The Women -- Movie Chain Review #1

Chain chain chain... chain of reviews...

I've had this idea in my head to start a Chain O' Movie Reviews. What does that mean, you ask? Well. Often for home film festivals I'll create my own movie marathon by chaining together films with a common link. It's kinda like TCM does with a day or month dedicated to one star, but instead of sticking to just one actor I'll chain together film after film with different links in between. Say I start with The Philadelphia Story, then I might move on to Notorious (Cary Grant is the Link) and then I might move on to Casablanca (Ingrid Bergman as the Link). It doesn't just have to be actors as links, either; you can chain directors or even themes back to back (ex: movies with a lot of rain, or perhaps a movie and then the remake). Anyway, I thought it would be fun to carry this habit of linking movies to the blog world. How will it work?

I'll kick things off here with a movie review, the first link in the chain. If you want to join in, after that you'll have to:

1. Call dibs on doing the next review in the comments. First one to speak up gets it, others will have to wait to join up to the next link in the chain! (Chains usually only link one at a time, after all. It's not a movie review tree.)

2. Write your own review of another movie (it should be one not yet used in the chain) and post it on your blog. Make sure the link to the previous review is made clear and that you link back to the original post where the chain began (so we can keep track of how the chain grows). The link can be an actor or actress, director, or something more creative (like a theme).

3. Include the rules of how to continue the chain, and let someone else continue it!

Simple enough, right? Let's get it started!

Movie Chain Review #1: The Women (1939)

Link: First link in the chain, not connected to any reviews (yet).

Review: I found the opening credits of this movie so helpful. As the actresses are introduced, each is paired with an animal that represents her character. So right away you know who's the deer, who's the fox, and who's the old cow. I think more movies should do this.

The word at the beauty parlor, where "Jungle Red" nail polish is all the rage, is that Mary Haines (Norma Shearer) has a husband who's stepping out on her. When Mary's friend (I use the term loosely here) Sylvia (Rosalind Russell) hears about this, she relishes the gossip and eventually sets things up so Mary will hear the rumor.

Mary has been blissfully happy in her marriage to Stephen and as mother to Little Mary (Virginia Weidler). Can she just pretend that nothing is going on and continue her life? Not once she has met the other woman, Crystal Allen (Joan Crawford). The two have a showdown and Mary, choosing pride over love, ends up on a train to Reno. Mary's sweet friend Peggy (Joan Fontaine) is surprisingly also along for the ride, as well as two other women getting divorces: Miriam (Paulette Goddard) and the often-married but still-romantic Countess Flora. The women bide their time at a dude ranch (!) while waiting for their divorces to become final. (Is it wrong to say I was a little happy when Sylvia showed up there as well?) Who will reconcile, who will move on, who will fall in love again? I'll leave the final twists for you to discover.

The joy of the movie for me was not so much in the plot as in the performances. Director George Cukor is completely in his element here with a dialogue-heavy, all female (even the dogs and horses?!?) production. (Interestingly, Cukor was only available for this movie because he was replaced as director of Gone With the Wind. Paulette Goddard too would have only been available here since the one-time frontrunner for the role of Scarlett O'Hara lost out to Vivien Leigh.)

While the actresses are all great in their roles, I was particularly taken with Norma Shearer. How could anyone leave her for Joan Crawford? Impossible.

One thing I didn't really like about the movie was the idea of giving up your pride for love. Maybe occasionally one has to choose, but then, that wouldn't be the case if people just behaved better. Which brings me to what I really didn't like about the movie: the way it portrays female relationships. Maybe it's true that women can be a bit catty, even toward their friends. This movie certainly highlighted that! We've got "friends" gossiping about each other, men-stealing, gold-digging, and dubious advice getting passed along (even from mother to daughter). While all of this does make for an interesting story, I found myself wishing more positive aspects of female friendships could have been included as well. Maybe the estrogen overload just started getting to me after a while. I missed the men.

Final analysis: see it for the great actresses/performances, but don't model your life/love/friendships after it.

Rating: (Although I'm kinda wishing I had made half wing ratings, because this feels more like 3.5 to me.)

Now, what movie will be the next review in the chain? There's plenty of links here to pick from!


Kate Gabrielle said...

I'd like to do the next movie! I'd like to review Private Lives, which also stars Norma Shearer :)

GREAT idea Wendy!!!

Wendymoon said...

Sweet, that was quick! I can't wait to read your review, and to see how the chain grows. :-)

Jess said...

I love this idea. I do the same thing - watching movies that have some link to me - often not obvious, but clear to me. Kate, you have lots of blogs listed in your profile, where can I keep up with the chain? I love Private Lives.

Kate Gabrielle said...

I'll post it on my classic movie blog, Silents and Talkies :)

Merriam said...

This is a great idea, I want to do it too! And I agree with you about The Women.

Vanessa said...

I love this! I'll definitely write a post for this if you keep it up...unfortunately a bit overwhelmed with work at the moment...

Cesia said...

Interesting. There was a remake of this movie recently, but I didn't know it was a remake. (sigh) Is *everything* in Hollywood recycled nowadays?

KC said...

Here's movie #3 in the chain! http://classicmovieblog.blogspot.com/2009/12/letty-lynton-1932-movie-chain-review-3.html

Stephanie Post said...

I revived this chain! Link number 7 is for 1956's classic GIANT starring Rock Hudson, Elizabeth Taylor, and James Dean...


I hope someone else keeps it going!

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