Gossip with The Women

1939’s The Women bestowed a wealth of gloriously iconic dialogue and imagery on the world. Rosalind Russell’s “Seeing Eye” Blouse designed by Adrian, Rosalind and Phyllis Povah landing heads-first into a passing department store cart and my personal favorite: “Jungle red!”

But there is one disconcerting aspect of the film I could never find an explanation for…until now. The poodle-like hairstyles. Every woman in the production (except the blissfully spared Paulette Goddard) sports an unbecoming mass of tightly woven curls on her head. If any of the ladies had long hair at the time, it’s well disguised and contained with the most permanent of waves ever to grace a screen.

Well, it seems at least one of the ladies has a practical reason for her poodle curls, according to the gossip column of Silver Screen’s August 1939 issue:

Joan had every right to be “horrified” if you ask me. Even the masterful snips and curls of Sidney Guilaroff couldn’t transform her botched perm into an acceptable hairstyle. I can’t help wondering if the rest of the ladies’ hair was styled to match Joan’s just so her chopped locks would not stand out. And then I started wondering why Paulette Goddard sported soft shoulder length tresses while the others went for the chop? My only explanation is that it really paid to be married to Charlie Chaplin!

The same column leaked a tidbit about Adrian’s shocking fashions, too. If those clothes in the fashion show sequence are still fascinating and slightly odd to this day, imagine what movie-goers thought of them at the time. No wonder Silver Screen attempted to prepare everyone:

Joan is seriously displeased with the new do.

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10 Comments

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10 responses to “Gossip with The Women

  1. Wow! Fascinating finds. Love the bit about “surrealism and Adrian go on the rampage”!
    I’ve always been put off by Joan’s unbecomingy hair in the movie, but I like all the other ladies’ dos, though.

  2. I rather like the word ‘unbecomingy’ and I’m tempted to pretend I intended to write it, but no, obviously I meant ‘unbecoming’.

  3. I think Norma Shearer’s hair is the worst in the movie, but I completely agree that Joan’s is non too flattering.

  4. Hi Matthew!
    Isn’t it fun to have a glimpse into the past this way? Joan’s hair always bothers me to no end, so I’m happy to see I’m not alone in this thought! And you have permission to drop by and invent words here any time you like. :)

  5. Audrey – Ugh, Norma’s hair is dreadful. Especially compared to the chic, sleek do she had in the early 30s – all finger waves and pomade. I’ve thought many a time of getting my hair cut really short like hers so I could try it!

  6. Very amusing read! ;)

  7. Great research! This is a wonderful post.

    I know you don’t like Norma’s hairstyle, in fact I don’t like it either, but she wore it that way through the late 1930s and it got even worse in the 1940s. I wouldn’t attribute it to this film per say (although I understand you are talking about Joan Crawford in particular in this post). I always refer to her hair as Helmet Head. It used to be much longer in her silent films then shorter in her pre-codes but much more pleasing to the eye. She just went a little crazy with it when she got older.

  8. I’m so happy you like it, Raquelle! Ha, Helmet Head! That is the PERFECT description of Norma’s hair during this time. I agree, her hair during the pre-code days was the best. I wish there was some explanation for why she abandoned the good do in favor of the unflattering curls.

    Thanks so much for your comment!

    ~c

  9. Pingback: Learn Glamour from the Stars: The Women | The Glamorous Housewife

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