“The Women”–sparkling,witty–and how I discovered Rosalind Russell

Rosalind Russell
Rosalind Russell in “The Women”

“Mrs. Fowler, you’ve got the high-sterics!” Marjorie Main’s character Lucy cries as she drags Sylvia Fowler, played by Rosalind Russell, away from the scene Sylvia’s just made a mess of. This is one of a multitude of amusing exchanges that I can always easily recall from the movie “The Women.” Rosalind’s character was so unbelievably entertaining, so irrepressibly insane, it is just about impossible not to notice her. She stands out as she pushes her weight around, surrounded by the biggest film stars of the day, notably Norma Shearer and Joan Crawford. And the fact that Rosalind got billed just after these two great stars was probably a feat in itself in Roz’s mind. I, for one, am very grateful for this movie and for this role. Without it, I may not have ever noticed her and started watching her filmography, realizing her true potential as an actress.

the women poster
Poster of “The Women”

It was probably in 2008 that I had a birthday for which I received a few movies as gifts. This included a two-pack of the movies Adam’s Rib and The Women. The reason why my mother got me this was because she had The Women confused with Woman of the Year, both starring Katharine Hepburn, who was one of my first classic actress obsessions. After many months of letting The Women collect dust on my DVD shelf, I decided to break it out and watch it, since I head heard good things about it. I popped it into the DVD player. At first, I wasn’t terribly interested because I thought Norma Shearer’s part was rather dull, even though she is the star of the film (first billed anyway). Then I noticed this absolutely crazy Sylvia Fowler who did horribly disloyal things to her so-called friends, spreading fake gossip about them, and yet staying so funny, she was loveable. I have a clear memory of just seeing the scene where she confronts Miriam Aarons, played by Paulette Goddard (also ridiculously funny), and they engage in a catfight. In the end, Sylvia bit Miriam on the leg in retaliation, which is the part I clearly remember… I mean, who does that?! Sylvia Prowler (okay, Fowler), that’s who! In my honest opinion, Roz stole the movie from everyone else because she was such great comic relief. Her big personality, which I came to know through more films and books, really shined in this film for the first time.

the women cast
Joan Fontaine, Florence Nash, Rosalind Russell, Norma Shearer

Now, every time I see this film, whenever Sylvia is not in the scene, I’m saying, “Where’s Sylvia?!” I mean, I truly wouldn’t want her as a friend and certainly not as an enemy, but she is only there to entertain me. And I want to laugh! Not only does she deliver great, funny lines, but she made some fabulously amusing faces. Not to mention there is some great physical comedy in this film, which I have always gravitated to—ever since I Love Lucy became my favorite show when I was 12!

Needless to say, Rosalind was my favorite part of this movie (OBVIOUSLY). And once she stood out in this film to me, there was no stopping me as I started looking for more films of hers and found that she was not only a brilliant comedienne but a wonderful dramatic actress as well. The next movie I saw of hers was Auntie Mame, and once I saw this comic brilliance, Rosalind shot to the top of my list of favorite actresses. And she’s still hanging out at the top spot!

the women collage
collage of Sylvia Fowler of “The Women”

Of course, I recommend The Women to just about everyone who shows even a small interest in classic film. It’s not to be missed. Females tend to enjoy it more than males, but I have known some men who enjoy it, too, as long as they can keep up with the fast dialogue. FACT: Everyone who acted in this film was indeed a female, even the animals!

Now that I’ve shared this story, I ask you: What is the first film of Rosalind Russell’s you saw, and did it stand out to you or not?

6 thoughts on ““The Women”–sparkling,witty–and how I discovered Rosalind Russell”

  1. Great post Des! I first tried to watch ‘The Women’ when I was about 9yrs old, but couldn’t keep up with it so didn’t watch the film the whole way through til I was in my teens. I fell in Love with it and I definately agree Roz steals the show. My mum is a big Roz fan, so, ‘The Femimine Touch’ and ‘This Thing Called Love’ where staples of my childhood. I remember that I liked her instantly her down to her goofiness made her feel like an old friend.

    1. You are very lucky to have a mother who is a fan of hers! I didn’t discover her until after I finished high school, but I sure wish I knew about her when I was younger. My children, whenever I have them, will definitely know about her.

  2. Awesome post Des! I remembered when I watched The Women for the first time, I loved it. Like you I didn’t care for Norma because she was rather dull and at times over dramatic..especially at the end. But Roz was hilarious all the way through. My first film I saw of hers though was His Girl Friday when I was 12. It’s my favorite film and she is beyond awesome. I haven’t seen all her films but I think it’s safe to say her role as Hildy will remain my fave!

    1. You have been a fan of His Girl Friday for quite a while. I think that’s very wonderful.

  3. First Rosalind Russell movie I ever saw was His Girl Friday — my parents were always making us sit down and watch the classics. In fact, it was also the first Cary Grant movie I ever saw. What a fantastic introduction to two of the greats!

    I’ve been a fan of Roz’s for decades now.

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