Monday, June 21, 2021

598. THE WOMEN. From my (unpublished) ENCYCLOPEDIA OF THE NEW YORK STAGE, 1970-1975

Dorothy Loudon, Marian Hailey, Myrna Loy, Jan Miner, Kim Hunter, Rhonda Fleming, Mary Louise Wilson. (Photos: Friedmnn-Abeles.)

Jan Miner, Rhonda Fleming, Marian Hailey, Kim Hunter, Alexis Smith.
THE WOMEN [Dramatic Revival] A: Clare Booth Luce; D: Morton DaCosta; S: Oliver Smith; C: Ann Roth; L: John Gleason; P: Jeremy Ritzer and Joel Key Rice i/a/w John W. Merriam and Milton Moss; T: Forty-sixth Street Theatre; 4/25/73-6/17/73 (63)

Myrna Loy, Leora Dana, Elizabeth Perry. 

Clare Booth Luce’s 1936 smash hit, about a bevy of bitching Park Avenue beauties, was greeted mildly as a piece of camp nostalgia for its period costumes, décor, and wisecracks. Its episodic, soap-operaish plot and glamorous characters were now too clichéd and familiar, and its one-time ribald peek at what women say in the privacy of other women seemed anti-feminist in a decade immured in the rhetoric of Women’s Lib. Lifelike and laugh-provoking only sporadically, The Women served chiefly to offer an assembly of flashy, well-dressed roles for a number of one-time stage and screen stars.
Dorothy Loudon, Marian Hailey.

Morton DaCosta’s direction and the sets and costumes, respectively, of Oliver Smith and Ann Roth (still at today!), captured the mid-30s ambience with accuracy and spirit. The many scene changes were smoothly accompanied by period pop music. Actresses picked out by most reviewers for were Alexis Smith as Sylvia, Kim Hunter as Mary, Dorothy Loudon as Edith, Jan Miner as the Countess De Lage, and Mary Louise Wilson as Nancy. Others in the very large cast, which required doubling from several actresses, included former movie icons Myrna Loy, as Mrs. Morehead, and Rhonda Fleming, as Miriam Aarons. 

Rhonda Fleming, Jan Miner, Alexis Smith.

Of the play itself, Walter Kerr’s remark is representative: “Hail, and so far as I am concerned, farewell.”

Polly Rowles, Jan Miner.

The entire cast, it should be noted, received the Outer Critics Circle Award.

Myrna Loy, Kim Hunter.

Do you enjoy Theatre’s Leiter Side? As you may know, since New York’s theatres were forced into hibernation by Covid-19, this blog has provided daily posts on the hundreds of shows that opened in the city, Off and on Broadway, between 1970 and 1975. These have been drawn from an unpublished manuscript that would have been part of my multivolume Encyclopedia of the New York Stage series, which covers every show, of every type, from 1920 through 1950. Unfortunately, the publisher, Greenwood Press, decided it was too expensive to continue the project beyond 1950.

Before I began offering these 1970-1975 entries, however, Theatre’s Leiter Side posted over 1,600 of my actual reviews for shows from 2012 through 2020. The first two years of that experience were published in separate volumes for 2012-2013 and 2013-2014 (the latter split into two volumes). The 2012-2013 edition also includes a memoir in which I describe how, when I was 72, I used the opportunity of suddenly being granted free access to every New York show to begin writing reviews of everything I saw. Interested readers can find these collections on by clicking here.