Tuesday, October 21, 2008

The Women Updated

When I was a kid and long before Saturday and Sunday afternoons were filled with back-to-back sports program, the various Australian free-to-air television stations used to broadcast old movies from the 30s, 40s and 50s. One of my favourite pastimes was to watch some of these classics (and B-grade movies as well!) with my grandmother. The films I revisited time after time were romantic comedies, musicals, and various Arabian nights adventures. One of the movies that grabbed my attention from an early age was called The Women. It was made in 1939 – the same year Gone With the Wind was released. The Women, however, had a contemporary urban NYC setting, was black and white, and its cast was entirely female. It was jam-packed with famous A-List stars such as Moira Shearer, Joan Fontaine, Joan Crawford, Heddy Lamar, and Rosalind Russell. I loved the film – it was witty, bitchy, and down right entertaining. The only objections I had was in the denouement (ALERT – spoilers ahead!) – I was a pre-pubescent and obviously had no idea about feminist principles and the importance of equality and respect in relationships, but I thought that the major character should never have reunited with her cheating husband and quite frankly should have left the bastard and upgraded to a more loyal and loving type (by the way, the women in The Women are completely obsessed with their menfolk, however, no men actually make an appearance in the entire film). 

In addition to this micro cinema history lesson, it is important for you to know that the original stage play was written by magazine editor and socialite Clare Booth Luce who was a fascinating woman in her own right and who went on to become a Republican senator and then a US ambassador. I read a fascinating medical mysteries book about 15 years ago that talked about Luce's ambassadorial stint in Rome. While she was living in an old Italian villa, her health started rapidly declining to the point that she very nearly died. She returned to the USA and before long began to recover, only to return to Italy and start deteriorating again. On closer analysis (and this is a potentially good story line for House) it turned out that she had arsenic poisoning. No, it wasn't a murder attempt. Scientists traced the arsenic to old flaking paint in the bedroom of her Italian villa.

The point of this post (spot the alliteration there folks!) is that a new version of The Women starring Meg Ryan, Annette Benning, Bette Midler, Candice Bergen, Debra Messing, and Eva Mendes amongst others has just been released. It's definitely on my list of things to see but in the meantime you may want to do a mini-comparison of the two trailers for yourselves. And don't forget ... these two movies were made nearly 70 years apart.

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