— Tagline for the 1939 version.The Women
is a 1936 stage play by Clare Boothe Luce. As its title implies, and contrary to the page quote, it's about women
; in fact, there are no men at all in the story.
The story concerns a group of women, led by Mary Haines and Sylvia Fowler, whose lives are disrupted when it's discovered that Mr. Stephen Haines is having an affair. The other woman is Crystal Allen, a perfume saleswoman, and certainly not a decent person. As she heads to a Reno Dude Ranch for a quick divorce, Mary meets a few new friends on the way. A few twists come in when one of the new friends is revealed to be the new Mrs. Fowler and the new husband of another starts an affair with Crystal.
The play was made into a 1939 film directed by George Cukor
, with an All-Star Cast
of actresses. (As a matter of fact, in the movie there are no males of ANY species. The dogs are all bitches and the horses are all mares.) One, titled The Opposite Sex,
was released in 1956 and actually featured men; the other, also titled The Women
and featuring an all-female castnote
, came out in 2008.
This play and film features examples of:
- All-Star Cast: The 1939 version features, among others, Joan Crawford, Rosalind Russell, Joan Fontaine and Norma Shearer. The 1956 film has June Allyson, Anne Miller, Joan Collins, and Leslie Nielsen. The 2008 version features, among others, Meg Ryan, Annette Bening, Jada Pinkett Smith, Debra Messing, Eva Mendes (all five of which were "jointly" nominated for a Golden Raspberry Award for Worst Actress), Cloris Leachman and Carrie Fisher.
- Animal Motifs: The opening credits of the 1939 movie.
- Be a Whore to Get Your Man
- Bland-Name Product: The 1939 movie has Crystal working at "Black's Fifth Avenue." Curiously, they later have another character mention Saks anyway.
- Break the Haughty: The whole point of the film; Mary basically is a wealthy socialite with a darling child who doesn't have a care in the world. But her cousin Sylvia, with a strained marriage of her own and semi-envious of Mary's happiness, decides to destroy Mary's life by revealing her husband's adultery and egging her own to divorce her husband.
- Catchphrase: "Oh l'amour, l'amour!" by the Countess.
- Cat Fight: Sylvia gets into one with Miriam when she learns she's the woman her husband's going to marry. It's complete with hair-pulling, clothes tearing, and even some biting.
- Chromosome Casting: Look at the title, what did you expect? Even all of the animals that appear onscreen are female.
- Divorce In Reno: One segment takes place in a Nevada dude ranch where the assorted (female) characters are waiting to establish residency. A newspaper gossip column is quoted: "[one character] is being Reno-vated".
- Fashion Show: Featured in the middle of the film, in full color; the scene was purged from the film for decades due to it being out of place in a black and white film.
- Getting Crap Past the Radar: A spectacular use is Crystal's last line in the film.
"And by the way, there's a name for you ladies, but it isn't used in high society—-outside of a kennel."
And also this one: "He likes you even better than his horse! And it's such a blasted big horse too!"
- The Ghost: All the men.
- Gold Digger: Crystal takes up with the extremely wealthy Stephen, and then starts another affair with the very wealthy Buck—not realizing how fragile the foundation for Buck's fortune is.
- Good Adultery, Bad Adultery: It's bad if you're a manipulative Gold Digger, okay if you're a Nice Girl and the wife is a horrible person like Sylvia.
- Gossipy Hens: Sylvia and the manicurist, mostly.
- Graceful Loser: Crystal, of all people, concedes when her affair with Buck Winston is revealed, along with the fact that Buck has no money of his own and thereby she's screwed since Stephen is obviously going to divorce her. She calmly expects it's back to the perfume counter for her, but she does get in one snarky comment before she departs.
- Hoist by His Own Petard: Crystal brags to Mary that she can keep Steven because she's got Buck Winston, the Countess's latest husband... until she finds out that the company that Buck is the spokesperson for is actually owned by the Countess. She bought it because no one else would hire him, which means he's likely to be fired before or after he leaves the Countess.
