Classic Film Guide

Opposite Sex, The (1956) - full review!

Directed by David Miller, with a screenplay by Fay and Michael Kanin (Woman of the Year (1942)) that was based on the play by Clare Boothe (Come to the Stable (1949)), this colorful Musical remake of The Women (1939) also adds men to the cast, and unfortunately lacks the impact of the original. What was wonderfully caustic dialogue in the first adaptation devolves into something a bit more tame which features an overlong "cat fight". The casting is all at once inspired (Joan Collins, Ann Sheridan, and Charlotte Greenwood), disappointing (June Allyson and Leslie Nielsen), curious (Joan Blondell), and merely adequate, or wasted (Dolores Gray, Ann Miller, Jeff Richards, Agnes Moorehead, Blondell, and Sam Levene). Among those also appearing are Dick Shawn, as himself, performing with Jim Backus in a stage show, and Dean Jones & Juanita Moore (uncredited) as backstage personnel. Trumpeter Harry James appears in a flashback sequence that tells how the film's principal couple met. The Sammy Cahn-Nicholas Brodszky songs are nothing special.

Allyson plays former singer Kay Hilliard, who finds out her producer husband Steve (Nielsen) had an affair with one of the chorus girls, Crystal Allen (Crawford), in his show through the beauty parlor grapevine. One of her gossiping 'friends', Sylvia Fowler (Gray), couldn't wait for Kay to find out. Another, Edith Potter (Blondell), appears to be the only one happily married; seems she's always pregnant! Confirmed bachelorette Amanda Penrose (Sheridan) is Kay's only true friend. From Steve's perspective, his unfaithfulness was a one night stand mistake, but Crystal is a man-eater who wants what she doesn't have. Kay plays him right into the chorus girl's hands when, after learning of an incident involving their eight year old daughter Debbie (Sandy Descher), pride causes her to leave her husband for (42 days in) Reno and a divorce. Barbara Jo Allen plays Dolly DeHaven, the society columnist that breaks the story and splashes it across the newspapers.

On the train to Reno, Kay meets another first-time would-be divorcée Gloria Dell (Miller) and serial chew ‘em up and spit ‘em out Countess D’Brion (Moorehead). Lucy (Greenwood) runs the ranch where the ladies stay in Nevada; Buck Winston (Richards) is the womanizing ranch hand that preys on these newly unattached women. Soon, Sylvia shows up at the ranch and finds that, coincidentally, her husband is leaving her for Gloria; the aforementioned prolonged cat fight ensues. Once Kay's divorce is final, Amanda arrives to give her an update on Steve, and some sage advice, but it takes a while for her to heed it. All the ladies return to New York, Sylvia with Buck on the hook; she plans to fund his singing aspirations. The two of them become social friends with Steve and the new Mrs. Hilliard, Crystal. Meanwhile, Kay's former agent Mike Pearl (Levene), finds her work as a singer once again; she'd been retired 10 years while married.

When lovelorn Kay learns from her daughter that her husband's second marriage is less than ideal, that Crystal is fooling around behind his back with Buck, she takes action, utilizing Dolly to her advantage, so that the predictable reconciliation (and happy ending) can take place before the film's end.

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