By OGT Blog Squad Member Stacia Woycheck
The OGT Monday Matinee on April 1 is The Women (1939), starring Norma Shearer, Joan Crawford and Rosalind Russell and is directed by George Cukor. The flick features the work of screenwriter, Anita Loos, of Gentlemen Prefer Blondes fame and is based on the play by Clare Booth Luce.
On January 21, 2017, the day after the inauguration of the current president, the first annual worldwide Women’s March took place. I joined hundreds of thousands of other women (and men) in the streets surrounding the Capitol building to make a unifying statement that women will not lose their hard earned rights for equality. I even purchased my “Nasty Woman” tights for the peaceful protest. Naturally, when I saw the title of the April feature, I was intrigued, but knew nothing about the film. The tagline of the film reads, “It’s all about Men.” As a modern woman, the tagline created less intrigue for me. Let’s see… a film titled, The Women, but it’s all about men? Sigh.
After watching the film, it is exactly that tagline that stuck with me. On the surface, it might seem that the film is just that, a film about men and everything men do to women and what women must do to keep them. Right on cue, the movie sets the stage with a dog fight in a beauty salon, depicting the historic “catty” nature of relationships between women. It’s filled with women gossiping about other women and “stealing” men in their stereotypical haunts, including beauty salons and “dress up” parties.
Diving deeper, the film is about so much more than men. It is about women and women’s relationships with other women and how women have been conditioned to act “appropriately”. It is a historical marker showing how far women have come. Mary, the protagonist, rebels against her mother’s sound advice by not being silenced as so many generations of women before her were, in fear of losing the domestic comforts that their husbands provided. She atypically speaks up for herself and refuses to merely “go along”. Her pride won’t allow her to be “second fiddle” much to the dismay of her family and social network. Mary is a feminist in the making. Eighty years later, women still face remnants of these beliefs, but have progressed to be seen as independent thinkers and equally qualified members of society. Still they continue to work against patriarchal biases employing some of Mary’s nascent strong willed energy.
Cinematically, the film is a win for women artists and the modern woman. Merely twenty years after women won the right to vote, The Women became the first film in the United States to employ an all female cast. Keeping the title honest, there are one hundred and thirty-five speaking roles completely dominated by women. Even the dog in the film, Terry, is female and quite a superstar in her own right, as she played the uber famous Toto in The Wizard of Oz. The screenplay, written by women, is sharp, witty and playful, allowing the cast to further break away from the traditional images of women for that time.
Women have come a long way from the gaggle of gossipers featured in The Women, but we continue to use those well-developed claws to move mountains. The Women will be playing at Old Greenbelt Theater on Monday, April 1 at 1 pm.
Stacia’s love of old movies began as a child, when her mother would take her to the matinee to see classics like Casablanca, Gone With the Wind, and The African Queen. She fast became a Humphrey Bogart and Old Hollywood fan. Her favorite class as an undergraduate student was Film Appreciation. She loves the charm of the Old Greenbelt Theater and volunteers to spread the word. She loves to travel and when she isn’t traveling, she is planning her next trip, painting, or playing with her dog.