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Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Dueling Divas || Greer vs. Joan ["When Ladies Meet"]

I'm here to write a post for Backlots's "Dueling Divas Blogathon," but first, guys... THANK YOU!!! Over the past two days I have not only reached fifty followers, I've exceeded it. Honestly, you people, I can't thank you enough! Like, every one of you that follow me! I'm sorry if it sounds like I'm overreacting - but I'm thinking back to when no one followed me, and there were no comments, and it was just loneliness, and now I get awesome comments from all of you like everyday, and for me it's really really supportive. <3 So thanks soo  much for following me, I'm really Vivien Leigh cat smiling, and in my appreciation here's a GIF of Greer smiling as large as I am now:


Thank you so, so, much all of you! And now, onto the blogathon [but THANK YOU AGAIN!]:

A quick warning: There may be a few spoilers in this, but I'll give you a great fair warning when they're on the way. Apologizes!

About a month ago, I wrote a review for a 1941 MGM vehicle, "When Ladies Meet," starring Joan Crawford, Robert Taylor, and one of my newest favorite actresses, Greer Garson. In my review I gave this film three out of five stars, and you can check out the review to read more about what I thought of the actual movie. For this blogathon, I'm going to focus on the rivalry between Greer and Joan's characters in this movie - though the irony of it is, at times they don't really act like rivals at all. Here's the plot, supplied by IMdb [with some slight doctoring by yours truly]:

Mary (Joan Crawford), a writer working on a novel about a love triangle, is attracted to her publisher, Rogers (Herbert Marshall). Her suitor Jimmy (Robert Taylor) is determined to break them up; he introduces Mary to the publisher's wife, Claire (Greer Garson), without telling Mary who she is - and the two land up liking each other. 

In this first ring we have --


Claire Woodruff. [Greer Garson]. Beautiful redheaded wife of book publisher Rogers Woodruff [Herbert Marshall]. Bright personality and a little bit of a social butterfly. An elegant dresser and a fan of color blocking. She is an expert sailor and knows everything there is about boats and the like. She does hurt inside over her husband's numerous, obvious infidelities, but it's hard to tell by her bubbly, bright personality.  

And then over in the other ring, we have --
[I actually made this one, that's why it's so awful. ';)]

Mary Howard. [Joan Crawford]. Sometimes called Minnie by friends. A liberally thinking best selling novelist who is appreciative of new thinking and ideas. [Her latest novel happens to be about a love triangle.] Adored by suitor Jimmy [Robert Taylor] but madly in love with her new publisher, Rogers. He's married - but it doesn't matter... sort of. Interesting dresser and lover of big spectacle glasses that make her eyes look even bigger [if that's possible.]

Now that we've got our characters straight, the plot consists of a love triangle between these two beautiful ladies and Herbert Marshall - with Robert Taylor pulling the strings. His character, Jimmy, meets Claire at a party the same night Mary and Rogers are having a romantic dinner at home. He decides to have Claire and Mary meet, hence the title of this film, in hopes of breaking up Mary and Rogers's relationship. However, when he introduces the two to each other, he tricks Claire into pretending to be someone else, and therefore Mary doesn't know that the girl she is so quickly becoming friends with is actually her lover's wife. (After all, she was probably expecting  a frump, not Greer Garson.)

Okay, I'm going to give away the ending of the film here just because I think it needs to be included, but if you'd like you can just skip onto the next paragraph and onto the duel! In the end of the film, everything comes clean. Claire and Mary figure out who each other really are, and Rogers breaks it to Mary that he was never planning on leaving Claire for her. Claire and Mary manage to make amends, for they have respect for each other (after a very deep conversation between the two of them), and Claire leaves by herself (with Rogers chasing after her a little later.) Mary and Jimmy are left alone and the movie ends with the two of them in each other's arms. Predictable for the 40's, the married couple gets back together (most likely), proving adultery wrong - it all coincides with the Hays Code.

The irony of this rivalry is that when Claire and Mary actually meet each other, it isn't even a rivalry at all. Though before they probably contained nasty thoughts about one another, when they meet, well, it's all different - albeit, they don't know really know who the other is. Upon their first meeting, Jimmy introduces Claire to Mary as his "cousin," though Claire and Jimmy purposely act very flirty with one another, and Mary becomes obviously irked. But not much later and the two women are friends, and that night they have a very personal, honest conversation between the two of them. It is here where Claire gives away that her husband is a publisher (she doesn't give a name), and admits his many infidelities and how she feels about them. Here is where the two women grow in immense respect for each other: a respect so great that about ten minutes later, when Rogers bursts in the room and the truth comes out, they still manage to uphold that decency for one another.

Which lady was I rooting for? Okay, it's pretty obvious and call me biased: but Claire, or Greer, all the way. Yes, Mary was the writer, which was one thing I did like about her. But to me Claire's personality was the more likable one. She was really charming, and fashionable, and pretty - you kind of wondered what was wrong with Rogers for cheating on her all the time! I was "impressed", so to say, by her knowledge of sailing. There's a scene where she takes Jimmy on a boating trip that's so hilarious, mostly because Claire knows possibly everything about the boat and Jimmy is a mess. ;)

So yes, I was Team Claire. Since I didn't really like the Rogers character at all ("You dirty cheating rat!"), I more or less wanted Claire to land up with Jimmy. [SPOILER: That obviously didn't happen, but I really would've liked it to, they would've made a cute couple, I think.] 

