This week’s mystery movie was the 1956 MGM picture “The Opposite Sex,” with June Allyson, Joan Collins, Dolores Gray, Ann Sheridan, Ann Miller, Leslie Nielsen, Jeff Richards, Agnes Moorehead, Charlotte Greenwood, Joan Blondell, Sam Levene, Harry James, Art Mooney, Dick Shawn, Jim Backus, Bill Goodwin, Alice Pearce, Barbara Jo Allen, Sandy Descher and Carolyn Jones. (Yes, Endora and Morticia!)
Screenplay by Fay and Michael Kanin, adapted from a play (“The Women”) by Clare Boothe. New songs by Nicholas Brodszky and Sammy Cahn, musical supervision by George Stoll, dances and musical numbers by Robert Sidney, orchestrations by Albert Sendrey and Skip Martin, vocal supervision by Robert Tucker, music coordinator Irving Aaronson.
Photography by Robert Brenner, art direction by Cedric Gibbons and Daniel B. Cathcart, set decorations by Edwin B. Willis and Henry Grace, special effects by A. Arnold Gillespie and Warren Newcombe, assistant director George Rhein, color consultant Charles K. Hagedon. Costumes by Helen Rose, editing by John McSweeney Jr. recording supervisor Dr. Wesley O. Miller, hairstyles by Sydney Guilaroff, makeup by William Tuttle.
Produced by Joe Pasternak. Directed by David Miller.
In CinemaScope and MetroColor.
“The Opposite Sex” is available on DVD from Warner Archive.
Writing in the New York Times (Nov. 16, 1956), Bosley Crowther said:
Although Clare Boothe’s “the Women” was staged about twenty years ago and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer filmed it in 1939, it has aged gracefully, to judge by “The Opposite Sex,” the remake that arrived at the Capitol yesterday.
Most of Miss Boothe’s comedy-drama still drips vitriol, and the fangs and claws of its decorative vixens are almost as terrifying as they were two decades ago. The venomous mixture of deadly females vs. deadlier females, sharp dialogue and songs is a surface inspection of Manhattan society rather than the deep dissection it once was. One might not want to live in this plush “jungle” but the principals, who keep the catfights going briskly, make it an interesting place to visit.
Although some aspects of the original investigation of the well-endowed Park Avenue-Broadway echelon have changed, “The Women” basically is still the story of “the jaded, frenetic women” whose meat is gossip and whose wine is divorce talk.
I picked “The Opposite Sex” primarily for Dolores Gray, who only has 10 movie credits on IMDB (and lots more television). It was an opulent, big-budget production intended to compete with films’ upstart rival, television. The musical numbers are elaborately choreographed. The sets and costumes are excellent, the photography is top-notch. MGM poured buckets of money into this film.
But. There is also much to dislike about this movie. It’s an extremely repulsive 1950s portrayal of women as:
… obsessed with diamonds …
… and furs …
The women of “The Opposite Sex” love, love, love shopping! All elegantly dressed, but they still need the latest outfits.
Oh, and of course the women of “the Opposite Sex” are terrible drivers.
They have nothing to do while their rich, powerful husbands attend to business but laze around the beauty parlor, gossip and worry about their weight as they do lunch. Oh yes, and worry and gossip who might be trying to steal someone’s rich, powerful husband, etc.
If you’re looking for a 1950s portrayal of women as snarky, scheming, shopaholic trophy wives, “The Opposite Sex” is a pretty much a classic.
Here’s a better shot of June Allyson in one of the production numbers.
Here’s a better shot of the painfully beautiful Joan Collins as the sultry homewrecker Crystal Allen.
… and a mirror shot of June Allyson.
And here’s Joan Blondell. Mrs. Dick Powell (1936-1944) and Mrs. Dick Powell (1945-1963) had very few scenes together.
For Monday, we have a mystery gent.
Update: This is Jerry Antes in a long production number about bananas that produces nausea in Joan Blondell (Blondell was about 50 at this point but her character is supposed to be pregnant).
For Tuesday, we have a mystery woman.
Update: This is Alice Pearce.
Brain Trust roll call: Howard Mandelbaum (mystery movie and Monday’s mystery dancer) and Jim Warren (mystery movie).
For Wednesday, we have a mystery girl.
Update: This is Sandy Descher.
Brain Trust roll call: Eve (mystery movie and Monday’s mystery dancer), Tucson Barbara (mystery movie and both mystery guests), Anne Papineau (mystery movie and Tuesday’s mystery manicurist), Howard Mandelbaum (Tuesday’s mystery manicurist), Gary (mystery movie and Tuesday’s mystery manicurist), Jenny M. (mystery movie and Tuesday’s mystery manicurist), Candace R. Copley (Tuesday’s mystery manicurist), Sylvia E. (mystery movie and both mystery guests), Bruce Reznick (Tuesday’s mystery manicurist) and L.C. (mystery movie and mystery cast).
For Thursday, we have a mystery gent who is being hypnotized by an entirely unmysterious fellow.
Update: This is Dick Shawn and Jim Backus.
Also for Thursday, our mystery manicurist has a mysterious client. She is extremely curious about such goings-on.
Update: This is Dolores Gray and Alice Pearce.
Brain Trust roll call: Tucson Barbara (Wednesday’s mystery girl), Sarah (Wednesday’s mystery girl), Don Danard (Wednesday’s mystery girl), Gary (Monday’s mystery dancer and Wednesday’s mystery girl), Howard Mandelbaum (Wednesday’s mystery girl), David Inman (mystery movie and Wednesday’s mystery girl), Sue Slutzky (mystery movie and all mystery guests), Sylvia E. (Wednesday’s mystery girl), Jenny M. (Wednesday’s mystery girl) and Anne Papineau (Wednesday’s mystery girl).
Our mystery movie has a large cast. Here’s a car full of mystery guests!
Update: June Allyson, Ann Miller, Agnes Moorehead and Jeff Richards.
And we also have this mysterious lady…
Update: This is Ann Sheridan.
So many mystery guests! Good thing our mystery movie is in CinemaScope, no?
Update: Dolores Gray, Leslie Nielsen in a rare role as a romantic leading man, Joan Collins, Jonathan Hole and Joan Blondell.
How did you get in here?
Update: Joan Collins and the late Robert Osborne introduce “The Opposite Sex” on TCM in 2015 when Collins was guest programmer. (She talks about turning down a date with Jack Nicholson). The full lineup is here.
Brain Trust roll call: Tucson Barbara (Thursday’s mystery guests), Jenny M. (Thursday’s mystery guests), Anne Papineau (Monday’s and Thursday’s mystery guests), Sylvia E. (Thursday’s mystery guests plus BOTHW and non-mysterious psychotherapist) and Sue Slutzky (Thursday’s mystery guests).