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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