on 17 June 2014
THE WOMEN  [Blu-ray] [US Import] Sex! Betrayal! Gossip! Women Are Funny About Things Like That!
For the first time on Blu-ray, the hilarious classic that answers the burning question: What do women talk about when there are no men around? The answer: men, and how to steal them! Joan Crawford, Norma Shearer and Rosalind Russell lean an all-star cast in some of the funniest and most amazing catfights ever put on the screen. When Mary Haines [Norma Shearer] is jilted by her husband, the claws come out, and Joan Crawford's pushy princess tries to snag her man. Based on the hit Broadway play by Clare Boothe and deftly directed by George Cukor, this newly re-mastered 75th anniversary edition will leave you in stiches!
FILM FACT: Filmed in black-and-white, it includes a ten-minute fashion parade filmed in Technicolor, featuring Adrian's most outré designs; often cut in modern screenings, it has been restored by Turner Classic Movies. When interviewed by Turner Classic Movies host Robert Osborne, director George Cukor stated that he did not like the sequence and that he wanted to remove it from the film. It was remade as a 1956 musical comedy, ‘The Opposite Sex’ starring June Allyson, Joan Collins and Ann Miller.
Cast: Norma Shearer, Joan Crawford, Rosalind Russell, Mary Boland, Paulette Goddard, Phyllis Povah, Joan Fontaine, Virginia Weidler, Lucile Watson, Marjorie Main, Virginia Grey, Ruth Hussey, Hedda Hopper, Florence Nash, Cora Witherspoon, Mary Beth Hughes, Dennie Moore, Jane Isbell (uncredited), Butterfly McQueen (uncredited), Barbara Jo Allen (uncredited), Gertrude Astor (uncredited), Marie Blake (uncredited), Theresa Harris (uncredited), Barbara Pepper (uncredited) and Terry (dog in Salon) (uncredited)
Director: George Cukor
Producer: Hunt Stromberg
Screenplay: Anita Loos Jane Murfin and based on the play by Clare Boothe
Composers: David Snell and Edward Ward
Cinematography: Joseph Ruttenberg and Oliver T. Marsh
Video Resolution: 1080p [Black-and-White + Technicolor]
Aspect Ratio: 1.77:1
Audio: English: 1.0 DTS-HD Master Mono Audio and Spanish: 1.0 Dolby Digital Mono Audio
Subtitles: English SDH, French and Spanish
Running Time: 133 minutes
Region: Region A/1
Number of discs: 1
Studio: Warner Home Video
Andrew's Blu-ray Review: Based on Clare Boothe's hit Broadway play, ‘The Women’  is about a group of bitchy, backbiting, Park Avenue Ladies Who Lunch...and dish...with disastrous results for the only one of them who's happily married. The entire cast, more than 130 speaking roles, is female. Appropriately, the screenplay credit went to two of Hollywood's women pioneers, Jane Murfin and Anita Loos. Jane Murfin had been writing "women's pictures" since the silent days, and she produced a faithful adaptation of Clare Boothe's play. Maybe too faithful. Shortly before production began, the censors objected to the racy dialogue. Enter Anita Loos, the petite dynamo who began writing silent films as a teenager, and who excelled at snappy dialogue. Loos claimed that she sat on the set and produced instant, cleaned-up variations of Boothe's innuendo-laden repartee.
"If only women ruled the world" is an oft-repeated, plaintive feminine cry, but in George Cukor's uproarious adaptation of Clare Boothe's hit Broadway comedy, they do. As the trailer for 'The Women' blatantly states, "There's not a man in sight," and that's no Hollywood hyperbole. Not a single male appears in this barb-filled send-up of pampered, self-absorbed Park Avenue matrons and the gold-digging social climbers who try to steal their husbands - not in human form, not in animal form, not in paintings or sculptures. It's all oestrogen all the time, as a cast of 135 actresses shanghai the screen for 133 minutes, trading verbal zingers, jockeying for supremacy, brandishing their exquisitely manicured claws, and using any means at their disposal to outwit, out-dress, out finagle, and even out-slug their dear, devoted sisters. Backstabbing and catfights have never been as much fun, and though this film may not paint the most flattering portrait of the fairer sex and it ridicules their foolishness and vacuity one moment and champions their wiles, strength, and chutzpah the next and it celebrates everything we love and hate about them. The film certainly doesn't please feminists, but 'The Women' doesn't profess to be anything other than a rollicking romp that relishes skewering the idle rich.
