"No pride at all. That's a luxury a woman in love can't afford." These are the final lines Norma Shearer utters in George Cukor's classic 1939 comedy The Women featuring a stellar all-female cast. The Code may have toned down the original satiric bite though watching this film today and uncomfortably witnessing its politics (women are compared to animals in the opening credits), it's fortunate to see how much things have changed. Yet fluffy romantic comedies revolving around a man's affections do still exist. Hollywood even attempted to remake this in 2008. It isn't too different from watching an episode of "Real Housewives of New York," except these Park Avenue fur-wearing queens have better dialogue, fights, and wardrobe. Shearer plays likable Mary, whose husband Stephen (unseen in the picture, one of the brilliantly clever choices of Cukor and the film's female screenwriter Anita Loos, an adaptation of a play by Clare Boothe Luce) is cheating on her with Crystal (Joan Crawford), an icy shopgirl who pushes expensive fragrances like 'Summer Rain.' Rosalind Russell is Syliva Fowler who joyously and deliriously dishes out the gossip to the Park Avenue set with 'Jungle Red' nails.
Overall The Women is a fun, glossy flick from the Golden Age. It's a treat for the eyes with all the fabulous costumes (those dazzling patterns and drapes and Shearer's enormous, fluffy white fur coat!) and oddball sets (exercise rooms and spas galore). There's even a hilariously bizarre and flamboyant fashion show for the ladies (tennis apparel!) in Technicolor. The patina-thin plot buried under mile-a-minute dialogue sometimes grows tiresome and the picture occasionally lags in energy but it zings to life whenever Russell (a comic marvel) and Crawford appear. There's a brawl between Russell and Paulette Goddard that's one for the ages. Legend has it that Russell left a permanent scar on Goddard's leg. A hilarious emotional breakdown from Russell is a highlight and perhaps where Kristen Wiig's Bridesmaids meltdowns originated. ***