Friday, January 29, 2010

Know Your LGBT History - The Women

What can be said about this movie - one of the greatest of all time and one of my top favorites.

So many gay men of my generation and the one before can repeat the majority of lines in it by heart.

The Women (1939) needs no introduction but I will try anyway. It amazes me that the back story behind this movie (a film about relationships in New York high society that featured no men but women dealing with their relationships with men) didn't garner either a book or a movie.

In some ways, the back story is more interesting than the movie. In one corner, you have Norma Shearer, the queen of the movie lot who was the star of the movie guarding her territory and status. She portrays Mary Haines, a woman who suddenly finds out that her husband has been stepping out on her.

In the other is Joan Crawford who needed this movie to be a hit because she was recently labeled as "box office poison." She took the role of man-stealing Crystal Allen on a hunch that it would revitalize her career. And it did.

Then there is Rosalind Russell who, after it was all over, was believed to have been the actual winner. In the middle of the battle between Shearer and Crawford, her character, Sylvia Fowler (the comically evil instigator of the entire situation), stole the show. And it gave her a reputation as a comic actress - one which she rode into screen history.

Those of us who are movie buffs know the story behind The Women - the fights, the petty battle for position between Shearer and Crawford, and how gay director Michael  George Cukor held it all together.

But in the middle of all of this, one story has been omitted.

The movie contained  what could be seen as a thinly veiled lesbian character. Her name was Nancy and she was portrayed by actress Florence Nash.

It being 1939, the movie couldn't come out and designate Nancy as a lesbian, so a lot of hints were thrown around. She was an "old maid," a "liberated woman who had her own career," etc. etc.

To me, the most telling comes in an exchange she has with Russell's character in the first scene. The exchange starts at 7:40:


Nancy: You just can't bear Mary's happiness, can you? It gets you down.

Sylvia: How ridiculous. Why should it?

Nancy: She's contented to be what she is.

Sylvia: Which is what?

Nancy: A woman.

Sylvia: And what are we?

Nancy: Females.

Sylvia: Really? And what are you, pet?

Nancy: What nature abhors. An old maid. A frozen asset.

And for the benefit of the brothers and others who love this movie (and those who have never seen it), the following clip features some of the funniest lines:

Past Know Your LGBT History Posts:
Know your LGBT History - Soul Plane

Know Your LGBT History - The Player's Club

Special Know Your LGBT History - Fame

Know Your LGBT History - Welcome Home, Bobby

Know Your LGBT History - Barney Miller

Know your lgbt history - The Jerry Springer Show

Know your lgbt history - Martin Lawrence and that 'gay guy' on his show

Know your lgbt history - The Ricki Lake Show

Know your lgbt history - Which Way Is Up

Know your lgbt history - Gays in Primetime Soaps

Know your lgbt history - Boys Beware

Know your lgbt history - The Boondocks

Know your lgbt history - Mannequin

Know your lgbt history - The Warriors

Know Your LGBT History - New York Undercover

Know Your LGBT History - Low Down Dirty Shame

Know Your LGBT History - Fortune and Men's Eyes

Know your lgbt history - California Suite

Know your lgbt history - Taxi (Elaine's Strange Triangle)

Know your lgbt history - Come Back Charleston Blue

Know your lgbt history - James Bond goes gay

Know your lgbt history - Windows

Know your lgbt history - To Wong Foo and Priscilla

Know your lgbt history - Blazing Saddles

Know your lgbt history - Sanford and Son

Know your lgbt history - In Living Color

Know your lgbt history - Cleopatra Jones and her lesbian drug lords

Know your lgbt history - Norman, Is That You?

Know your lgbt history - The 'Exotic' Adrian Street

Know your lgbt history - The Choirboys

Know your lgbt history - Eddie Murphy

Know your lgbt history - The Killing of Sister George

Know your lgbt history - Hanna-Barbera cartoons pushes the 'gay agenda

'Know your lgbt history - Cruising

Know your lgbt history - Foxy Brown and Cleopatra Jones

Know your lgbt history - I Got Da Hook Up

Know your lgbt history - Fright Night

Know your lgbt history - Flowers of Evil

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Dawn said...

I saw this movie twice, and loved it both times. Only downside was the 30 min long runway show... but the dyke in me just fast forwards.

BlackTsunami said...

Same here. The fashion show was an unecessary drag and the fashions were atrocious.

CA said...

Yes...great lines! As soon as I saw the posting title, I said to myself "what nature abhors, a frozen asset". Love it!

Allen Neuner said...

Good review of a movie I've always been fond of. One correction: the director's name is George Cukor, not Michael.