Thursday, June 29, 2017


 Originally shown in 1939, screenwriters Anita Loos and Jane Murfin had to rewrite it to make the Broadway Play that was such a success for Clare Boothe (Clare Boothe Luce), to be acceptable to the American public.  Though dealing with the serious subject (especially for 1939, pre World War II) of divorce, Mistresses, and mothering, it was called a comedy.  Maybe the cat fight was funny.  It's in black and white - except for a rather exciting fashion show in color.  Besides the female playwright and female screenwriters, this one has an all female cast - and it's proto feminist though perhaps no one involved would have labeled themselves that way.  Joan Crawford, Rosalind Russell, and a number of other famous female stars worked ensemble.

Norma Shearer acts as Mary Haines, one of a group of Park Avenue princesses whose husband gets himself a Mistress, almost predictably, a poorer woman who has to work as a sales clerk at a store, is beautiful and quite certain he prefers her.  The Haines have one daughter, about 8, suggesting that the seven year itch has begun.  Mary is athletic, a good mother whose daughter also rides horses.  Also stereotypically, she's the last to know her husband has a Mistress, though all her girlfriends do through the gossip of their manicurist.  The Park Avenue Princess lifestyle is about fashion shows, day spas, personal trainers and upkeep, and they all want to remain married.  Mary's own mother counsels her to pretend it's not happening - just as she once did with Mary's father.  The men will be men ethos (that so many women subscribe to today) and the belief in divorce as ruining a reputation may keep the marriage intact. 

Remarkably again for the times, Mary decides her pride and independence is more important.  Progressive for her set, she decides to take the train to Reno for a quick divorce, after meeting her husband's mistress at a courtier's house where both women are buying lots of clothes that he will pay for.

In Reno there is another cast of characters, women who are also getting divorces; a wealthy woman on her fourth, and a married woman who is divorcing so she can marry another of the woman's husbands.  Instead of being a lone woman who is divorcing, here is a bunch of husband snatchers. There's the pregnant woman who is overjoyed to be wanted back and doesn't go through with it.  But Mary does.

Two years later her husband wants her back.  He sees that his Mistress does not make a good mother for their daughter.  Predictably, Mary wants him back too.  It's her motherhood that makes it so.

C 2017 Film Review Mistress Manifesto BlogSpot.

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