- Hypocritical Humor: The entire initial exchange between Sylvia and Edith.
Edith: Somebody ought to shut that manicurist up.
Sylvia: A good piece of scandal like that? Not a chance, why that girl never stops talking. You know how those creatures are, babble babble babble babble babble, never let up for a minute, the lot they care whose lives they ruin. It wouldn't be so bad if only Mary's friends knew. We could keep our mouths shut.
Edith: I know I never breathe about my friends' husbands.
Sylvia: So do I.
- I'm a Man, I Can't Help It: Mary's mother chews her out for being so upset over Stephen's affair because of this—you're just supposed to expect that men of a certain age will have an affair.
- In Love with Love: The Countess. "L'amour, l'amour!"
- Large Ham: The Countess. And Sylvia when she gets into hysterics.
- Laser-Guided Karma: Sylvia winds up getting a divorce herself, and then meets the woman her husband is planning on marrying while at Reno.
- Stephen goes through this when he marries Crystal, only to spend the next year completely miserable with her.
- Meal Ticket: Stephen and Buc, for Crystal.
- The Musical: The second movie.
- Nice Hat: Comes up often in the film. Sylvia gets the most ridiculous ones in both the movie and the 2001 stage revival.
- Ow, My Body Part!:
Sylvia: But you know how some women are when they lose their heads... they do things they regret all their lives.
(Instructioness grabs Sylvia's leg and forces it into place)
Sylvia: Ouch, my [caesarean] scars!
- Pass the Popcorn: Invoked. When the Countess learns that Miriam is seeing Sylvia Fowler's husband, and then Sylvia herself arrives, the Countess makes Miriam stay as they get acquainted just knowing something's about to go down. Lucy has more fun watching the fight but departs to get smelling salts for the loser, but comes back to see Sylvia's breakdown and restrain her.
- Pretty in Mink: The first couple films have loads of furs.
- Really Gets Around: Crystal Allen.
- Saved from Development Hell: The 2008 remake, which was first pitched by director and writer Diane English (the creator of Murphy Brown) in 1993.
- Spell My Name with an "S": In the 2008 remake, Stephen is spelled as Steven.
- Time Skip: Two years pass after Mary fails to prevent Stephen from marrying Crystal.
- The Unfair Sex: Averted; the story directs its scorn to Crystal Allen, not the philandering husbands. It does turn out Stephen is miserable being married to Crystal.
- Also of note in regards to Miriam Aarons, no one considers her bad for being with Sylvia's husband and she is far more sympathetic compared to Sylvia.
- What Could Have Been: According to Diane English on a DVD making of documentary for the 2008 remake, she originally pitched it with both Meg Ryan and Julia Roberts agreeing to be not only in the lead roles, but also as co-producers, and James L. Brooks as the director. Blythe Danner and Marisa Tomei would have co-starred, as would have Candice Bergen and Debi Mazar (who remained in the final cut). The project went into Development Hell after Roberts and Ryan declared they both wanted to play the same role at the first table reading. Brooks left to work on As Good As It Gets, and Roberts declared she was no longer interested and also dropped out. Other actresses that expressed interest included Sandra Bullock, Ashley Judd, Uma Thurman, Whitney Houston and Queen Latifah. She also declared she wanted the script to have strong and self-reliant female characters.
- There was also a remake planned in the 1970s, and it would have possibly featured men. For some reason it was cancelled.
- Wise Beyond Their Years: Little Mary is mature enough to understand that her father is miserable with Crystal without the two even needing to speak about it.
- With Friends Like These...: Sylvia is gleeful over the Haines' marriage troubles, sets Mary up for an appointment with the manicurist to have her hear the rumor of Stephen's affair, and eggs Mary on to confront Crystal and then divorce him rather than reconcile.
- Your Cheating Heart: Stephen's affair is what kicks off the plot.