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The Women [Blu-ray]
(George Cukor, 1939)
Review by Gary Tooze
Theatrical: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM)
Video:Turner Home Ent
Region: FREE (as verified by the Oppo Blu-ray player)
Disc Size: 29,668,833,030 bytes
Feature Size: 25,754,044,416 bytes
Video Bitrate: 22.95 Mbps
Case: Standard Blu-ray case
Release date: May 6th, 2014
Aspect ratio: 1.33:1
Resolution: 1080p / 23.976 fps
Video codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video
DTS-HD Master Audio English 1062 kbps 1.0 / 48 kHz / 1062
kbps / 24-bit (DTS Core: 1.0 / 48 kHz / 768 kbps / 24-bit)
Dolby Digital Audio Spanish 192 kbps 1.0 / 48 kHz / 192 kbps / DN -4dB
English (SDH), French, Spanish, none
Another Romance of Celluloid
-From the Ends of the Earth (10:21)
Style Centre of the World
• Alternate Fashion Show Sequence (6:14)
Scoring Stage Sessions (38:37 - audio only)
• Trailers (3:28 - The Women / The Opposite Sex - 3:46)
Description: Based on the Clare Booth Luce play of the same name, this MGM comedy is famous for its all-female cast and deft direction by George Cukor. The plot centers on a group of gossipy high-society women who spend their days at the beauty salon and haunting fashion shows. The sweet, happily wedded Mary Haines (Norma Shearer) finds her marriage in trouble when shopgirl Crystal Allen (Joan Crawford) gets her hooks into Mary's man. Naturally, this situation becomes the hot talk amongst Mary's catty friends, especially the scandalmonger Sylvia Fowler (Rosalind Russell), who has little room to talk -- she finds herself on a train to Reno and headed for divorce right after Mary. But with a bit of guts and daring, Mary snatches her man right back from Crystal's clutches. Snappy, witty dialogue, much of it courtesy of veteran screenwriter Anita Loos, helps send this film's humor over the top. So do the characterizations -- Crawford is as venomous as they come, and this was Russell's first chance to show what she could do as a comedienne. And don't discount Shearer -- her portrayal of good-girl Mary is never overpowered by these two far-flashier roles. The only part of The Women that misses is the fashion-show sequence. It was shot in color -- an innovative idea in its day -- but now both the concept and clothes are dreary and archaic. Do keep an eye on the supporting players, though, especially Mary Boland as the Countess DeLage. The role was based on a cafe society dame of that era, the Countess DiFrasso, who had a wild affair with Gary Cooper; that romance is satirized here.
All the performances are joys. Shearer has never been more restrained, and but for two moments (dropping to her knees to cry at her mother's feet, and the final reconciliation), her performance never falters. Her crying jag in Reno is one of the most convincing of its kind; even technically better actresses like Davis and Hepburn couldn't always pull tears off this well. Another great moment to look for is the way Shearer hits the flowers her errant husband sends her. Crawford, meanwhile, brilliantly revitalized her career with one of her finest acting achievements, a funny, spot-on portrait of the scheming, sexy Crystal. Hard as nails throughout, she uses her velvet voice to great effect, and her parting salvo at the end is a killer ("There's a word for you ladies, but it is seldom used in high society, outside of a kennel"). Russell (in a showcase part that made her a top star) and Goddard (rarely better) are equally good, though perhaps the funniest performance is contributed by the marvelous Boland. Cukor's direction is rich and confident, and the whole production fairly shimmers.
The Women was directed by George Cukor, who was known as Hollywood's leading "women's director." And with an all-star cast headed by MGM's dueling divas, Cukor had his hands full. Norma Shearer had been the Queen of the Lot when her husband, Irving Thalberg, was head of production at MGM. Recently widowed, Shearer still had considerable clout. For years, Joan Crawford had lost plum roles to Shearer, and deeply resented her. Crawford, who had recently been declared "box office poison," needed a hit. Realizing that the role of husband-snatching Crystal in The Women was a meatier one than Shearer's virtuous wife, Crawford went after it. But even a juicy part couldn't stifle her resentment. When she had to sit off-camera and feed lines to Shearer during Shearer's close-ups, Crawford, knitting furiously and noisily, never made eye contact with her co-star. Shearer, rattled, asked Cukor to send Crawford home. Cukor did, and later insisted that Crawford apologize. She did, grudgingly. But relations between the two stars never thawed.
Image : NOTE: The below Blu-ray captures were taken directly from the Blu-ray disc.
We've compared a few captures of the new TCM Blu-ray with the old Joan Crawford DVD Collection, Volume 1. You can see the grain textures are brought out far more significantly in the higher resolution. It also now looks like the DVD was vertically stretched a shade. The 1080P image is darker with more layered contrast. I thought it looked very film-like in-motion. This is a dual-layered Blu-ray with a modest bitrate for the 2 1/4 hour film. The transfer seems to support the film's contrast well and the color sequences are much richer than the SD although may bleed a shade. Visually this gets solid marks and the appeal of the grain seems the biggest attribute. This is a sweet presentation.
CLICK EACH BLU-RAY CAPTURE TO SEE ALL IMAGES IN FULL 1920X1080 RESOLUTION
More Blu-ray Captures
A DTS-HD Master in original mo no is used at 1062 kbps. The score is by David Snell (Grand Central Murder) and Edward Ward (Boys Town) which sounds predictably flat but clean. We also get some crooning by Norma Shearer, Marjorie Main and Rosalind Russell. While imperfect audio it seems to reflect the original production's inherent limitations. There are optional foreign-language DUBs and subtitles and my Oppo has identified it as being a region FREE.
Extras appear to duplicate the old DVD with the three, early, MGM shorts. From the Ends of the Earth runs 11-minutes showing how film production cargo is shipped by water 'From the Ends of the Earth' to glamorous Hollywood. It features footage from some of the MGM films being made pre-1940. Hollywood: Style Centre of the World runs the same length and promotes the premise that movies often create a demand for the fashions seen in films. One Mother's Family is a 9-minute, 1939, cartoon about a mother hen on a stroll with her brood and the obstacles she encounters along her way.. They encounter obstacles along the way, such as traffic. There is an Alternate Fashion Show Sequence and 38-minutes of the Scoring Stage Sessions (audio only). There are also trailers for The Women and The Opposite Sex.
May 5th, 2014
About the Reviewer: Hello, fellow Beavers! I have been interested in film since I viewed a Chaplin festival on PBS when I was around 9 years old. I credit DVD with expanding my horizons to fill an almost ravenous desire to seek out new film experiences. I currently own approximately 9500 DVDs and have reviewed over 3500 myself. I appreciate my discussion Listserv for furthering my film education and inspiring me to continue running DVDBeaver. Plus a healthy thanks to those who donate and use our Amazon links.
Although I never wanted to become one of those guys who
focused 'too much' on image and sound quality - I
find HD is swiftly pushing me in that direction.
Oppo Digital BDP-83 Universal Region FREE Blu-ray/SACD
Gary W. Tooze
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