THE WOMEN
1939, Warner Bros., 133 min, USA, Dir: George Cukor

George Cukor (A STAR IS BORN, MY FAIR LADY) directs Norma Shearer, Joan Crawford, Paulette Goddard and Joan Fontaine in a cast of 135 woman (with nothing on their minds, but men) wearing costumes designed by Adrian! Catch your breath yet? There is a six minute Technicolor fashion sequence too! Forget the plot which is essentially ‘who’s stepping out on who’ and focus on the fact that this movie takes things out of the boudoir and onto the screen in a picture that lets you see these women “with their hair down and their claws out,” and we quote. “I’ve had two years to grow my claws Mother… JUNGLE RED!” The Great Gatsby author F. Scott Fitzgerald worked on the script at some point, but is uncredited. Three female writers, Clare Boothe Luce, Anita Loos & Jane Muffin got the screenplay done!


LETTER FROM AN UNKNOWN WOMAN
1948, Paramount, 86 min, USA, Dir: Max Ophüls

Was there ever a more swooningly romantic film than Max Ophüls’ American masterpiece? This is a love story that sidesteps all the sentimental Hollywood contrivances too often afflicting movie romances of the era. Shy young Lisa (Joan Fontaine) grows into womanhood while nurturing a lifelong love-from-afar for debonair composer and worldly lothario Stefan Brand (Louis Jourdan), who lives upstairs in her building. Even after she enjoys a brief tryst with Brand, Lisa’s dreams seem destined to evaporate into thin air. Ophüls’ device of Brand, finally learning of Lisa’s deep feelings from a letter to him as he readies for a duel at dawn, bookends the narrative with a tragic anguish that is extremely moving.


IVY
1947, Universal, 99 min, USA, Dir: Sam Wood

Joan Fontaine memorably portrays an amoral Edwardian vixen whose hobby of seducing wayward men becomes the road to perdition. Fontaine’s tour de force performance occurred in a role originally intended for her sister Olivia de Havilland! A distinguished British cast includes Patric Knowles, Herbert Marshall and Sir Cedric Hardwicke. NOT ON DVD!


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