The Opposite Sex (1956)

In Manhattan’s high society, the salon is the place to go for a makeover… and for a heaping spoonful of gossip. Sylvia Fowler (Dolores Gray) is getting a manicure one afternoon when her manicurist, Olga (Alice Pearce), tells her that Steven Hilliard (Leslie Nielsen) is having an affair with a chorus girl named Crystal Allen (Joan Collins).

(Image via Paper Blog)
(Image via Paper Blog)

Sylvia is friends with Steven’s wife, Kay (June Allyson), but not such good friends that she’d discuss this news with Kay first. Instead, she rushes to tell another society pal, Edith (Joan Blondell).

Soon enough, Kay is the only one who doesn’t have the scoop on her own husband’s extramarital activities. That’s about to change when Sylvia suggests that Kay visit Olga for a manicure.

David Miller directs The Opposite Sex (1956), a colorful musical remake of 1939’s The Women.

The Opposite Sex certainly matches the star power of the film being remade, with the above-credited cast appearing along with more big names like Ann Sheridan, Ann Miller, and Agnes Moorehead. Ann Sheridan delivers the film’s most memorable performance as “Amanda,” a sharp-tongued writer who is Kay’s best friend.

Aside from Sheridan’s performance, Allyson makes a decent “modern” match for Norma Shearer in the role of the wronged wife. Otherwise, the whole cast doesn’t gel quite as well as the original. Dolores Gray’s portrayal of Sylvia, for example, comes across as much more mean-spirited than Roz Russell’s version of the character.

The biggest problem with The Opposite Sex is the fact that it in no way improves upon the original material. Men appear on screen in this version, which doesn’t benefit the film. The women-only cast of the 1939 version was not a gimmick but a matter of simplified and focused storytelling, which was very effective and set that film apart from other romantic comedy-dramas. By adding on-screen men to the mix, The Opposite Sex just feels like your average high-class scandal film.

(Image via Love Those Classic Movies)
(Image via Love Those Classic Movies)

Also somewhat disappointing are the musical additions to the film, which are fine listening but not particularly memorable… with the exception of a few that are memorable for all of the wrong reasons. (I’m looking at you, psychiatrist scene.)

If you’re interested in seeing this catty story play out, stick to the 1939 version, which has much more wit and a much more successful ensemble. The Opposite Sex is worth tuning in for, however, for devotees of June Allyson or Ann Sheridan.

One thought on “The Opposite Sex (1956)

  1. I think you touch upon all the reasons that the remake does not match the
    original. The original play, which ran for more than 600 performances, had a women-only cast, like the first film version. Adding men to the second version dilutes the cattiness. And George Cukor, the first version’s director, was unsurpassed in his sense of comic timing.
    I’ll admit to enjoying the number with Allyson called “When” or “Now” (the one in which she struts around in a blue pantsuit). It’s quite catchy, and I get a kick out of her foghorn voice.


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