Woman’s World (1954)

Woman’s World (1954)

This Jean Negulesco-directed drama about big business was released several months after the better known Executive Suite (1954). The film was a relatively early CinemaScope production that followed the director’s earlier and more successful use of the technology: How to Marry a Millionaire (1953) and Three Coins in a Fountain (1954). Therefore it begins with some lavish sweeping aerial shots of New York City (specifically Manhattan) and includes several other impressive sequences from within the city e.g. of its skyscrapers from the street level “looking up”. For what it’s worth director Robert Wise and his cinematographer Daniel L. Fapp would later provide some even better (than Negulesco and his cinematographer Joseph MacDonald) and more breathtaking helicopter shots of these same man-made mountains and canyons (using Super Panavision 70) – earnings Academy Awards for their work – in West Side Story (1961).

Similar to Executive Suite (1954) and later Patterns (1956) it’s a story about picking a successor to head a big conglomerate; in this case it’s a fictional auto company named Gifford Motors. Top billed Clifton Webb narrates the opening and plays Ernest Gifford who has just invited his top three district sales managers – and their wives – to New York for an all-expense paid (and tax deductible) meet-and-greet during which he’ll size up each man and their wife in order to make the decision. Ironically one of these managers is played by Van Heflin and one of the wives is played by June Allyson both of whom played key roles in the aforementioned corporate dramas. In fact Allyson plays a role that is very similar to her part in Executive Suite (1954) – she’s the wife of the man that may be best suited for the job but he’s not sure he wants it and her character isn’t really the corporate wife type (though that fact is much more obvious in this one than the former) – while Heflin plays a man in line for the top job just as he would in (the latter) Patterns (1956).

The other roles that complete the all-star cast (in order of billing) are: Lauren Bacall who’s beautifully and appropriately dressed as the fashion conscious wife of Fred MacMurray whose ambition is costing him both his wife and his health (he’s fighting an ulcer); Arlene Dahl who plays Texan Heflin’s overly ambitious and showy wife – she’d do “anything” to secure the job for her husband – and Cornel Wilde Allyson’s husband who’s not afraid to speak his mind even if it conflicts with Webb’s Gifford and costs him the top job. The cityscape views referenced earlier are most impressive to Allyson’s character; she and her husband hail from Kansas City and clearly have the best marriage of the three. For example on their drive (from Philadelphia) to the hotel Bacall’s assures MacMurray’s that she’ll keep secret their impending divorce so as not to hurt his chances to win the job even though she believes it’ll kill him. Later MacMurray has a realization that his wife family and health are too important to continue his ambitious journey to the top – and he tells Bacall as much – but he forgets it shorlty after the men and their wives are invited to a weekend retreat – taking Gifford’s yacht to his huge mansion appropriately dubbed “the castle” – where Gifford’s sister a former top executive’s wife (played by Margalo Gillmore) can play hostess and have an opportunity to assess the wives and provide her brother the input he needs.

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