Thirteen Women

Thirteen Women is a 1932 American pre-Code psychological thriller film, produced by David O. Selznick and directed by George Archainbaud. It stars Myrna Loy, Irene Dunne and Ricardo Cortez. The film is based on the 1930 bestselling novel of the same name by Tiffany Thayer and was adapted for the screen by Bartlett Cormack and Samuel Ornitz.[1]

Thirteen Women
Theatrical release poster
Directed byGeorge Archainbaud
Tommy Atkins (assistant)
Produced byDavid O. Selznick
Screenplay byBartlett Cormack
Samuel Ornitz
Based onThirteen Women
by Tiffany Thayer
StarringMyrna Loy
Irene Dunne
Ricardo Cortez
Jill Esmond
Florence Eldridge
Music byMax Steiner
CinematographyLeo Tover
Edited byCharles L. Kimball
Distributed byRKO Radio Pictures
Release date
  • October 15, 1932 (1932-10-15)
Running time
73 mins. (original release)
CountryUnited States

Several characters were deleted from the film's final release, including those played by Leon Ames, Phyllis Fraser, and Betty Furness (in what would have been Furness' film debut at the age of 16). The film portrays only eleven women, not thirteen, with Fraser and Furness playing the two characters edited out of the film.[2]

The film premiered in October at the Roxy Theater in New York City on October 15, 1932,[2] then released in Los Angeles,[3] and a few other cities in November 1932.[4][5] A limited national release came in 1933. Originally running seventy-three minutes, the studio edited fourteen minutes out of the picture prior to release. The film was re-released in 1935 (post-Code) by RKO, hoping to turn a profit by cashing in on the growing popularity of stars Dunne and Loy. Thirteen Women has been cited as an early "female ensemble" film, as well as an early influence on the "slasher film" genre.[6]

Plot summary

Thirteen women, who were sorority sisters at the all girl's college St. Alban's, all write to a clairvoyant "swami" (C. Henry Gordon) who by mail sends each a horoscope foreseeing swift doom. However, the clairvoyant is under the sway of Ursula Georgi (Myrna Loy), a half-Javanese Eurasian woman who was snubbed at school by the other women owing to her mixed-race heritage, eventually forcing Georgi to leave school. She now seeks revenge by manipulating the women into killing themselves or each other. She also goads the clairvoyant into killing himself by falling into the path of a subway train.

The victims are set up and killed off one by one until Laura Stanhope (Irene Dunne), living in Beverly Hills, is one of the few still alive. With the help of Laura's chauffeur and lover (played by Edward J. Pawley), Ursula tries to kill Laura's young son, Bobby, with both tainted candy and an explosive rubber ball, but is thwarted. Ursula follows Laura and Bobby as they flee Beverly Hills by train, unaware that police sergeant Barry Clive (Ricardo Cortez) is escorting them. After confronting Laura, and apparently hypnotizing her into falling asleep, Ursula enters Bobby's room and is caught by Clive. She then flees to the back of the train and jumps to her own death.

This film was the one in which the actor, Edward J. Pawley, received his first screen kiss (from Myrna Loy). He would go on to appear in over 50 movies during his 10-year career in Hollywood, playing mostly "bad guy" roles with some of Hollywood's greatest actors.


Production notes

Thirteen Women features the only film appearance of actress Peg Entwistle. Entwistle became despondent over her career and jumped to her death from the Hollywood Sign on September 16, 1932. The film premiered in New York on October 15 (almost exactly a month after her suicide), and in Los Angeles in November.[2][7] Entwistle had a supporting role as "Hazel Cousins" in the original cut with scenes running approximately sixteen minutes long. Her time onscreen was subsequently cut to four minutes after the film performed poorly for test audiences.[1]

The character played by Entwistle, that of Hazel Cousins, is a married woman in the film, who kills her husband and goes to prison. In the book, Hazel is a virgin who remains so simply because she is considered too beautiful; men are either too intimidated to approach her, assume she is married or engaged or believe that she will break their heart. Hazel eventually becomes a lesbian after she is seduced by the wife of the doctor treating her for tuberculosis. Hazel starves herself to death in a sanitarium while suffering the heartache of having been abandoned by her lover Martha.[1] In both the book and movie, May and June Raskob (played by Harriet Hagman and Mary Duncan) are twin sisters who work in a circus, but in the book they are overweight side show attractions, rather than photogenic trapeze artists as in the film.

Home media

On February 21, 2012, the 59 minute edit of Thirteen Women was released on manufactured-on-demand DVD through the Warner Archive Collection.[8]


  1. Zeruk, James Jr. (2013). Peg Entwistle and the Hollywood Sign Suicide: A Biography. McFarland. p. 226. ISBN 1-476-61219-6.
  2. Hall, Mordaunt (1932). "Another Murder Mystery. Thirteen Women ...", part of multiple film reviews, The New York Times, October 15, 1932. Retrieved November 22, 2017.
  3. Leider, Emily W. (2011). Myrna Loy: The Only Good Girl in Hollywood. University of California Press. p. 327. ISBN 0-520-94963-3.
  4. Los Angeles Times review (November 4, 1932)
  5. Quirk, Lawrence J. (1980). The Films Of Myrna Loy. Citadel Press. p. 141. ISBN 0-806-50735-7.
  6. Basinger, Jeanine, "Few female ensemble films", Variety, June 16, 2008; retrieved September 18, 2010
  7. Mallory, Mary (2011). Hollywoodland. Arcadia Publishing. p. 90. ISBN 1-439-62430-5.
  8. Clark, Mike (March 19, 2012). "Thirteen Women (DVD Review)". Retrieved December 7, 2014.
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