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When Ladies Meet
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MGM. 105 minutes.
US release: 8/29/41.
VHS release: 6/24/92. Warner Archive DVD release: 3/23/09.
Cast: Joan Crawford (as "Mary Howard"), Robert Taylor, Greer Garson, Herbert Marshall, Spring Byington, Rafael Strom, Florence Shirley, Leslie Francis, Olaf Hyten, Mona Barrie.
Credits: Based on the play by Rachel Crothers. Screenplay: S.K. Lauren, Anita Loos. Producers: Robert Z. Leonard, Orville O. Dull. Director: Robert Z. Leonard. Camera: Robert Planck. Art Director: Cedric Gibbons. Music: Bronislau Kaper. Costumes: Adrian. Editor: Robert Kern.
Plot Summary: Strange Skirts is the TV title of the 1941 MGM film When Ladies Meet. The film was a remake of a 1933 production of the same name, which starred Ann Harding, Myrna Loy and Spring Byington; their roles were taken over in the remake by Greer Garson, Joan Crawford and Spring Byington. Both films are based on a Rachel Crothers play about a lady novelist who falls in love with a married publisher. The novelist (Crawford) meets the publisher's wife (Garson) at the home of a chatterbox society matron (Byington). The fact that the 1941 version was forced to undergo the censor's scissors to a greater extent than the 1933 film was compensated by the later version's lusher production values, which earned an Academy Award nomination for MGM art director Cedric Gibbons and Randall Duell. Under both its original title When Ladies Meet and its TV-dictated cognomen Strange Skirts, this dated but enjoyable film has become a "standard" on the various cable TV services of Ted Turner. ~ Hal Erickson, All Movie Guide
Awards: 1942 Oscar nomination for Best Art Direction: Interior Decoration, Black-and-White: Cedric Gibbons, Randall Duell, Edwin B. Willis.
• The film was in production from 6/23/41 to 8/11/41.
• Crothers' play opened 10/6/32 at the Royale Theatre in NYC and closed 3/4/33 after 173 performances.
• Spring Byington appeared in both the play and the movie.
• An earlier version of the film was released in 1933, with Myrna Loy, Frank Morgan, Robert Montgomery, and Ann Harding.
Bosley Crowther in the New York Times
September 5, 1941
The easiest way in the world to kill a romance or a motion picture is to talk it to death. And that fact is eminently proved by the Capitol's latest tenant, "When Ladies Meet," which hangs on grimly and desperately for a couple of fairly amusing reels and then expires pitifully and painfully in a smother of pompous words. Why Metro ever presumed to resurrect this Hoover-vintage comedy from its archives dated 1933—to repeat on the job which Ann Harding, Myrna Loy, Robert Montgomery and Alice Brady performed away back when—is hard to understand. For the whole spirit of the story—the creation of silly, artificial folk who reside in luxurious isolation and spout Rachel Crothers's boudoir philosophy—is as far from the world of today as Mars. No, not Mars; Venus, say.
The story, you may remember, is that of a successful lady novelist who is adored by a breezy young journalist but yearns for her publisher instead—yearns, that is, until she meets the publisher's beautiful wife and discovers that you can't just take another woman's mate as casually as you would take a new fur wrap, let's say. In brief, the whole thing is resolved in a wordy heart-to-heart between the two girls, after which, for reasons very vague, the novelist goes back to the newspaper chap. And that is all there is. Literally, the bulk of the action consists of people walking from room to room in a Sutton Place apartment and a renovated Connecticut house, walking, stopping, then walking, and talking all the time. It might just as well have been played in an interior decorator's window.
In this loquacious trifle, Joan Crawford plays the lady novelist with impressive but unaffecting intensity, robed in the most spectacular gowns. Robert Taylor does all right—in fact, he does surprisingly well—as the bouncing newspaper writer whose job and whose ardor are conveniently vague. Greer Garson is lovely and sincere in the thankless role of the publisher's wife, even though the cameraman has played some mean tricks on her; and Herbert Marshall, as the publisher, is his usual sad-faced self. Spring Byington gives to the picture most of the humor it has as a silly and tactless lady whose chief complaint seems to be that she is treated by most women who know anything as though she didn't. Get it? Good. That's a sample of the wit.
Howard Barnes in the New York Herald Tribune (1941)
Joan Crawford...as the novelist, who tries to be very civilized about breaking up a marriage, fusses about her terrace apartment or postures in striking gowns, with little more to do than talk about true love or problems of writing. Even when she wears spectacles, she is not particularly convincing in the part.
If you've seen When Ladies Meet and would like to share your review here, please e-mail me. Include, if you like, a picture of yourself to accompany your review, as well as a star-rating (with 5 stars the best) and any of your favorite lines from the film.
Michael Lia (January 2010)
Rating: -1/2 of 5
We all have painful stretches in our lives where we are stuck and trying soulfully to get out and be somewhere else, doing what we want to do and doing it well, or whatever the hell. But no... you have to do a few of these horrible things before you can achieve your goals and be happy. (Wasn’t horrible enough?) I do not know who or what dictates some chapters in our lives, but sometimes they are rotten and unpredictable. At least Joan was lucky enough to never have co-starred with Lassie, like Jeanette McDonald did. (Whew!!)
Such is Miss Crawford’s predicament in When Ladies Meet -- the predicament of the entire cast for that matter, EXCEPT for .
Mr. Mayer and the cast may have had good intentions, but the writers could appease no one and no body, no way. Forget the script -- sorry Anita, this time you bombed out with someone else’s stuff; the twist she tries on the dialogue sparkles at times, but ,combined with the superficial acting, I can watch this movie while mowing my lawn.
I hate to say it, but it is the gowns that steal the show. Miss Crawford’s wardrobe by Adrian is the height of '40s chic and plays a major role in this movie. At least your eyes are entertained and it has some interest for the viewer.
I relish Robert Taylor; he is enjoyable and gives some life to the situations at hand. I can be intrigued with Herbert Marshall any day of the week in any film (except for The Caretakers, 1963)! Miss can grace me a few times in a few films and that’s all she does. It is sublime casting here with Miss Crawford and a bit of a cinematic novelty, but Garson is no Garbo or Shearer. I seem to yawn and I want to go back to Spring Byington’s fabulous house and hang out with her and Walter and have some fun! Byington is a joy to watch, and I love to see one of Hollywood ’s best character actresses fluttering around the room with Miss Crawford standing by. She gives an outstanding performance, and because the rest of the film is so dull, you are waiting for her to come back in the room and chirp a few lines. Thanks Spring!
The only thing Miss Crawford can look forward to is her next film with John Wayne and Phillip Dorn. The agony of it all!
Above: US lobby cards.
Below: Italian lobby
Above: Spanish herald.
Above: Window card from Indiana, USA.
Above: MGM publicity card.
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