Males may not be seen in 'The Women,' but oh boy do they dominate the conversation, not only driving the plot, but also driving all the films devious, duped, delusional, and dithering dames to distraction. To hear her friends tell it, Mary Haines [Norma Shearer], a warm, loving, filthy rich socialite, lives in a "fool's paradise" in her swanky surroundings with her precocious daughter [Virginia Weidler], blissfully unaware that her seemingly devoted husband Stephen is two-timing her with Crystal Allen [Joan Crawford], a conniving perfume counter clerk at Black's Fifth Avenue who's more attracted to Stephen's bulging wallet than his "Adonis figure." Mary's blabbering best friend Sylvia [Rosalind Russell], who voraciously devours every morsel of gossip like a bite of succulent meat, and can barely conceal her abject jealousy over Mary's perfect life, arranges for Mary to learn of her husband's affair and conspires to destroy her marriage. Little does Sylvia know, however, her own husband is dallying with a feisty chorus girl [Paulette Goddard], while money issues threaten the union between doe-eyed newlywed Peggy Day [Joan Fontaine] and her stubbornly proud husband. Who stays married, who gets divorced, who receives their comeuppance, and who emerges unscathed, and unscarred. Forms the basis of this fast-paced story that features more baiting, sniping, and bickering per capita than any other movie in Hollywood history.
'The Women' revitalised Joan Crawford's career, which was on the skids following a string of unsuccessful pictures. Along with Katharine Hepburn, Fred Astaire, Marlene Dietrich, and several others, she was notoriously named "box office poison" by the Independent Film Journal the previous year. Joan Crawford took a risk by shucking her good-girl image and playing a bitch, and saying, "I'd play Wallace Beery's grandmother if it was a good part," she famously said at the time, and the gamble paid off. Her spirited, hard-edged performance won raves, and despite limited screen time, she nearly walks off with the picture. Norma Shearer, one of Hollywood's most underrated actresses, is saddled with a far blander character, but she makes Mary real, lending her a flesh-and-blood depth that's not on the printed page, while Rosalind Russell is sublime as the vindictive, fast-talking Sylvia, arguably the film's most colourful and broad character. Paulette Goddard brings plenty of street-smart attitude and heart-of-gold warmth to her role, and Mary Boland is an absolute scream as the multiple-married, blithering Countess De Lave, who's always singing the praises of "l'amour," despite its fleeting nature. Several other supporting performances merit mention, many of which add vital texture to the picture and engender plenty of laughs. Out of the 135 women who comprise the film's cast, there's not a dud in the bunch, with even the smallest parts making notable impressions.
‘The Women’ was remade as ‘The Opposite Sex’ in 1956, but neither the addition of music nor the addition of men improved on the original. An updated 2008 version starring Meg Ryan and Annette Bening had feminist overtones. But most critics agreed that the later versions lacked the sparkle, bite, and star power that of the original ‘The Women’ still have.
Blu-ray Video Quality – Warner Home Video takes great care of its vintage film collection, and this exceptional encoded 1080p image transfer supremely honours this 75-year-old classic and is a huge step up from the previous inferior NTSC DVD. The picture here is richer and more full-bodied, with deeper black levels and crisper whites. The DVD possesses a faded, washed out appearance, with lines that tend to be a tad fuzzy. The opening titles are crystal clear and gloriously vibrant, and once the narrative begins, the movie's natural grain structure is on glorious display, supplying essential texture and lending the image a marvellous film-like feel. A nicely varied grey scale helps promote a palpable sense of depth and punches up detail levels in background elements. Wallpaper patterns, various set decorations, and the designs adorning the actresses' gowns are all extremely well rendered, and close-ups highlight fine facial features well despite their slightly soft look, which was typical of the period. Bright, bold, beautifully saturated hues distinguish the Technicolor fashion show sequence, which also benefits from pitch-perfect contrast and exceptional clarity, and also outclasses the more wan-looking DVD. The scene is utterly superfluous, campy, and tedious beyond belief, but the gorgeous colour keeps the eye engaged. The DVD is littered with faint specks, but only a few errant marks crop up here, and no edge sharpening, noise reduction, or other digital doctoring could be detected. The Blu-ray transfer for 'The Women' isn't 100% perfect, but it's near on darn close to perfection you can get, and any fan of this excellent film will be thrilled with this terrific effort from Warner Home Video, and shouldn't hesitate to upgrade instantly.
Blu-ray Audio Quality – The 1.0 DTS-HD Master Audio track supplies well-modulated sound that perfectly balances the rapid-fire sniping and string-laden music score. I have seen 'The Women' many, many times, but during this most recent viewing I actually picked up a few lines of dialogue I had never heard before, that was not understood before. Though some of the quips get lost due to speedy delivery and 'The Women' rivals 'His Girl Friday' in the speech alacrity department, most of the conversations, bickering, and gossiping is clear and comprehendible. A wide dynamic scale keeps distortion at bay, even during the raucous catfight scene, and while the musical shadings fill the room with ease, they never overwhelm the on-screen action. Much of the track has been scrubbed free of any age-related imperfections, such as pops, crackles, and hiss, but some surface noise does remain, though it's only noticeable during the quietest moments. All in all, for a 75-year-old film, 'The Women' sounds pretty darn good and certainly outclasses the tracks contained on the previous inferior NTSC DVD.
