The Women (play)

The Women is a 1936 American play, a comedy of manners by Clare Boothe Luce. It is billed as a commentary on the pampered lives and power struggles of various wealthy Manhattan socialites and up-and-comers and the gossip that propels and damages their relationships. While men frequently are the subject of their lively discussions and play an important role in the action on-stage, they are strictly characters mentioned but never seen.

The Women
First edition
Written byClare Boothe Luce
  • Mary (Mrs. Haines)
  • Crystal Allen
  • Sylvia (Mrs. Fowler)
  • Peggy (Mrs. Day)
  • Nancy Blake
  • Edith (Mrs. Potter)
  • Mrs. Morehead
  • Countess De Lage
Date premieredDecember 26, 1936 (1936-12-26)
Place premieredEthel Barrymore Theatre
GenreComedy of manners
SettingNew York and Reno

The original Broadway production, directed by Robert B. Sinclair, opened on December 26, 1936, at the Ethel Barrymore Theatre, where it ran for 657 performances with an all-female cast that included Margalo Gillmore, Ilka Chase, Betty Lawford, Jessie Busley, Phyllis Povah, Marjorie Main, and Arlene Francis.[1][2]


Following a premiere December 7, 1936, at the Forrest Theatre in Philadelphia,[3] The Women opened December 26, 1936, at the Ethel Barrymore Theatre in New York City. Produced by Max Gordon, the original Broadway theatre production was directed by Robert B. Sinclair with settings by Jo Mielziner and costumes by John Hambleton.[4][5] It was first revived in 1973 held at 46th Street Theatre running from April 25-June 17 with a total of 63 performances under the direction of Morton Da Costa with scenic design by Oliver Smith; costume design by Ann Roth; lighting design by John Gleason; production stage manager Victor Straus; stage manager Nick Malekos and Suzanne Egan; costume supervisor Ray Diffen; press representative Shirley Herz and Stuart Fink.[6] A second revival took place November 8, 2001 held at the American Airlines Theatre and concluded January 13, 2002 with a total of 77 performances under the direction of Scott Elliott with assisting direction by Marie Masters; scenic design by Derek McLane; costume design by Isaac Mizrahi; lighting design by Brian MacDevitt; sound design by Douglas J. Cuomo; hair design by Jeff Francis; wig design by Gary Arave; production stage manager Peter Hanson; stage manager Valerie A. Peterson.[7]


1936 Original Broadway

1973 Revival

  • Camila Ashland – Mrs. Wagstaff / Sadie
  • Caryll Coan – Pedicurist / First Girl / Helene / Girl in Distress
  • Leora Dana – A Fitter / Miss Watts / Second Woman
  • Jeanne DeBaer – Shirley / Princess Tamara / First Girl
  • Doris Dowling – A Nurse
  • Rhonda Fleming – Miriam Aarons
  • Connie Forslund – Second Girl / Mat Girl/ Debutante
  • Marian Hailey – Peggy (Mrs. John Day)
  • Kim Hunter – Mary (Mrs. Stephen Haines)
  • Bobo Lewis – Olga / Dowager
  • Cynthia Lister – Little Mary
  • Myrna Loy – Mrs. Morehead
  • Jan Miner – Countess de Lage
  • Elizabeth Perry – Customer / Miss Trimmerback / Second Girl / Third Model
  • Regina Ress – Jane
  • Polly Rowles – Miss Curtis / Lucy
  • Louise Shaffer – Second Hairdresser / Second Model / Cigarette Girl
  • Alexis Smith – Sylvia (Mrs. Howard Fowler)
  • Lynne Stuart – Mudmask / First Model
  • Claudette Sutherland – First Hairdresser / Exercise Instructress / First Woman
  • Marie Wallace – Crystal Allen
  • Patricia Wheel – Miss Shapiro
  • Mary Louise Wilson – Nancy Blake

