Favorite things about… The Women (1939)

A note from Lindsey: Exactly a year ago today I published a post about 1939’s The Women, which I had discovered two days earlier. (I posted a very tiny review of it.) Here’s another look at the film, which became an instant favorite and was viewed multiple times last year.

(Image: Wikimedia Commons)
(Image: Wikimedia Commons)

The favorite film:
The Women, a 1939 comedy with an all-female cast, directed by the ever-amazing George Cukor.

The synopsis:
Mary Haines has no clue that her husband is having an affair with a shopgirl named Crystal Allen – no clue, that is, until her gossipy friend’s manicurist lets the cat out of the bag. Drama ensues for Mary and all of the women in her social circle, including a dressing room showdown and a cat fight on a Reno ranch.

The cast:
Norma Shearer as Mary Haines
Joan Crawford as Crystal Allen
Rosalind Russell as Sylvia Fowler
Mary Boland as Countess De Lave
Joan Fontaine as Peggy Day
…and the list goes on

Fun facts:

  • No doubles were used in the big fight scene between Roz and Paulette Goddard. Goddard ended up with a permanent scar from when Roz bit her during the filming of the scene, but the two actresses remained friends.
  • Even the animals used in the film (horses, dogs, etc.) are female.
  • Myrna Loy was considered for the role of Crystal Allen. She and Garbo are the only big MGM actresses who don’t appear in the film.
  • F. Scott Fitzgerald contributed to the screenplay, but is uncredited.
  • Had Cukor not been fired from Gone with the Wind, he would not have been able to make this film. It was because he was suddenly available that he became the director of The Women.
  • Film debut of Butterfly McQueen, who also appeared in Gone with the Wind during the same year.
  • The beauty salon in the film is a copy of Elizabeth Arden’s New York City salon.
  • Joan Fontaine is the last surviving member of the film’s principal cast.
  • The large, square-cut ring that Mary wears in the beginning of the film was worth $175,000 at the time of filming.
  • There are about 130 speaking roles in the film.

Favorite things:

    • The opening credits, with the animals representing each woman
    • Roz Russell’s outfits, with all of the crazy headpieces and details
    • Mary’s puppy!
    • The film has a quite hectic pace from the beginning, making it a very exciting watch.
    • Everything about Sylvia. She’s so catty and hilarious.
Sylvia Fowler is (Roz Russell, right) is one of the film's best characters. (Image: Doctor Macro)
Sylvia Fowler is (Roz Russell, right) is one of the film’s best characters. (Image: Doctor Macro)
  • The overly-chatty manicurist not realizing who Mary is.
  • Joan’s coworker saying that she only has “cobwebs and a bottle of gin” in her icebox
  • TECHNICOLOR FASHION SHOW TIME! (And I want all of the clothes, of course.)
  • Crystal always putting up a front of faux-sweetness
  • The big dressing room confrontation between Mary and Crystal
  • Sylvia’s terrible exercise skills
  • Even the housekeepers are gossips!
  • Marjorie Main is hilarious, especially with that song. (“Oh baby, oh BAAAAAAby”)
  • Reno Jumpy-Whumps
  • Crystal’s “perfectly ridiculous” bathroom
  • Sylvia being locked in the closet
  • Quotes:
    • “I hate to tell you, dear, but your skin makes the Rocky Mountains look like chiffon velvet!”
    • Sylvia (to Mary, on why her husband isn’t home much): “Are you sure it’s work, darling, and not a beautiful blonde?”
    • Mary’s mother: “One more piece of motherly advice: Don’t confide in your girlfriends.”
    • Crystal (when Mary’s friends request her at the perfume counter): “Why me?”
      Pat: “Maybe they’re slumming!”
    • Crystal (to Sylvia): “It’ll be out tomorrow, Mrs. Prowler.”
    • Mary (to Sylvia): “Et tu, Brute?”
    • Little Mary (to Crystal): “I’ve been very polite considering you’re something awful.”
    • Mary: “I’ve had two years to grow claws, mother.  Jungle red!”
    • Crystal: “There’s a name for you ladies, but it isn’t used in  high society – outside of a kennel.”

    (Image: Fanpop)
    (Image: Fanpop)

10 thoughts on “Favorite things about… The Women (1939)

    1. My movie-tracking lists include discoveries, re-watches and multiple viewings, so it isn’t as crazy as it sounds (and I get plenty of sleep!). Only about 70% of the films I watched last year were “new to me,” so I had plenty of time for re-watching. There are a few films I always end up watching at least a couple of times a year — The Women, To Catch a Thief, The Big Sleep, Mr. Blandings. They’re my equivalent of comfort food!


      1. I’ve got a few of those ‘comfort’ movies, too! Jaws is only once a year, but it’s EVERY year on the 4th of July…I think I’ve seen that well over 30 time by now.

        I just tried to add ‘The Women’ and ‘Mr Blandings Builds His Dream House’ to my streaming queue, and like I’m finding out…NOTHING is available for streaming! And by that I mean is, I’ve got a ton of recommendations from people, and films I need to see that the other two Derby Killer reviewers have already watched, that I still don’t have access to…only about five out of fifty have been available for streaming! I may have to go back to discs in the mail from Netflix…


        1. I have streaming and DVD. The best way to attack streaming is to build a queue by browsing rather than searching, because they have a ton of hidden gems but don’t have the rights to a lot of the “true” classics. I like to go into the different genre browsing pages and sort by release year, then scroll all the way to the bottom for the old movies. There are a lot of films I wish they had, but I can’t fault the instant service because it’s been such a great discovery tool for me!


          1. Good idea…I’ll give it a try! If worst comes to worst, I’ll have to start the DVD-by-mail service, too, just so I can keep up with the other two DK reviewers! Thanks for the tip…I’ve already discovered a few gems after just a few minutes of browsing!


  1. This post definitely made me smile, as The Women also one of my all-time favorites, and it was nice to remember some of the things you pointed out. I think my favorite bit is the exercise scene; the juxtaposition of Sylvia and Peggy and then the instructor trying to keep order just make it hilarious. I would also underline “everything about Sylvia” – pretty much every scene she’s in is gold. The character is basically the reason I’m the big Roz Russell fan than I am.


    1. His Girl Friday turned me into a fan of Roz, Auntie Mame turned me into a BIG fan of her, but this is definitely my favorite of her roles. She was such a fantastic comedic actress — one of the best the world will ever see.


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