|WHEN LADIES MEET (1941)|
|"Death isn't nature's biggest mistake. Falling in love is."|
|Time: 105 mins.|
Rating: Not Rated
Academy Award Nominations for Best Art Direction.
SYNOPSIS: A forward-thinking female novelist Minnie (Crawford) falls in love with her married publisher, Rogers Woodruff (Marshall) and doesn't know her new friend Claire (Garson) is his loving wife. The discovery of Claire's true identity shatters her ideas about men who cheat and forces her to confront her actions.
BOTTOM LINE: A very adult and sophisticated tale whose ideas about relationships will not come as much of a shock. Mainly because the dynamics of love, though clearly way more obvious and open these days, really hasn't changed much over the decades. Men still want both the solid love and devotion of their wives and the illicit thrill of being with their mistress. In this instance, the dull and respectable Woodruff doesn't have to choose because the "modern" Minnie claims she is perfectly happy with their arrangement. She further deludes herself into believing that the main reason he fell in love with her is because he no longer loves his supposedly boring wife. She wants to end her latest novel by having the women meet and politely split up the spoils. Why would a wife want to continue in a dead marriage? Rogers is horrified at this turn of events and attempts to persuade her the book would be a disaster if it had a happy ending for a homewrecker. What she quickly comes to realize thanks to a big shove by her want-to-be boyfriend played by Taylor is that her ideas couldn't be more off the mark.
The meeting between Crawford and Garson, as mistress and wife, crackles with wit, honesty and intelligence. These two women were both at the height of their acting prowess and physical beauty and their confrontation is well worth the wait. Initially, neither of Minnie nor Claire is aware that they're both in love with the same man. Once Minnie realizes who this lovely, vibrant, interesting woman is her whole idealogical house of cards collapses. He's not trapped, but right where he wants to be in the arms of two wonderful women who adore him. Why either of them would be with Rogers to begin with is the film's biggest mystery/flaw. He's a total pompous dud. The final act where he loses the hearts of both ladies goes along as expected, though the anger and heartbreak are truly felt due to both the writing and acting. That Minnie winds up with Robert Taylor is not only unbelievable, but quite a slap in the face to poor Clare, who did nothing wrong and winds up alone. Granted, there's no way you want her to stay with her husband, yet it's still a hard pill to swallow. That the bad girl wins is pretty rare for a Hollywood film of the this era. Only Crawford could have pulled this part off with some dignity and class left in tact at the end. An early chick flick with real depth of ideas and character, that falters when its's focus leaves the women for the men.