The Women

The mother of all bitch-fests

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Co-written by Anita (Gentlemen Prefer Blondes) Loos, Cukor’s 1939 all-female classic is a goldmine of razor-sharp insults and catty put-downs. The fun’s fleshed out by the knowledge that, off-screen, Joan Crawford and Norma Shearer hated each other tooth and claw. Shearer forced Crawford to change her costume 16 times until it didn’t outshine hers, and in interviews Crawford hissed, “I love to play bitches—Norma really helped me with this.”

A gaggle of women-who-gossip score points off each other with fearful style. Shearer’s hubby’s cheating on her with a shopgirl, Crystal (Crawford), and she initiates a Reno divorce. Crystal, greedy, chats up cowboys in a filthy voice via her bath-side phone. Rosalind Russell, Joan Fontaine and Paulette Goddard chip in with zingers, and eventually revenge is sweet. Also bitter.

Not a man in sight, but the competition’s heated and no one here would ask for directions. One enormous roaring miaow, from “your skin makes the Rocky mountains look like chiffon” to “chin up, dear—both of them, “The Women is unscrupulous, wicked and acid. Next to this, Deadwood is a group hug where the chaps all show their sensitive side.


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