2001 Revival

  • Lynn Collins – Miriam Aarons
  • Jennifer Coolidge – Edith (Mrs. Phelps Potter)
  • Hallie Kate Eisenberg – Little Mary
  • Lisa Emery – Nancy Blake
  • Kristen Johnston – Sylvia (Mrs. Howard Fowler)
  • Rue McClanahan – Countess de Lage
  • Cynthia Nixon – Mary (Mrs. Stephen Haines)
  • Amy Ryan – Peggy (Mrs. John Day)
  • Jennifer Tilly – Crystal Allen
  • Mary Louise Wilson – Mrs. Morehead
  • Susan Bruce – Miss Watts / Second Saleswoman / Second Woman
  • Jennifer Butt – Olga / A Fitter / First Girl
  • Jane Cronin – Miss Fordyce
  • Jen Davis – First Model
  • Mary Bond Davis – Maggie
  • Julie Halston – Lucy / Mudmask / First Saleswoman / First Woman
  • Roxanna Hope – Princess Tamara / Second Hairdresser / Helene / Debutante
  • Kelly Mares – Second Model
  • Barbara Marineau – Mrs. Wagstaff / Second Salesgirl / Dowager
  • Heather Matarazzo – Jane
  • Adina Porter – A Nurse / Euphie / Miss Myrtle / Cigarette Girl
  • Gayton Scott – Exercise Instructress / First Hairdress / Second Girl
  • Cheryl Stern – Miss Shapiro / Pedicurist / Sadie
  • Ann Talman – Miss Trimmerback / First Salesgirl / Girl in Distress
Role Production
1936 Broadway 1939 film 1973 Revival 2001 Revival 2008 remake
Sylvia Fowler Ilka Chase Rosalind Russell Alexis Smith Kristen Johnston Annette Bening
Mary Haines Margallo Gillmore Norma Shearer Kim Hunter Cynthia Nixon Meg Ryan
Crystal Allen Betty Lawford Joan Crawford Marie Wallace Jennifer Tilly Eva Mendes
Little Mary Charita Bauer Virginia Weidler Cynthia Lister Hallie Kate Eisenberg N/A
Mrs. Morehead Jessie Busley Lucile Watson Myrna Loy Mary Louis Wilson N/A
Miss Watts Virgilia Chew Ruth Hussey Leora Dana Susan Bruce N/A
Miriam Aarons Audrey Christie Paulette Goddard Rhonda Flemming Lynn Collins N/A
Countess de Lage Margaret Douglas Mary Boland Jan Miner Rue McClanahan N/A
Lucy Marjorie Main also played Lucy in the 1939 film Polly Rowles Julie Halston N/A
Peggy Day Adrienne Marden Joan Fontaine Marian Hailey Amy Ryan N/A
Miss Trimmerback Mary Murray Mary Beth Hughes Elizabeth Perry Ann Talman N/A
Nancy Blake Jane Seymour Florence Nash Mary Louise Wilson Lisa Emery N/A
Jane Ann Teeman Muriel Hutchison Regina Ress Heather Matarazzo N/A
Maggie Mary Cecil N/A N/A Mary Bond Davis Cloris Leachman
Princess Tamara Arlene Francis N/A Jeanne DeBaer Roxanna Hope N/A
Helene Arlene Francis N/A Caryll Coan Roxanne Hope N/A
Mrs. Wagstaff Ethel Jackson N/A Camila Ashland Barbara Marineau N/A
Edith Potter Phyllis Povah N/A Jennifer Coolidge N/A
Sadie Marjorie Wood N/A Camila Ashland Cheryl Stern N/A



The 1939 film version was directed by George Cukor and starred Norma Shearer and Joan Crawford. Supporting cast included Rosalind Russell, Paulette Goddard, Joan Fontaine and Mary Boland. In 1956, the story was made into a musical film titled The Opposite Sex, starring June Allyson and Joan Collins. Diane English directed and co-wrote a long-in-development contemporary remake of the film, starring Jada Pinkett Smith, Meg Ryan, Eva Mendes and Annette Bening, which was released in 2008.


On February 7, 1955, the NBC anthology drama series Producers' Showcase broadcast an adaptation of the play.[8] Paulette Goddard and Mary Boland, who had each appeared in the 1939 film, also appeared in this production, as Sylvia Fowler and the Countess, respectively. Shelley Winters played the part of Crystal Allen,[9] while Mary Astor portrayed Nancy Blake and Bibi Osterwald was Edith Potter.

On June 18, 2002, the PBS anthology theatre series Stage on Screen broadcast a recording of the 2001 Broadway revival.

Awards and nominations

2001 Revival

Year Award Category Nominee Result
2002 Drama Desk Awards Outstanding Featured Actress in a Play Jennifer Coolidge Nominated
Outstanding Set Design in a Play Derek McLane Nominated
Outstanding Costume Design Isaac Mizrahi Won


  1. "The Women". Internet Broadway Database. Retrieved 21 September 2013.
  2. Goldstein, Malcolm (2007). "The Women". The Columbia Encyclopedia of Modern Drama, Volume 2. Columbia University Press. p. 1489. ISBN 978-0-231-14032-4.
  3. "Premiere of 'The Women'". The New York Times. December 8, 1936. Retrieved 2016-09-13.
  4. "'The Women' Start Knitting Tonight at the Ethel Barrymore". The New York Times. December 26, 1936. Retrieved 2016-09-13.
  5. Atkinson, Brooks (December 28, 1936). "Clare Boothe's 'The Women' Records the Habits of the Modern Female of the Species". The New York Times. Retrieved 2016-09-13.
  6. League, The Broadway. "The Women – Broadway Play – 1973 Revival | IBDB". Retrieved 2018-10-10.
  7. League, The Broadway. "The Women – Broadway Play – 2001 Revival | IBDB". Retrieved 2018-10-10.
  8. Producers' Showcase: "The Women"
  9. Life, February 28, 1955.
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