Thursday, April 20, 2017

Tonight's Movie: Woman Against Woman (1938) - A Warner Archive DVD Review

Mary Astor and Virginia Bruce square off over Herbert Marshall in WOMAN AGAINST WOMAN (1938), newly available on DVD from the Warner Archive.

Just a few days ago I saw Astor as the wronged wife in the Warner Archive release SMART WOMAN (1931). In WOMAN AGAINST WOMAN, she's also abandoned by her husband, but instead of the devoted wife she played in the earlier film, this time around she's a nasty manipulator -- and wonderfully entertaining!

I saw this film almost seven years ago and enjoyed it as much or more the second time around. It's a breezy 61 minutes in which Herbert Marshall's attorney, Stephen Holland, walks out on his bossy, belittling wife Cynthia (Astor); soon thereafter he finds love with with sweet Maris (Bruce).

Stephen and Maris wed after a quick courtship and are very happy, but Cynthia constantly uses little daughter Ellen (Juanita Quigley) to manipulate both Stephen and his mother (Janet Beecher). Maris also finds it difficult fitting into Stephen's small-town social circle, especially as Cynthia is given to creating scenes to drum up sympathy from mutual friends. Can this marriage survive?

This very short movie could have stood being another ten minutes or so longer, but what's there is highly entertaining soap opera, with strong performances by the three leads.

From film to film Astor had the remarkable ability to swing from highly sympathetic characters to awful women you almost want to smack, and she plays the latter type of character here. Bruce is believable as the long-suffering Maris; I'd put up with a lot for Herbert Marshall too!

There's also terrific comic relief by Marjorie Rambeau as a society matron constantly reacting to the goings-on with Stephen and the women in his life. Beecher offers strong support as Maris's mother-in-law, who's initially in Cynthia's camp but is ultimately fair to Maris as well.

Juanita Quigley is cute as the little girl Cynthia uses as a tool to control her ex-husband. Quigley was born in 1931 and according to IMDb is still with us today.

The supporting cast includes Zeffie Tilbury, Sarah Padden, Morgan Wallace, Dorothy Christy, Joseph Crehan, Marie Blake, and Betty Ross Clarke.

This film was directed by Robert B. Sinclair and filmed in black and white by Ray June.

The print has a few random scratches but on the whole looks very good. The trailer is included on the DVD.

WOMAN AGAINST WOMAN is polished MGM fun. Fans of the cast will want to check it out.

Thanks to the Warner Archive for providing a review copy of this DVD. Warner Archive releases are MOD (manufactured on demand) and may be ordered from the Warner Archive Collection at the WBShop or from any online retailers where DVDS and Blu-rays are sold.

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