Dedications: My four late friends Rory, Stan, Bryan, Jeff - shine on you crazy diamonds, they would have blogged too. Then theres Garry from Brisbane, Franco in Milan, Mike now in S.F. / my '60s-'80s gang: Ned & Joseph in Ireland; in England: Frank, Des, Guy, Clive, Joe & Joe, Ian, Ivan, Nick, David, Les, Stewart, the 3 Michaels / Catriona, Sally, Monica, Jean, Ella, Anne, Candie / and now: Daryl in N.Y., Jerry, John, Colin, Martin and Donal.

Monday, 18 April 2016

The Opposite Sex, again

A story of love, revenge and Jungle Red nail polish.
In 1936 the public flocked to see the stage play of Clare Boothe Luce’s THE WOMEN. In 1939 MGM turned it into a huge film hit starring Norma Shearer, Joan Crawford, Rosalind Russell and seemingly every other female star on the lot. Then in 1956 the studio remade it, adding songs, men (the previous versions featured only women) and glorious colour and Scope to THE WOMEN. Re-christened THE OPPOSITE SEX it entertained audiences all over again with the deliciously catty tale of elegant wives who “substitute fashion for passion and the analyst’s couch for the double bed”. The star-packed cast in headed by June Allyson.  She plays Kay (called Mary Haines in the Norma Shearer original) a perfect wife and mother who discovers her husband has been having a fling with mantrap showgirl – the glamorous and malicious Crystal Allen (Joan Collins – a good substitute for the original Joan [Crawford]). To win him back, she must learn to use her claws without ruining her manicure. So Dolores Gray. Joan Blondell, Agnes Moorehead, Ann Sheridan and Ann Miller teach her the fine arts of gossip, innuendo and backstabbing. Its witty, wicked fun!
It looks good too – all those ‘50s gals in those ritzy ‘50s outfits – Dolores in particular as catty Sylvia wears some stunning creations – dig that green number !  Allyson by contrast look rather wan and badly hair-styled (unlike in say WOMAN’S WORD in ‘54). La Collins (maybe the only cast member still alive and in our face at 82 – she is on this week’s Graham Norton Show here) get to wear some flash outfits too, and has an amusing music number set in the tropics, with lots of bananas. Helen Rose dressed them all. There’s also Carolyn Jones, Charlotte Greenwood and Alice Pearce as the Jungle Red saleslady spreading all that gossip. Agnes Moorehead is a blast as the Contessa Kay meets on the train to Reno for her divorce.

The plot is nicely twisted too, its Sylvia who takes up with and bankrolls Buck Winston (not the Contessa as in the original) and the climax at the nightclub is nicely worked out. Kay is a retired band singer (cue a few musical numbers by husky Allyson) and her husband a theatre producer, employing those showgirls like Crystal who is manipulating him nicely until Kay fights back …. The bitchslap above is a posed shot – its done differently in the film. Dolores Gray of course steals every scene, one can hardly take one’s eyes off her – like her other appearances in ITS ALWAYS FAIR WEATHER, KISMET and DESIGNING WOMAN

THE OPPOSITE SEX, directed by David Miller, remains a lot of fun - it may be  Trash Classic but its a terrific one - I have seen it lots of times since I was a kid, and lots on it here. I was given a free copy of the 2008 latest remake of Luce's original, but could not be bothered to check how bad it was. 

1 comment:

  1. Hi Michael. Re "The Opposite Sex," I've always wondered what it was like on set with June Allyson and Joan Blondell, both having been married to Dick Powell. Along the same line, Josh Brolin and Christope Lambert, ex-husbands of Diane Lane, share a scene in the Coens' "Hail, Caesar!" -J