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The Women (play)

The Women
Written by Clare Boothe Luce
  • Mary (Mrs. Haines)
  • Crystal Allen
  • Sylvia (Mrs. Fowler)
  • Peggy (Mrs. Day)
  • Nancy Blake
  • Edith (Mrs. Potter)
  • Mrs. Morehead
  • Countess De Lage
Date premiered December 26, 1936 (1936-12-26)
Place premiered Ethel Barrymore Theatre
Genre Comedy of manners
Setting New York and Reno

The Women is a comedy of manners by Clare Boothe Luce.

The play is an acerbic commentary on the pampered lives and power struggles of various wealthy Manhattan socialites and up-and-comers and the gossip that propels and damages their relationships. While men frequently are the subject of their lively discussions and play an important role in the action on-stage, they are strictly characters mentioned but never seen.

The original Broadway production, directed by Robert B. Sinclair, opened on December 26, 1936 at the Ethel Barrymore Theatre, where it ran for 657 performances with an all-female cast that included Arlene Francis, Ilka Chase, and Marjorie Main.[1][2]

Character sketches

Mary (Mrs. Haines): middle 30s, upper middle-class housewife, married to Stephen Haines with two children (little Mary and little Stephen), demure, faithful, innocent/positive outlook towards marriage
Crystal: middle 20s, single (until marriage to Stephen), no children, lower-class, fragrance salesperson, flirtatious, deceitful, ambitious, manipulative, unfaithful, disrespectful
Sylvia (Mrs. Fowler): 34, upper middle-class housewife, married to Howard Fowler with two children (male born with forceps, female born by Caesarean section), gossiper, assertive, disloyal, dishonest, blunt, inconsiderate, selfish
Peggy (Mrs. Day): 25, middle-class housewife (she has money but not her husband), married to John Day with no children (but longs for a child), innocent, compliant, awkward, sympathetic
Nancy Blake: 35, upper middle-class writer, single, possibly bi-sexual (virgin), traveler, blunt, direct, feminist, unemotional
Edith (Mrs. Potter): 33/34, upper middle-class housewife, married to Phelps Potter with 4 children, one-dimensional, dull, non-confrontational, does not like children, sexual tendencies, static
Mrs. Morehead: 55, upper middle-class, Mary's mother, presumably a widow, old fashioned/traditional, strict, wise
Countess De Lage: middle-aged, upper middle-class, divorced four times, outgoing, hopeless romantic


1) Ideal Woman The ideal woman in The Women is one who bears children, cares for her husband, while relying on him financially. Women are expected to be perfectly happy fulfilling this role.

2) Marriage Marriage is viewed in many ways throughout the play. Many characters in "The Women" use it to achieve social advancement, such as Crystal and Miriam. The play also emphasises the impact of children on a marriage and how they can hold a couple together. There are varying ideas on the acceptability of adultery and whether it is treated equally for men and women.

3) Relationships between women -negative view, it's hard for women to truly be friends -trust is frequently an issue between the women characters -jealousy is rampant for women throughout the play -mother daughter relations are touched on----mother often gives advice to her daughter

1973 revival

After seven previews, a revival directed by Morton Da Costa opened on April 25, 1973 at the 46th Street Theatre, where it ran for 63 performances. The cast included Dorothy Loudon, Myrna Loy, Alexis Smith, Kim Hunter, Rhonda Fleming, Jan Miner, Camila Ashland, and Cynthia Lister as Little Mary Haines. Other productions have starred Gloria Swanson and Elaine Stritch.

2001 revival

After 32 previews, a second revival directed by Scott Elliott opened on November 8, 2001 at the American Airlines Theatre, where it ran for 77 performances. The cast included Kristen Johnston, Rue McClanahan, Cynthia Nixon, Jennifer Coolidge, Jennifer Tilly, Heather Matarazzo, and Hallie Kate Eisenberg. Fashion guru Isaac Mizrahi won a Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Costume Design, and Coolidge was nominated as Outstanding Featured Actress in a Play. This production was also filmed for the PBS series Stage On Screen. The television broadcast premiere took place on June 8, 2002.

Film versions

The 1939 film version was directed by George Cukor and starred Norma Shearer and Joan Crawford. Supporting cast included Rosalind Russell, Paulette Goddard, Joan Fontaine and Mary Boland. In 1956, the story was made into a musical film titled The Opposite Sex, starring June Allyson and Joan Collins. Diane English directed and co-wrote a long-in-development contemporary remake of the film, starring Jada Pinkett Smith, Meg Ryan, Eva Mendes and Annette Bening, which was released in 2008.

Television adaptation

On February 7, 1955, the NBC anthology drama series Producers' Showcase broadcast an adaptation of the play.[3] Paulette Goddard and Mary Boland, who had each appeared in the 1939 film, also appeared in this production, as Sylvia Fowler and the Countess, respectively. Shelley Winters played the part of Crystal Allen,[4] while Mary Astor portrayed Nancy Blake and Bibi Osterwald was Edith Potter.


  1. ^ "The Women". Internet Broadway Database. Retrieved 21 September 2013. 
  2. ^ Goldstein, Malcolm (2007). "The Women". The Columbia Encyclopedia of Modern Drama, Volume 2. Columbia University Press. p. 1489. ISBN 978-0-231-14032-4. 
  3. ^ Producers' Showcase: "The Women"
  4. ^ Life, February 28, 1955.

External links