Then there was Mary. I liked her obviously because she was a novelist, but a lot of it ended there. [Yeah, I can see you guys shaking your heads because you think this obviously isn't a fair comparison, not for me.] I think what bothered me the most was her ignorance of Claire [before she met her and she was a figment of existence, probably a frump who would happen to be her lover's wife]. I think it made her look selfish that upon beginning her affair with Rogers, she was only constrained by a little bit of guilt. It almost disgusted me when she took Rogers out to her friend's farm in Connecticut [this would later become the location of her meeting with Claire] to carry out the affair in a safe environment, more or less to protect herself instead of avoiding hurting Claire.

Plus, her fashion sense was kind of weird. I liked Claire's elegant gowns a lot (and the color blocked day dress she's wearing in the GIF above), but I just wasn't going crazy over Mary's Star Wars-Jedi like dress. And when you threw in the glasses she kinda looked like Gandhi.

When this movie was made, Greer was known for her work in 1940's "Pride and Prejudice", but Joan Crawford was the bigger movie star - it would be another year until the release of "Random Harvest" and "Mrs. Miniver," and Greer's successes in these two vehicles would launch a career that would make her the biggest star of the World War Two era. So at the time, Joan was the more popular one, but reviews of the film today often present Greer as the better actress in this film, and I must agree. But as I said in my review of this movie, Greer and Joan's acting styles are completely different - Greer is refined, Joan is more obvious - and therefore it isn't fair to contrast the two.

I did my best to try and find what the off screen relationship was between the two of these actresses: did they like each other? or not really? Here's what I found:
Greer showing off her legs backstage.

  • "Joan was completely nonplussed that I refused to feud with her," said Greer. Apparently Joan grew more irked during filming when she perhaps realized how Greer's character was steeling the film, and it was not a "thankless" role as she had anticipated. About eight years later, Joan would seek revenge by embarrasing Greer at a dinner party. Joan seated Greer's then time beau (and later husband), Buddy Fogelson, at the main table with herself, and sent Greer to sit at the studio electricians table, "Because you get along with everybody, dear!"
  • Joan's camp on the other hand, claims, that Joan was simply surprised that Greer was being headlined in this film along such big stars as she and Robert Taylor. She couldn't understand what she was doing there - but then again, she thought Claire's role a "thankless" one.

Oh, well!

Whose side are you on? [Even if you haven't seen this movie.] This is an interesting rivalry, on screen (where at times it wasn't much of a rivalry at all), and off screen, it appears, too!

I had a lot of fun with this topic and I thank Lara at Backlots for coming up with such an interesting topic! Be sure and go over to her blog so you can check out all the other entries! Thank you for hosting this, Lara! 

By the way, despite the fact that I like Greer Garson a LOT (as we all know) and I was on her side in many ways in this post, I don't want you all to think I despise Joan or anything! And yes, I am Team Bette... but really. And to prove it to you, here's a candid GIF of Joan looking beautiful  with some gorgeous auburn hair: 

Oh, and I thought you all ought to know that while I was writing this post, Jeopardy was on TV and there was a Classic Cinema topic!!! One of the questions was about "Mrs. Miniver," and I nearly fell out of my chair before screaming at the screen the quite obvious answer! I got the daily double, too, after endlessly  insisting, "The African Queen! The African Queen!" 

THANKS AGAIN FOR THE FIFTY + FOLLOWERS, EVERYONE! :) I'll be back soon to write a post for the Humphrey Bogart Blogathon!


Natalie said...

I really liked this post, Rianna! :) And now I REALLY want to see this movie...

Anonymous said...

Even though I haven't seen the movie, from what you say in your post Rianna I'd be on the side of Greer Garson and her character.
I like the background research you did and I do find it very funny that Joan got more and more annoyed at Greer's refusal to feud with her.
Joan obviously had a long memory if it took her 8 years to exact some kind of revenge!

Unknown said...

I love this film, it's one of my faves. I actually rooted for Joan - call me crazy but Joan is awesome in just about anything she did. I love her and Robert Taylor (one of the greatest looking men in all of history ;) together in this, to me that's what drove the story.

Congrats on 50+ followers!

VP81955 said...

Let's not forget that eight years earlier, this film was made with Ann Harding in the Garson role, Myrna Loy in the Crawford role, and Robert Montgomery in the Taylor role, not to mention Alice Brady and Frank Morgan in supporting roles. Unlike the neutered '41 version, the '33 "Ladies" has a definite pre-Code sensibility; TCM regularly runs both versions, so it's easy to compare and contrast.

Carmen said...

Loved your post. I haven't seen the movie, but I'll look for it. Yes, I think I'm on team Greer too. And as you say, it's not that I don't like Joan, but I can't help it, Greer was nicest. And now that we are talking about dueling divas, I'm a team Bette too.

Rianna said...

Natalie: Thanks! Yeah, you should see it especially since you like Joan and Bob. :)

Paul S: I'm glad you took Greer's side! Yeah, I found Joan's frustration funny as well. Greer was a really refined person, I guess too much so for Joan!

Elisa: I do like Joan, and I always root for her in movies like Mildred Pierce. But Greer took me on this one, ;D. Robert Taylor was much more handsome than Herbert Marshall, I thought. Thank you! :)

VP: Yes, when researching information for this blogathon I discovered the original with Myrna Loy! And of course I have yet to see it but I definitely want to get my hands on it (or catch it on TCM). Being a pre-code, as you said, it's probably stronger in its material. It would be interesting to contrast the two.

Carmen: If you do watch this movie, let me know what you think of it! Right, it's no offense to Joan - it's just that Greer was too hard not to like. ;) And yeah, I'm team Bette. I just love Bette Davis - I like Joan, but I love Bette. :)

Unknown said...

It's one of the only movies I can stand Joan Crawford. No liked her in The Women and in Rain. She even looked softer in this movie. Greer Garson is such a lady, so right for the part. I was not a great fan of the first movie done in the 30's though that is era I most am into right now.

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