Women, The (1949): Fashion Show in Color in Cukor’s Cult Comedy

Cukor’s dealings with producer Stromberg were not uniformly positive. Cukor had to compromise his vision, in accordance with MGM’s notions of how to please an audience. Cukor emphasized the satirical elements of the characters. With the exception of Mary, Shearer’s straight, humorless lady, none of the women seem to mind how awful she is–which is why the comedy has aged well. But MGM wished to stress the happy ending, which was meant to assure audiences that a nice woman can always keep her husband.

Cukor also lost the battle with Stromberg over the fashion show scene, which had nothing to do with the film but was inserted to make the picture more exciting. Imposed by the front office, this color sequence reflected Stromberg’s silly wish to give the public something extra-special. This sequence wasn’t very good, and what’s more, it made the black and white footage that followed look bad.

For his research, Cukor went to a real fashion show, but he realized that the nuances were difficult to duplicate on screen. Regrettably, color was such a novelty in 1939 that this sequence received considerable attention. But it was too long, about five minutes, and halted the narrative’s dramatic progress.