The women (film)

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German title The women
Original title The Women
Country of production United States
original language English
Publishing year 1939
length 130 minutes
Age rating FSK 0
Director George Cukor
script Clare Boothe Luce ,
Anita Loos ,
Jane Murfin
production Hunt Stromberg for MGM
music David Snell
camera Oliver T. Marsh ,
Joseph Ruttenberg
cut Robert Kern

Die Frauen (Original title: The Women ) is an American comedy film from 1939 directed by George Cukor . The main roles are played by Norma Shearer , Joan Crawford and Rosalind Russell . The black and white film with exclusively female actors contains a ten-minute sequence in Technicolor around the middle .


New Yorker Mary Haines has a seemingly perfect marriage to the successful engineer Stephen Haines. When she is not taking care of her little daughter Mary's upbringing, she meets up with her friends for lunch. One day, Mary's friend Sylvia Fowler accidentally learns from her manicurist that Stephen is supposed to have a relationship with the attractive Crystal Allen, who works as a perfume saleswoman in a luxury department store. Sylvia first shares the new knowledge with the other friends and then recommends the same manicurist to Mary so that she learns the truth. Mary is horrified at first and decides to go to Bermuda for a few weeks with her mother, Mrs. Morehead , in order to gain some distance. On her return she meets her rival personally at a fashion show, who has been provided with the necessary money by Stephen for clothes, and the meeting ends in a physical argument.

The conflict finally ends when the Haines couple decide to get a divorce. Mary insists on the divorce even more than Stephen, with reference to her dignity. She takes the first train to Reno to get the split over the stage as quickly as possible. On the way, she meets her young friend Peggy, who also wants to divorce after a first major argument with her husband Johnny. The two women also meet Miriam Aarons and the well-known Societylady Comtesse De Lave, who is divorcing for the fourth time. After some time in Reno, Mary's divorce is official. Meanwhile, Peggy realizes that she is pregnant and makes up with her husband.

The day before her departure, Sylvia appears unexpectedly, who has been offered a divorce by her husband because he has met a new woman. Things take an unexpected turn when Sylvia discovers that Miriam Aarons is her own husband's new lover. After a wild fight between the rivals, there is a falling out between Mary and Sylvia, who resents her friendship with Miriam. Meanwhile, Mary has become skeptical about her divorce from Stephen and Miriam recommends that she overcome her pride and win Stephen over again. However, she receives a call from Stephen, in which he informs her of his marriage to Crystal.

Two years later, Crystal, now Mrs. Stephen Haines, leads a life of luxury and boredom. Always looking for an even better match, she has started an affair with a popular radio singer who is Buck Winston, the Comtesse's fifth husband. Mary, who still loves Stephen, learns of the secret and decides to get him back. In the locker room of a nightclub she gets Sylvia, who is now friends with Crystal, in the presence of the gossip reporter Dolly Dupuyster to unpack about Crystal's affair. Despite the impending separation from Stephen, Crystal hopes to continue to live comfortably with Buck Winston, but she has to learn that his career was only donated by the Comtesse and that he has no money. Resigned, Crystal says that she has to get behind the counter and explains her contempt for the women of society. Meanwhile, Mary runs to meet Stephen, who is waiting for her.


The comedy Die Frauen is based on the play of the same name by Clare Booth Luce , which brought it to a total of 666 performances on Broadway in the 1936/1937 season . Originally a film adaptation with Claudette Colbert and directed by Gregory La Cava was planned. In late 1938, however, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer bought the rights as a possible project for Norma Shearer with Ilka Chase in the role of Sylvia Fowler. Clarence Brown was initially scheduled to direct . The first version of the script was developed by Clare Booth Luce with Jane Murfin, but the censors objected to what they considered to be too frivolous and sexually ambiguous dialogues. Finally, Anita Loos took over the responsibility to work out the final version. Unnamed writer F. Scott Fitzgerald also co-wrote the script.

Casting the 135 exclusively female roles was not always easy. After Norma Shearer decided to play the Mary Haines, it was a surprise that her rival Joan Crawford agreed to take on the comparatively small role of Crystal.

The rivalry between the two actresses, which had increased more or less continuously since 1925, reached its climax during the shooting. Shearer was still a powerful star after the death of her husband Irving Thalberg thanks to inherited company shares. However, her last two films Marie-Antoinette and Idiot's Delight showed losses in some cases in the millions. She and Crawford argued bitterly over every shot and line of dialogue. In the end, Rosalind Russell benefited from the long-term feud and managed to be announced above the title, albeit half the size of Shearer and Crawford. The character of the Countess de Lave is closely based on the American Countess di Frasso, who caused a stir in society in the 1930s and who were said to have had countless affairs, including with Gary Cooper and Benito Mussolini . In 1956, the remake appeared The weak sex with Joan Collins , June Allyson and Leslie Nielsen, among others . In 2008, another version of the material was released, again under the original title, The Women .

Joan Crawford was satisfied with herself and her portrayal, as she later admitted to Roy Newquist.

“I knew it could be dangerous for me to play the Crystal, but I just couldn't resist. She was the ultimate hard-hearted, determined gold digger on her way to the top. A deeply mean woman who makes the audience hate her. I knew exactly: Norma would get all the sympathies of the audience, Roz Russell steals the whole film and everyone hates me. It turned out that way, but I gave a damn good performance. It's a classic and I'm really proud of my contribution. But honestly, I don't think Crystal made it into the hearts of the audience in the end. "

Theatrical release

At $ 1,688,000 in production, the film was well above the average budget for an MGM film. Domestic revenue was $ 1,610,000, with another $ 660,000 coming from foreign markets. In the end, the cumulative total income was 2,270,000 US dollars, making Die Frauen one of the most successful MGM productions of the year. However, due to the high investments, the studio showed a loss of $ 262,000 in the end.


The reviews were benevolent.

“[We] believe that every Hollywood studio should deliver at least one thoroughly malicious film a year. [...] The best aspect of all, aside from the joy we get from hearing the hilarious dialogues, is the way in which Norma Shearer, Joan Crawford, Rosalind Russell, Paulette Goddard and the others take the chance to play scheming women. "

“A comedy elegantly staged with humor, bitter irony and a good dose of cynicism, in which only women play. George Cukor uses the sophisticated society of the late 30s as a background for a pointed game about intrigue, false friendships, competition and rivalries, where he virtuously oscillates between caricature and seriousness and makes use of the playful mood of the excellent actresses. "


In 2007 the film was entered into the National Film Registry .

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. My part - I knew it was dangerous for me to play Crystal, but I couldn't resist. She was the epitome of the hard-headed hard-hearted gold digger on the big make, a really nasty woman who made the audience want to hiss. I knew that Norma would walk off with the audience sympathy and that Roz Russell would walk off with the picture, and that I'd be hated. All came true, but I gave a damned good performance and Cukor's direction was superb. It's a classic film, really, and I'm proud to have appeared in it, but I don't think Crystal wormed her way into the public's heart.
  2. ^ Box office / business for The Women
  3. ^ Frank S. Nugent: The Women . In: The New York Times . September 22, 1939 (English, online [accessed April 1, 2017]): “[W] e believe every studio in Hollywood should make at least one thoroughly nasty picture a year. [...] The most heartening part of it all, though, aside from the pleasure we derive from hearing witty lines crackle on the screen, is the way Norma Shearer, Joan Crawford, Rosalind Russell, Paulette Goddard and the others have leaped at the chance to be vixens. "
  4. The women. In: Lexicon of International Films . Film service , accessed April 1, 2017 .Template: LdiF / Maintenance / Access used