'The Women' 1939 Remake?

The Women 1939 Norma Shearer Joan CrawfordThe Women 1939: Rosalind Russell, Norma Shearer and Joan Crawford are members of all-star female cast.

'The Women' 1939 remake with Meg Ryan and Annette Bening?

The Women (1939) is the best-known and best-liked version of Clare Boothe Luce's mordant all-female stage comedy, which may be headed for the big screen for the third time in 65 years. With New Line as its potential distributor, this latest version of The Women would mark the feature-film debut – as writer-director – of Diane English, the writer-creator of the television hit series Murphy Brown.

According to an October 2004 article in Variety, Meg Ryan, Annette Bening, Sandra Bullock, and Ashley Judd are currently in negotiations to star in English's The Women remake, while Uma Thurman has been mentioned as a possible addition to the cast. Bening is supposed to take over the old Norma Shearer role, all sweetness and light; if so, that means Meg Ryan would likely be cast against type, playing a scheming husband stealer (the old Joan Crawford role). The film will be co-produced by, of all people, Mick Jagger, alongside Victoria Pearman and Christopher Eberts.

'Mean-spirited' original

“The original was funny but very mean-spirited. It was Luce's attack on her gender,” Diane English told Variety. “The catalyst of the story is still one of the women discovering her husband is having an affair, and the reaction of her friends. Unless I screw it up, there's a built-in audience for this movie.”

The Women is perhaps ripe for a remake. Well, as long as the “mean-spiritedness” of the original is not softened so as not to offend the braindead politically correct.

'The Women' 1939 cast

First filmed in 1939, The Women was directed by George Cukor, who handled the likes of Norma Shearer, at the time the Queen of the MGM Lot, and Shearer's archrival Joan Crawford, in addition to Rosalind Russell, Mary Boland (The publicity! La publicité!), Paulette Goddard, Joan Fontaine, Lucile Watson, Virginia Weidler, Phyllis Povah, Marjorie Main, Virginia Grey, Ruth Hussey, Florence Nash, and actress-turned-gossip columnist Hedda Hopper. Anita Loos and Jane Murfin were credited for the screenplay adaptation.

In The Women, even though all the female characters' lives revolve around men – whether loving them, leaving them, or being left by them – not a single male specimen is to be found on screen. The Women was a solid box office success, but due to its high production costs the movie ultimately lost money.

'The Opposite Sex'

A musical remake of the 1939 The Women, renamed The Opposite Sex, came out in 1956. David Miller directed June Allyson, Joan Collins, and Dolores Gray in the roles originally played by Norma Shearer, Joan Crawford, and Rosalind Russell, respectively. Hardly considered a cinema classic, The Opposite Sex flopped at the box office despite its great female cast which also included Ann Sheridan, Ann Miller, Joan Blondell, Agnes Moorehead, Charlotte Greenwood, Alice Pearce, and Carolyn Jones.

Unlike The Women, The Opposite Sex also featured several male actors, among them Leslie Nielsen, Jeff Richards, Sam Levene, and Bill Goodwin.

'The Women' on Broadway

A 2001 Broadway revival of The Women was directed by Scott Elliott. It starred Kristen Johnston, Rue McClanahan, Cynthia Nixon, Jennifer Tilly, Mary Louise Wilson, Jennifer Coolidge, Lynn Collins, and Amy Ryan. This production was broadcast on PBS stations in the United States, as part of the “Stage on Screen” series.

The original stage presentation of The Women, which opened at the Ethel Barrymore Theater in December 1936, starred Margalo Gilmore, Betty Lawford, Ilka Chase, Arlene Francis, Phyllis Povah, and Marjorie Main. A relatively brief 1973 Broadway revival featured Kim Hunter, Alexis Smith, Marie Wallace, Myrna Loy, and Rhonda Fleming.

The Women 2008 Meg Ryan Annette Bening'The Women' 2008 with Meg Ryan and Annette Bening.

Annette Bening and Meg Ryan in 'The Women' 2008

Oct. 2014 update: Eventually released in 2008, writer-director Diane English's early 21st-century remake of the 1939 The Women was a major critical and box office flop. Meg Ryan – not Annette Bening – starred as Mary Haines, the abandoned wife played by Norma Shearer in the original. Annette Bening, back then a three-time Academy Award nominee, and Eva Mendes were cast in the roles first played on screen by, respectively, Rosalind Russell and Joan Crawford.

Others in the 2008 The Women cast were Candice Bergen (the star of English's Murphy Brown and a Best Supporting Actress Oscar nominee for Starting Over), two-time Best Actress nominee Bette Midler (The Rose, For the Boys), Star Wars' Carrie Fisher, Debra Messing, Jada Pinkett Smith, Debbie Mazar, India Ennenga, Joanna Gleason, and Best Supporting Actress Oscar winner Cloris Leachman (The Last Picture Show).

For the record: Annette Bening's three Oscar nominations were as Best Supporting Actress for The Grifters (1990) and as Best Actress for American Beauty (1999) and Being Julia (2004). In early 2011, Bening earned a fourth Oscar nod, also as Best Actress, for Lisa Cholodenko's The Kids Are All Right. Meg Ryan, for her part, has been gone from films since the 2009 release Serious Moonlight. Her comeback vehicle will be Ithaca in 2015, which she also directed.


Rosalind Russell, Joan Crawford, and Norma Shearer The Women 1939 image: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer.

Annette Bening and Meg Ryan The Women (2008) image: Picturehouse.

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2 Comments to 'The Women' 1939 Remake?

  1. Angela Texidor

    I enjoyed the remake. It was an interesting take and filled with humor. The original still ROCKS and is part of my film collection. Norma Shearer was fantastic as Mary Haines. I do have to add that the Opposite Sex with June Allyson was not bad either. Once again a different take of the movie.

  2. Stacey

    I just saw the trailer for the new the women movie. I have to say I am amazingly disappointed. The movie was cast all wrong. Meg Ryan for Mary Haines?????? Are you serious? The Women is probably my favorite movie of all time, and leave it to new Hollywood to screw up an amazing movie! So what's next Gone With The Wind set in Modern Day Virginia? Write some new original stuff would you please, and leave my classics alone. A perfect example…Rear Window and Disturbia. I walked out of the movie. This should have been a movie for women who could really act, and give it the grace and off the cuff meanness it deserves. Not try to make it into a fluff piece with absolutely no imagination for people who's careers are in the toilet.