Simanaitis Says

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YESTERDAY, WE BEGAN our meta study of a movie review, followed today in Part 2 by a review of a book citing the movie, plus a review of that review. All in good fun with the 1939 all-female flick The Women.

A Book of Movie Reviews. The New York Times Book of Movies: 1000 Essential Films to See has already appeared here at SimanaitisSays. This time around, tidbits are gleaned from Frank Nugent’s September 22, 1939, review of The Women.

I’ve only skimmed this 1296-page collection of movie reviews, and I’d be delighted to find other reviews of this high caliber.

Nugent’s View: “The tonic effect of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer’s film of Clare Boothe’s The Women is so marvelous we believe every studio in Hollywood should make at least one thoroughly nasty picture a year.”

Nugent continues, “The saccharine is too much with us; going and coming to syrupy movies we lose our sense of balance. Happily, Miss Boothe hasn’t. She had dipped her pen in venom and written a comedy that would turn a litmus paper pink.”

Image from Rotten Tomatoes.

Nugent wrote, “Metro, without alkalizing it too much, has fed it to a company of actresses who normally are so sweet that butter (as the man says) wouldn’t melt in their mouths. And, instead of gasping and clutching at their throats, the women—bless ‘em—have downed it without blinking, have gone on a glorious cat-clawing rampage and have turned in one of the merriest pictures of the season.”

Put this in perspective with the year 1939, approaching the end of a Great Depression only because of gathering war clouds around the world. 

A Post Hays Treatment. “Possibly,” Nugent said, “some of that venom has been lost in the screen translation. Edith Potter’s ‘glorious motherhood’—do you remember the scene in the play when she blew the cigarette ashes off her infant’s nose?—has not been satirized so bitiingly. A few of the blunt words have been softened. The omissions are not terribly important and some of the new sequences are so good Miss Boothe might have thought of them herself.” 

Goody-two-shoes Norma—Up to a Point. Nugent observed, “Miss Shearer, as the Mary Stephens [sic] whose divorce and matrimonial comeback keep the catfight going, is virtually the only member of the all-feminine cast who behaves as one of Hollywood’s leading ladies is supposed to. And even Miss Shearer’s Mary sharpens her talons finally and joins the birds of prey. It is, parenthetically, one of the best performances she has given.”

Nasty Joan Makes Her Exit. “Miss Crawford,” Nugent noted, “is hard as nails in the Crystal Allen role [Mary’s rival], which is as it should be.”

Joan Crawford as Crystal Allen. Image from IMDb.

She also gets a great exit line: Finally vanquished by the other women, Crystal says, “Well, it’s back to the perfume counter for me. And, by the way, there’s a name for you ladies, but it isn’t used in high society outside of a kennel.” 

Zowie. ds 

© Dennis Simanaitis,, 2022 

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