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This Review Reveals Minor Details About the Plot.

Rude Wake Up Call

The Women (1939) on IMDb

Plot Overview

When Sylvia Fowler (Rosalind Russell) and Mrs. Phelps (Edith) Potter (Phyllis Povah) pick up gossip at Sidney's Salon that their cousin and/or friend Mary Haines (Norma Shearer) is being cheated on by her husband Stephen with Sacks 5th Ave. perfume counter girl Crystal Allen (Joan Crawford), they determine to jolt her out of her fool's paradise. Once the cat is out of the bag, Mary under advice from her mom determines to tough it out as though nothing were wrong, but gossip columnist Dolly Dupuyster (Hedda Hopper) makes a public spectacle of it prompting Mary to divorce the lout.

On the train to Reno “beautiful land of the great divorce,” Mary meets The Countess De Lave (Mary Boland) who sings of l'amour as she's on her way to dump her fourth husband for a fifth, and savvy chorus girl Miriam Aarons (Paulette Goddard) who is divorcing hers in order to marry a millionaire. Lucy (Marjorie Main), proprietress of the Reno ranch where they stay, regales them with praise of her red-haired man. Mary's cousin Sylvia also pops in on her own convoluted divorce business.

Back in New York Mary lets the dust settle for a couple years. What can she do? What­ever she feels is best for her daughter Little Mary (Virginia Weidler).


Although there is no religion per se represented in this movie, Mary does exemplify the admonition, (1Cor. 7:10-11) “Let not the wife depart from her husband: But and if she depart, let her remain unmarried or be reconciled to her husband.” She stuck by him at first, then she “ran out of the trenches under fire,” but not to another man, and finally, perhaps, a recon­cil­iation is in the works. Her reading material as she tries to sort it all out was an excerpt from Lebanese son of missionary parents, Kahlil Gibran [1883–1931]: (277–8)

But if you would seek only love's pleasure, Then it is better for you to cover your nakedness and pass out of love's threshing floor, Into the outside world where you shall laugh, but not all of your laughter, and weep, but not all of your tears. Love gives naught but itself and takes naught but from itself. Love possesses not nor would it be possessed; For love is sufficient unto love.

These thoughts aren't unique to Gibran. Take this interview by news journalist Jordan Weathers with an Islamist:

Weathers: I would counter that there are more than a billion moderate Muslims world­wide who do not share your view.

Bashir: Do you still not understand that there is no such thing as a moderate Muslim? The phrase is a contradiction in terms, just like the phrase “unborn-again Christian” would be.

Weathers: I'm not sure I understand what you mean.

Bashir: To be a Muslim is to be surrendered to Allah, to submit to him. Submission is not some­thing a person can do half­heartedly, or to a moderate degree. It's not radical to submit to some­thing whole­heartedly, it is the only way one can submit. and it's not just Muslims who under­stand this. Miss Weathers. Even Søren Kierkagaard, from the Christian tradition, wrote, “In relation­ship to God one can not involve him­self to a certain degree. God is precisely the contra­diction to all that is ‘to a certain degree’.”

Here in this movie watershed moments occur when one or another woman reconciles with her husband by submitting whole­heartedly to him: “I'll do what­ever you ask.” ¶And, Sylvia Fowler: “Mary Haines, don't you have any pride?” ¶Mary Haines: “No pride at all. That's a luxury a woman in love can't afford.” This is a normal attitude of a Christian woman towards her husband, as per (Col. 3:18) “Wives, submit your­selves unto your own husbands, as it is fit in the Lord.” The woman minister of the Unitarian Church who was part of my movie class that showed this movie approved of the women's submission. Others in our liberal audience hissed and booed.

There were no men on screen in “The Women,” and the ones discussed left a lot to be desired. There was, how­ever, a bull with horns portrayed in an animal cutout, a man's picture in a magazine, and a man's shadow on the wall at the end. In the abstract they could represent a heavy-handed bully, a phantom head­ship, and a man in the middle with respect to the weight of his rule. It's customary for preachers to extol the (theoretical) virtues of the men the women are asked to submit to, but the verse above has it “as it is fit in the Lord,” not as the man is a fitting leader.

Production Values

This relentless romp, “” (1939) was directed by George Cukor. The screen­play was written by Anita Loos, based on the 1936 play, "The Women" by Clare Boothe. It stars Norma Shearer, Joan Crawford, and Rosalind Russell. Other cast includes Paulette Goddard, Mary Boland, Joan Fontaine, Hedda Hopper, and Virginia Weilder. Mary Boland outdid her­self as a self-absorbed countess. All the performances, for that matter, seemed over the top, the director having pushed them to the brink. Much satire was improvised.

This movie is not rated due to its early years release. It was 2¼ hours long, but seemed shorter for its fast pace. The interlude of a Techni­­color fashion show gives one a chance to catch his breath; the director didn't like the way it slowed down the flow, but it was forced onto the film by the studio. The opening credits super­im­posed an animal representation fading out over the face of each actress. Cute! The editing is a bit jerky but doesn't ruin the picture.

Review Conclusion w/ Christian Recommendation

I rather liked this movie even though chick flicks are not my style. Nobody did any­thing to ruin it, so I liked it. If you set your­self for a fast pace—i.e. finish your business before the flick starts—it should at least be an okay viewing experience, what­ever your preferences.

Movie Ratings

Action factor: Well done action flick Suitability for children: Not rated, pre-code. Video Occasion: Fit For a Friday Evening. Special effects: Average special effects. Suspense: A few suspenseful moments. Overall movie rating: Four stars out of five.

Works Cited

Scripture is taken from the King James Version. Pub. 1611, rev. 1769. Software, print.

Gibran, Kahlil. “On Love,” The Prophet (1923). Movie, Web.

Excerpt from the transcript of Extended Story Live, Episode 46. Audio interview between journalist Jordan Weathers and (supposed) Fayed Raabi'ah Bashir. From Steven James, Every Deadly Kiss. New York: Berkley, 2017. Print.