Holding nothing back…

The Women: 1939

Posted on: October 2, 2008

I finally sat down and watched the original version of The Women. Taking into consideration the fact that it was filmed in 1939 and reflects the values of the era, it was ok. Yes, just ok.

First, Joan Crawford as Crystal was definitely AWESOME! Blew Mendes’ performance of Crystal completely and totally OUT of the water. After watching Crawford in the role of the conniving, gold-digging, bitchy Other Woman, nobody could have lived up to that performance. Joan was sexy without being comical, unlike Mendes. Her delivery of the line “If something I’m wearing doesn’t please Stephen, I take it off” was just p e r f e c t.

Meg Ryan’s Mary Haines was much more likable for me, but that was more a function of the plotline than of Norma Shearer’s acting (which was admittedly over the top, but that was typical for the era). The 1939 version of Mary was just… Blah. Shearer’s Mary just isn’t anything without her husband. Her original trip to the spa where she found out about Stephen’s affair was to get done over “for Stephen.” From that point on, Mary is pining for Stephen. She finally starts to get some life back after finding out from her sleepy daughter that Stephen isn’t really happy with Crystal (whom he’s now been married to for nearly 2 years). Everything Mary does is for Stephen, because it’s what she thinks STEPHEN wants, what she thinks will make STEPHEN happy.  Blech. There’s no moment of realization that if she isn’t happy by herself, she’ll never *really* be happy with Stephen.  The only reason for Stephen to want her back is because Crystal is a high maintenance bitch and Mary is a pushover. Mary hasn’t grown as a person, hasn’t done anything to improve herself, nothing. She’s basically continued her life as she was before, just without Stephen.

ALL of the women in the movie do everything they do for the men in their lives. Even when they end up getting divorces. They are catty, bitchy, gossipy, wimpy, superficial, gold-digging, keeping-up-with-the-jones’s, housewives who are nothing without their men. They are boring, and from the things they talk about their men doing behind their backs, their men are bored with them also.

Yes, I get that the movie was made in 1939, two years before the U.S. entered WWII and women were pretty much forced to enter the workforce. I get that the entire world was radically different then. For my purposes here, I am speaking of my ability to relate to the characters in the modern version vs. the characters in the 1939 version.

Oh, the 1939 version definitely had it’s moments. I just had a much more difficult time relating to it and the women portrayed in it than to the modern version and the women in it. Blame it on the fact that I’m entirely too young to remember when women like that (with the exception of the money!) were the norm, but I know LOTS of women like the ones in the recent version. Call me shallow. Say whatever you will. I just liked the modern version better, by a long shot. *shrug*


1 Response to "The Women: 1939"

I think the original one was a satire of the superficiality of women in that social order. *shrug*

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