’s been MGMified almost to death in terms of production—including a Technicolor fashion show that brings things to a grinding halt. It’s glossy fun at its best, but absolutely nothing more.
The Hendersonville Film Society will show The Women at 2 p.m. Sunday, July 1 in the Smoky Mountain Theater at Lake Pointe Landing Retirement Community (behind Epic Cinemas), 333 Thompson St., Hendersonville.
In Brief: Clare Boothe Luce’s famous 1936 hit play The Women gets the super-glossy MGM treatment in George Cukor’s 1939 film version. The whole thing is overproduced, but most of the play’s brittle wit and clever dialogue are retained. And whatever else can be said about MGM, it had the cast for this.