Blu-ray Special Features and Extras:
Special Feature Vintage Documentary Subject: Another Romance of Celluloid: From the Ends of the Earth  [10:00] This an episode of the entertaining M-G-M promotional series uses the subject of foreign importing as a flimsy excuse to advertise the studio's current and upcoming releases. Footage from 'The Women' is used to illustrate how imported perfume finds its way into M-G-M films, even though there's no perfume in the clip, while imported art objects help justify the inclusion of a scene from 'Ninotchka.' A parade of snippets from future attractions, including 'Babes in Arms,' 'Another Thin Man' and 'Balalaika,' concludes this black-and-white short.
Special Feature Vintage Documentary Subject: Hollywood: Style Center of the World  [11:00] Jump ahead 2 years, and a new crop of M-G-M films is vigorously promoted in this equally entertaining instalment of the popular series. The hook here is how the glamorous costume designs seen in many M-G-M films influence Main Street fashion trends. May McAvoy, who starred opposite Al Jolson in 'The Jazz Singer,' can be glimpsed in a blink-and-you'll-miss-it role as a saleslady. Clips of Joan Crawford in 'Susan and God,' Vivien Leigh in 'Waterloo Bridge,' and Greer Garson in 'Pride and Prejudice' illustrate the point, and lead into the customary selection of teasers for coming studio attractions, including 'The Mortal Storm,' 'Boom Town,' and 'New Moon.' Interestingly, 'The Yearling' is hyped as a film for the coming year, but was soon shelved, and wouldn't be produced until six years later.
Special Feature Vintage Animated Short: One Mother's Family  [9:00] This Rudolf Ising Technicolor cartoon chronicles A mother hen is taking her brood for a walk. They encounter obstacles along the way, such as traffic. There's a runt of the litter, who has more trouble with these than the rest. Momma stalks an inch-worm; she shushes the chicks; of course, the runt keeps bumping into things and making noise. And the biggest hazard of all is the hawk. But just when it looks like the hawk is going to get the runt, a run-in with a skunk saves him.
Special Feature: Alternate Black-and-White Fashion Show Sequence with Different Footage [6:00] Before M-G-M studio executives decided a splashy Technicolor fashion show sequence would add even more lustre to an already glossy picture, director George Cukor shot a similar scene in black-and-white. The main difference between the two, aside from a few different outfits and camera angles, is that in the monochrome version the models occasionally interact with the principals, which makes the fashion show feel like a more cohesive part of the film, instead of a lavish, disruptive interruption.
Special Feature: Scoring Session Music Cues [38:00] A whopping 22 audio only music cues, presented in superior fidelity without a hint of surface noise or other age-related defects, cover all the orchestral scoring in the film. It's quite a bounty and quite a boon for fans of vintage soundtracks.
Theatrical Trailers  [7:00] You get to see the trailer for the original preview of 'The Women,' but also its Technicolor musical remake, 'The Opposite Sex,' which misguidedly added men into the film, are included. The trailer for 'The Women' virtually encapsulates the entire plot, which I suggest you do not watch it before you see the original ‘The Women.’ This preview trailer of the remake, which stars June Allyson, Ann Sheridan, Joan Collins, who didn't yet seem to properly channel the bitchy siren she would later play to perfection on TV's 'Dynasty,' Dolores Gray, Ann Miller, Joan Blondell, Agnes Moorehead, and Charlotte Greenwood, focuses on the musical numbers.
Finally, forget the horrendous 2008 insulting remake, which was a crime against the Nation; George Cukor's 1939 version of 'The Women' remains an unqualified classic, as well as an absolute hoot! Incisively funny, bursting with timeless truths, and fuelled by a massive tank of oestrogen, this gossipy examination of feminine wiles, romantic couplings, and intense rivalries remains as fresh and deliciously nasty as it surely seemed upon its initial release 75 years ago. Norma Shearer, Joan Crawford, Rosalind Russell, and 132 other women contribute top-flight performances to this unforgettable romp that expertly mixes uproarious humour, heartfelt drama, and biting social commentary. Warner Home Video Blu-ray presentation significantly improves upon the inferior 2002 NTSC DVD, thanks to beautifully rendered video and audio transfers that infuse new life into this vintage motion picture and make an upgrade essential for fans. Supplements are strong, too, but it's the script and portrayals that turn this carefully orchestrated free-for-all into one of the all-time great comedies. No film collection worth its salt should be without it and that is why it is such an honour to add this brilliant all-time Hollywood Classic film to my Blu-ray Collection. Highly Recommended!
Andrew C. Miller – Your Ultimate No.1 Film Fan
Le Cinema Paradiso
WARE, United Kingdom