#16 – The Opposite Sex (1956)
June Allyson, Joan Collins, and Dolores Gray
Director: David Miller, Producer: Joe Pasternak, Production Company: MGM
A New York society wife finds out that her Broadway producer husband of ten years is having an affair with a chorus girl. Aided by her catty friends’ intervention, she divorces him, even though they still love each other.
This is an early Shurlock Era musical remake of The Women (1939), MGM’s all-star all-female production. Code-wise, The Opposite Sex had to be an improvement on its predecessor, which is the most blatantly non-Code Breen Era film I have ever seen. The common and casual adultery, divorce, and remarriage in this film’s plot are shocking, as are its risque humor and crass worldview. By making the remake a musical, the last element was removed. The dark, pre-Codish feeling of the original did not translate to this film. It was replaced with the flashy, fun, often goofy quality which typifies Shurlock musicals. The numerous affairs, divorces, and remarriages remain in this plot. However, the main affair between Steve Hilliard (Leslie Nielsen) and Crystal Allen (Joan Collins) is depicted somewhat differently, since we get to see the husband’s point of view instead of juts viewing it through his wife’s eyes (June Allyson). I thought that the biggest improvement made in this film was the inclusion of men. While many love the George Cukor-directed original, I found the lack of male characters clumsy and gimmicky. From a PCA standpoint, another improvement was that many suggestive, vulgar, and indecent lines were removed. Most notably absent was Crystal’s famous exit line about the women being “a word that’s only used in kennels by polite society.” A very suggestive line which unfortunately remained was Crystal’s reply to Kay Hilliard, “When Steven doesn’t like what I wear, I take it off!” Speaking of what ladies wear, there are some low-necked and otherwise indecent costumes in this film, although not as many vulgar designs as in the original. As for songs, the only song which contains Code violations is the title song. For one thing, the word sex just doesn’t seem like a suitable word on which to hold a long note, even though it is used in the acceptable meaning as a synonym for gender. Also, other lines are improper. When this song is performed as a musical number by Dick Shawn, the staging and choreography are also a bit questionable. This is not a brilliant film. It is far from the most enjoyable film made by any of these ladies, and it certainly is a low spot in the brilliant filmography of Joe Pasternak. However, Mr. Pasternak’s wholesome influence managed to make this film far more Codish than its Breen Era original, which obviously was not self-regulated by Joseph Breen himself. Speaking of Joe Pasternak, please join our upcoming blogathon in his honor!
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