The Women: Was this a timeless tableau of evil?

Women are forced to learn jungle warfare in order to survive. Author tells all!

Frank Morris

When the curtain came down on the first performance of The Women in 1936 the author, Clare Booth Luce, realised that her comedy about divorce, cattiness and unbridled bitchiness had all the ingredients “to pack a theatre forever”.

Not withstanding the fact that the play’s comedy produced a laugh every thirty seconds, Luce knew that she had written a play that was highly commercial without having to try.

In his biography of Luce, Wilfred Sheed writes: “What was on Clare’s mind was on the audience’s too: the rich bitches on stage were playing their sisters.

“Everyone who had ever stolen a man, or had one stolen, was in there.

“What may well have begun as a satire on certain types (of women) had ended as a timeless tableau of evil.”

Fairytale, but hell itself!
One of the play’s typical ‘why-that’s-me’ characters, a basically good woman, “is forced to learn jungle warfare in order to survive.”

According to Sheed, Luce made all her characters heartless – a comedy convention from Aristophanes through Wilde.

“Clare simply had too much conviction,” writes Sheed.  “Her heartlessness rang a bell.  The beauty parlour and jewellery counter were not some….fairytale, but hell itself.”

Some years later, Luce went to unusual lengths to distance herself from “her bitches”.  She said she’d come to detest them and defined them as “a small predatory class”.
Those around Luce, critics and friends alike, thought The Women a parody of her own “type”.

A critical success
Writes Sheed: “Clare was a celebrity at large…one of the ten most – and least – admired women (in America).  She was also considered glamorous which was a bad thing in social America.”

Clare Booth Luce, playwright of social satire and public official, had always been well connected.  Even before she married Time-Life publisher, Henry Luce, in 1935.

She was associated editor of Vogue in 1930, and managing editor of Vanity Fair from 1930 to 1934.

In 1938, following the resounding critical success of The Women, which ran for 657 performances on Broadway, Luce backed up with a satire on American life, Kiss the Boys Goodbye; and Margin for error, an anti-Nazi play, in 1939.

The Opposite Sex … brittle

All three plays were adapted for films, the most successful of which was The Women.  Directed by George Cukor in 1939, the all-female cast included Norma Shearer, Rosalind Russell, Paulette Goddard, Joan Fontaine, Hedda Hopper and Joan Crawford in one of her best roles as the bitchy Crystal Allen.

It re-appeared as a musical in 1956 called The Opposite Sex, starring, among others, Joan Collins, Ann Sheridan, June Allyson and Agnes Moorehead.

The critic, Leonard Maltin describes it as “a well-heeled musical with a stellar cast…but it pales next to the brittle original.

Luce, who died in 1988, served in the US House of Representatives from 1943 to 1947.  In 1953 President Eisenhower appointed to Italy; she resigned three years later due to ill health.

In 1959 she was appointed ambassador of Brazil by Eisenhower. But after a month of criticism and controversy, she decided to “step down”.

[In 1988 Frank Morris was asked to write on aspect of Clare Booth Luce extraordinary life. He picked The Women.]


1894: The Magneto Wallset. England was celebrating two great construction achievements in this year: the Manchester Ship Canal was opened; and The London landmark destined to become something of a symbol of the city, the Tower Bridge. In Australia, the public imagination was being captured by the experiment of one of our country’s most notable aeronautic pioneers, Lawrence Hargrave. Earlier, his development of a rotary aeroplane engine was regarded as something of importance. On November 12, 1894, at Stanwell Park, NSW, four box kites lifted him to a height of 16 ft. from the ground. And the first Australian colony to give the vote: South Australia.


Lest We Forget: Dedicated to the thousands of men and women who died in World War 1, this finely crafted collectors’ coin offers a timely reminder of the men and women who fought and gave up their lives. It has been specially produced in commemoration of 100 years since the beginning of war in June 1914. This double-sided coin has the image of a lone soldier and cross in a Flanders poppy field on one side and commemorative text and poppies on the reverse. The coin is produced in brass material with a silver-coloured metal finish. Each coin is supplied in a quality hinged presentation box and is a memento that can be handed down through your family for generations to come. WW1 Commemorative Coin, overseas, 14 pounds 99. Call on:’ or by post: The People’s Friend Remembrance Offer, D.C. Thomson Shop, PO Box 766, Haywards Heath, RH16 9GF.

Health: Hip Surgery – Pain, stiffness may limit your activities – even prevent walking

One of the body’s largest weight bearing joints.

Adapted by Frank Morris

No matter what age you are, a hip problem may keep you from activities that you would enjoy. Pain and stiffness may even limit the daily chores you can do. Problems with the hip joint gradually tend to build up over time.

The hip joint is one of the body’s largest weight bearing joints.

It is a ball-and-socket joint which helps the hip remain stable, even with turning, twisting and other extreme functions in motion. If conservative treatment has not aided your movements, your surgeon will evaluate the hip joint to assess whether surgical treatment may benefit you in the long run.

The femur thigh bone is the bone for the upper portion of the leg. It is the longest, largest and heaviest bone of the body.


The femoral neck supports the femoral head. Its length allows for maximum leverage and rotation.


The femoral head is the top ball-shaped end of the femur. The femoral head fits into the socket of the pelvic bone to form the hip joint. Cartilage on the head will cushion the joint in the socket, allowing for smooth rotation.


This is a ligament which connects the femoral head to the acetabulum.


These are the three strong ligaments to the femoral ligament which are attached the femur bone, which in tur are to the pelvis. They stretch over the joint to bolster and support it.


This cavity in the hip bone forms the socket that holds the femoral head.


A soft part of the hip’s socket. The cartilage allows the joint to rotate.


There are two hip bones that come together to form a girdle at the bottom of the body. This is called the pelvis. It carries and transmits weight from the upper body to the lower limbs in standing or sitting positions. Each hip bone is divided into three sections.

[Adapted from Orthosports.]

2015: For kids (and adults) – Kookaburra Laughs. John Mystery tells the story of why each day you hear the Kookaburras laugh! … The 1913 fashion scene … The Great War: We are getting ready for Galliopoli.

Posted in: Grand Years with Frank Morris at 10 October 14

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