In 2018, there has been a lot of hubbub surrounding the role of women in the world, especially the entertainment industry.
Films like Ocean’s 8, Girl’s Trip and many other female-centric movies have flooded the market over the past two years or so, but, the concept of women-focused movies isn’t new, however.
Back in 1939, the brilliant cinematic mind of George Cukor coupled with the manpower of Metro Goldwyn Mayer produced one of the greatest female-centered films of all time.
The Women, starring an all-star cast that included Joan Crawford, Rosalind Russell, and Norma Shearer is perhaps the most wildly entertaining film of 1939, and it still holds up 79 years later. It may have not passed the Bechdel Test, but the film is unique in that there isn’t a single man in sight.
Norma Shearer plays Mary Haines, a rather homely woman with a heart of gold. She and her daughter “Little Mary,” live a nice life riding horses, loving life, and just general happiness shared between the two.
In comes Mary’s husband, Mr. Haines.
The cool thing about this film is, there isn’t a single man that’s present during the duration of the movie. This means that the object of Mary’s affections, and the main subject of the picture, does not show up at all throughout the film’s runtime. Due to this, we get 133 minutes of pure ‘unfiltered’ womanhood.
On to the movie’s (unseen) subject, Mr. Haines.
In typical classic Hollywood fashion, Mr. Haines appears to be cheating on Mary, much to the surprise of no one considering the fact that all of her friends and “close acquaintances” including Sylvia Fowler (played by Rosalind Russell,) knew about it before she did.
Here’s where it gets interesting.
The woman in Mr. Haines’ life isn’t his wife at all, it’s actually a 5’5 brunette by the name of Crystal Allen (played by Joan Crawford,) and when, eventually, Mary and Crystal meet, let’s say that….it doesn’t go over too well.
The scene in question is quite a doozy.
Crystal and Mary finally meet at Crystal’s job in the dressing rooms, surrounded by their closest friends, and foes.
Mary ends up confronting Crystal at Sylvia’s insistence and what we have is possibly the wittiest scene in classic movie history.
The two tussle back and forth, spewing all the things that they’ve always wanted to say to each other: Crystal tells Mary to get a divorce and Mary tells Crystal that she’s a hussy (in 1939 terms.)
It really is quite an intense scene. When I initially viewed this I was shocked at the pettiness that stemmed from the two ladies. To be quite frank, I’m not sure why it surprised me, I was just startled at how well the scene was acted.
I suppose that’s why this film is so great. Not only is it unique for its time period, but it also gave the chance for women to flourish on the silver screen during a time where opportunities were few and far between. Knowing that it makes my enjoyment of the film 10 times greater.