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George Cukor
Norma Shearer, Joan Crawford, Rosalind Russell
Writing Credits:
Clare Boothe Luce (original play), Anita Loos and Jane Murfin

It's All About Men!

Be careful what you say in private. It could become a movie. Some gossip overheard by Clare Boothe Luce in a nightclub powder room inspired her Broadway hit that's wittily adapted for the screen in The Women. George Cukor directs an all-female cast in this catty tale of battling and bonding that paints its claws Jungle Red and shreds the excesses of pampered Park Avenue princesses.

Not Rated

Presentation: Presentation:
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
English Monaural
French Monaural
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 132 min.
Price: $19.97
Release Date: 6/14/2005

• Two MGM Short Subjects
• “The Women Behind The Women” Featurette
• Alternate “Fashion Show” Sequence
• Scoring Stage Sessions
• Text Production Notes
• Trailers


Panasonic TC-P60VT60 60-Inch 1080p 600Hz 3D Smart Plasma HDTV; Sony STR-DG1200 7.1 Channel Receiver; Panasonic DMP-BD60K Blu-Ray Player using HDMI outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Kenwood 1050SW 150-watt Subwoofer.


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The Women (1939)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (March 6, 2014)

A cult classic from 1939, The Women focuses on Mary Haines (Norma Shearer) and her personal life. Mary’s cousin Sylvia (Rosalind Russell) learns that Mr. Haines is having an affair with a salesgirl named Crystal Allen (Joan Crawford). Delighted by this flaw in Mary’s seemingly perfect existence, Sylvia immediately spills these beans to their mutual friends but hides the info from Mary herself.

To force the issue, Sylvia sends Mary to her manicurist Olga (Dennie Moore), the one who revealed the affair in the first place. Unaware of Mary’s identity, the chatty Olga tells her about the affair – and Mary shocks Olga when she lets the manicurist know who she is.

After a fashion show, Mary confronts Crystal and lets her know that she’s aware of the affair. Crystal doesn’t back down from this meeting and decides to up her game to keep the married man. This sets up a battle for Mr. Haines that dominates the rest of the movie.

Because I tend to do things backwards, I viewed the 2008 remake before I watched this 1939 original version of The Women. While the two offer clear similarities – enough that I regurgitated some of my plot synopsis for this review – the two offer radically different views of the female mindset.

The 2008 edition leaned strongly toward a “girl power!” point of view – albeit one with many hypocritical elements – but the 1939 Women eschews almost any positive female attitudes. As seen in this movie, women care about nothing more than gossip – the cattier and crueler the better – as well as physical appearance. If they worry about anything more substantial than that, those scenes escape me.

Actually, I guess Mary is supposed to come across as the one exception to this rule, as she avoids some of the traps into which the others fall. However, she comes with her own flaws, as she seems like little more than a milquetoast sap without any real personality. It becomes tough to care about her situation because she’s such an eminently dull character.

This sets up The Women as an ungainly combination of sniping cruelty and weepy melodrama. The former dominates the movie’s first half, while the latter takes over the second. Neither works especially well, though I guess I like the catty comedy best; while these scenes seem bizarre in their extreme nastiness, at least they deliver some amusement, mainly via an over the top performance from Russell.

Truly, Rosalind Russell offers the only minor pleasure to be found here; as awful a character as Sylvia might be, at least she shows personality. Shearer couldn’t possibly be more forgettable and dull as Mary. Granted, the script restricts her potential, but I still think Shearer could’ve added a little more life to this wet dishrag of a role.

At 132 minutes, The Women also extends a thin premise well beyond its breaking point. The movie might’ve been able to sustain 90 minutes or so, but with more than two hours at its disposal, it wears out its welcome long before we reach the finale.

This means plenty of extraneous characters and scenes, including one of the weirdest diversions in movie history. To set up the sequence in which Mary and Crystal meet, we watch a fashion show – a really, really long fashion show. We don’t need any of this, as it does zero to advance the plot. However, it does allow the otherwise black and white flick to boast vivid Technicolor for a few minutes – maybe that was satisfactory in 1939, but it’s not in 2014.

If that curious detour was the only flaw in The Women, I’d view it in a more positive light. Unfortunately, the movie rambles and wobbles and weaves as it takes us through an interminable cinematic experience. Apparently a lot of people love this flick but I can’t figure out why, as I think it offers an unpleasant view of females with little entertainment value.

The DVD Grades: Picture C+/ Audio B-/ Bonus C-

The Women appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.33:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD. This wasn’t a great presentation but it seemed acceptable.

Sharpness was a little inconsistent, but not a problem. Some softness crept in occasionally but most of the time the flick came across as well-defined and distinctive. No problems with jagged edges or shimmering occurred, and only a little edge enhancement appeared.

As one expects from an old movie, print flaws were the dominant problem. I saw examples of spots, marks, specks, and hairs. These never became heavy, though they appeared with moderate consistency. Blacks looked nicely dark and tight, while low-light shots usually provided good definition. The transfer lost points mainly due to the source defects; otherwise the image tended to be positive.

I thought the monaural soundtrack of The Women was fine for its age but no better. Speech showed a little edginess and usually seemed a bit thin. Nonetheless, the lines offered good intelligibility across the board.

Music seemed acceptable given its origins and showed decent range. Effects appeared tinny and without heft, but that was expected. This was an unspectacular but more than acceptable piece of audio for a movie from 1939.

In terms of extras, we start with two MGM short subjects. Hollywood: Style Center of the World goes for 11 minutes, six seconds and tells a tale of a farm girl (Ann Morriss) who looks for new clothes to wear on a big date. This becomes an excuse to show/promote other films and tell us how much Hollywood influences style. As an archival piece, “Center” boasts some value, but it’s mostly a snoozer.

For the second short, we find From the Ends of the Earth: Another Romance of Celluloid. In this 10-minute, 20-second reel, we learn how boats ship materials from all around the world to Hollywood. Like “Center”, this acts mainly as an excuse to advertise movies. Also fairly dull, at least “Romance” has a better connection to The Women, as snippets from the film feature prominently in the short.

Next comes an Alternate “Fashion Show” Sequence. It fills six minutes, 13 seconds and provides a less fanciful black and white version of what we see in the final film. I think it fits the movie better but it’s no less dull than its more extravagant sibling.

Under Scoring Stage Sessions, we get 22 snippets of movie music. These cover an array of cues and sound pretty good, as they offer improved sound quality when compared to the final film. This acts as a form of “isolated score” and becomes a nice option for those with an affection for movie scores.

In addition to trailers for The Women and The Opposite Sex, we get text production notes. “Cast & Crew” simply lists the names of various participants; no filmographies or biographies appear. “Behind the Scenes” works better, as it offers a short but decent overview of filmmaking issues.

In the 75 years since its release, The Women has developed a very loyal following, but I can’t say I understand its appeal. The movie seems like little more than a long look at characters who mix cruelty and dullness without much between those sides. The DVD comes with decent picture and audio as well as some minor bonus materials. Maybe someday I’ll change my mind, but right now The Women strikes me as a superficial dud.

Viewer Film Ratings: 5 Stars Number of Votes: 3
0 3:
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