Female (1933)

Female (1933) movie poster

director Michael Curtiz
viewed: 12/20/2015

DVD’s may never go down in history as some ideal form of movie-watching, but I think the format had/has its merits.  Presently, there is, albeit perhaps from some very specific corners, a fond fetishizing of VHS, but DVD’s which usurped the market before being pushed out by Blu-Ray and eventually all streaming markets, offered a format that erred toward letterboxing, added room for commentary tracks or mini-documentary films to supplement features, or even offered multiple films on a disc, opportunities for double features, occasionally with an interesting contrast.  I don’t collect DVD’s but I stick up for them on these accounts.

The case in this particular point is 1933’s Female, credited to director Michael Curtiz but apparently also to some degree directed by  William Dieterle and William Wellman.  It’s the B-side, if you will (not that you have to flip the disc for it), of the DVD of Three on a Match (1932), a double feature of Warner Bros. pre-code entertainments.

Female stars Ruth Chatterton as, yes, a female industrialist, a liberated, powerful, intelligent woman, who lives, loves, and excels “like a man.”  It’s a comedy of sexual role reversal, almost quite feminist.  Actually, if it ended about 10 minutes sooner, or with a different twist, it could have been quite feminist.  Instead, the film turns on Chatterton finally landing the one man she couldn’t have and handing over the reins to the man so that she can make babies and be happy.  What could have been feminist gets subverted quite harshly back to good ol’ patriarchal norms.

At only 60 minutes, it’s entertaining and interesting and hard to argue with, if more of an odd footnote and piece of cultural history.

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