Produced and Distributed by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
Premiered: August 31, 1939 (Grauman’s Chinese Theatre, Hollywood)
Released: September 1, 1939
Featured cast: Norma Shearer, Joan Crawford, Rosalind Russell, Paulette Goddard, Joan Fontaine, Mary Boland
Producer: Hunt Stromberg
Director: George Cukor
Screenwriters: Anita Loos, Jane Murfin; F. Scott Fitzgerald, Donald Ogden Stewart (uncredited revisions)
Source: the 1936 Clare Boothe play
Cinematographers: Oliver Marsh, Joseph Ruttenberg
A Park Avenue matron loses her husband to gossiping friends and a conniving shop girl.
"Norma Shearer is chucking a clause in her contract which guarantees that her name will be featured above that of any other woman in her pictures, and stipulating that both Joan Crawford and Rosalind Russell shall be given equal billing with her in The Women,"
- Philip Scheuer, “A Town Called Hollywood,” Los Angeles Times, June 15, 1939
“Mary Haines, portrayed with deeply felt finesse by Miss Shearer, is the wife who, thanks to the whispers and gabble of the contingent led by Sylvia (Miss Russell), finds her marriage headed for the rocks. Of course, there is another woman and she, played with an honesty that is sometimes shocking, is Miss Crawford. Fortunately, it has Miss Shearer, and we can cling to decency—albeit desperately—with her.”
- Edwin Schallert, Los Angeles Times, September 1, 1939
“I think probably the movies have made something more solid out of The Women than the stage play did. The picture runs two hours and a quarter which is inexcusable in itself, and features Norma Shearer in some of the most incessant weeping and renunciation since Ann Harding—which may not be inexcusable but it's no fun for me. It is a holiday from Hays all right; there is more wicked wit than Hollywood has been allowed since The Front Page.”
- Otis Ferguson, The New Republic, September 6,1939
“Miss Shearer delivers a sparkling performance as the intelligent and loving wife who finds herself unable to cope with both the gossip undercurrent and her husband's indiscretion. Miss Crawford is ruthless and tough-shelled as the wife stealer, while Rosalind Russell contributes a highlight characterization as the sly purveyor of maligning gossip, although her part was a little broadly sketched by direction. Miss Shearer is on the delivery line of some poignant scenes. Most important are her telephone conversations with her erring husband and explaining to daughter Virginia Weidler the reason for a divorce.”
- Variety, September 6, 1939
“The tonic effect of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer's film of Clare Boothe's The Women is so marvelous we believe every studio in Hollywood should make at least one thoroughly nasty picture a year. The saccharine is too much with us; going and coming to syrupy movies we lose our sense of balance. Happily, Miss Boothe hasn't. She has dipped her pen in venom and written a comedy that would turn a litmus paper pink. Metro, without alkalizing it too much, has fed it to a company of actresses who normally are so sweet that butter (as the man says) wouldn't melt in their mouths. And, instead of gasping and clutching at their throats, the women—bless 'em—have downed it without blinking, have gone on a glorious cat-clawing rampage, and have turned in one of the merriest pictures of the season.
“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. Miss Shearer, as the Mary Stephens whose divorce and matrimonial comeback keep the cat-fight going, is virtually the only member of the all-feminine cast who behaves as one of Hollywood's leading ladies is supposed to. And even Miss Shearer's Mary sharpens her talons finally and joins the birds of prey. It is, parenthetically, one of the best performances she has given.
“Rosalind Russell, who usually is sympathetic as all-get-out, is flawless—by which we mean as good as Ilka Chase was—as the arch-prowler in the Park Avenue jungle. Miss Crawford is hard as nails in the Crystal Allen role, which is as it should be. Miss Goddard as a frank house-wrecker, Mary Boland as a shameless buyer in the love mart, Virginia Weidler as Miss Shearer's daughter, Lucile Watson as Mrs. Morehead, Marjorie Main as the realist from Reno are all so knowing, so keen on their jobs, and so successful in bringing them off that we don't know when we've ever seen such a terrible collection of women. They're really appallingly good, and so is their picture.
- Frank S. Nugent, The New York Times, September 22, 1939
LETTERS FROM REGIONAL THEATER OWNERS
“This picture is slow starting, and the action is slow, but there are some of the best lines in it that any picture can boast of in the past few years. Rosalind Russell practically steals the show, and if you can sell the title, the picture will satisfy. It’s plenty long, so cut out the shorts."
- Mayme P. Musselman, Princess Theatre, Lincoln, Kansas, Motion Picture Herald, September 16, 1939
“This is a wonderful picture for the box office. We had to hang out the Standing Room Only sign the first night. Miss Shearer and Miss Goddard were never better, but Rosalind Russell steals the show. Joan is great, too. By all means play it.”
- Bob Sheridan, Gresham Theatre, Gresham, Oregon, Motion Picture Herald, September 23, 1939
“This one topped Golden Boy, and that was very big. The women can’t wait to get in and see this one. Russell is a knockout. This picture even brought in the hibernating haybags from the sticks. George Cukor deserves a big hand.”
- Stanley Lambert, Rialto Theatre, Racine, Wisconsin, Motion Picture Herald, September 30, 1939
“Classy. Excellent. Should win extended runs in any spot. Different, and will be a credit to any house.”
- W.E. McPhee, Strand Theatre, Old Town, Maine, Motion Picture Herald, November 4, 1939
“Advertised hard but no business. No draw for small towns.”
- Harry Hobolth, De Luxe Theatre, Imlay City, Michigan, Motion Picture Herald, November 18, 1939
“Did about twice as much as my usual midweek picture. It was generally liked very much."
- A.N. Miles, Eminence Theatre, Eminence, Kentucky, Motion Picture Herald, December 2, 1939
“You know, I hesitated a long time before playing this part. Then decided that fighting to hold a husband Is every woman's problem. This makes it amusing and helpful."
- Norma Shearer, quoted in “Hedda Hopper’s Hollywood,” Los Angeles Times, May 26, 1939
The Women cost $1,688,000 and grossed $2,270,000.
(These figures have not been adjusted for inflation nor do they include profits from reissues, television syndication, and home entertainment formats.)