When Ladies Meet (1941)
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Two of MGM's top actresses, Joan Crawford and Greer Garson, star in Robert Z. Leonard's 1941 drama When Ladies Meet. Crawford plays Mary Howard, a successful novelist with some very progressive views on relationships. She is in love with Rogers Woodruff (Herbert Marshall), her publisher, but he is a married man. Mary's old flame Jimmy (Robert Taylor) still pines for her and tries to convince her that Rogers will never leave his wife. To prove his point, Jimmy arranges for Mary to meet Rogers' long-suffering wife Claire (Greer Garson) without telling either of the ladies just exactly who the other is.
When Ladies Meet was the second film version of Rachel Crothers' hit 1932 play of the same name. The first version was done in 1933 and starred Ann Harding and Myrna Loy.
In 1941 Joan Crawford was still known as the "Queen of MGM" and received top billing over Greer Garson in When Ladies Meet. However, there were rumblings that Crawford was on her way out at the studio and Garson was being groomed to take her place. Crawford had accepted the casting of Garson in the role feeling that she didn't pose any serious threat to her. Others couldn't help but notice that there was a distinct hint of rivalry between the two. Garson, who had just come off of doing two period films in a row, was thrilled to be in a modern picture, which would allow her to have a stylish look that reflected the current fashion. MGM played up Garson's natural beauty to the fullest for When Ladies Meet. She got a new makeover, new hairstyle, and gorgeous wardrobe courtesy of the famous designer Adrian. Director Robert Leonard reportedly gave Greer's new look the once over on the first day of shooting and said, "So that's what Mrs. Chips looks like without her bustle!"
Throughout the production, Crawford and Garson behaved professionally, letting any claws come out only through the biting dialogue of Anita Loos' and S.K. Lauren's screenplay adaptation. Still, when the news came during filming that Greer Garson had received an Academy Award nomination as Best Actress for her work in Blossoms in the Dust (1941) and Joan Crawford had been overlooked for her stunning turn in A Woman's Face (1941), the news stung Crawford. It was the second Academy Award nomination for Garson (she was also nominated for her work in Goodbye, Mr. Chips ) after just a handful of years in the business, while Joan Crawford had been scratching her way up the Hollywood ladder for two decades without a single nomination to her name yet.
Despite the obvious tension, Garson didn't want any negative feelings to affect the making of When Ladies Meet. "Joan was just completely nonplussed that I refused to feud with her," said Garson according to Michael Troyan's 1999 biography A Rose For Mrs. Miniver: The Life of Greer Garson. "She tried very hard to feud with me because she felt it was natural for her to feud with every other actress on the lot." Joan Crawford was reputedly upset with MGM for being more attentive to Garson's career than hers. "After all the money I made those miserable bastards," she said. "I've got nothing against Greer, but why couldn't they let her pay her dues, the way I did?" It was the only film that the two stars ever made together, and just a year later Crawford left MGM, and Garson took over as MGM's top actress.
When Ladies Meet received an Academy Award nomination for Best Art Direction.
Producer: Orville O. Dull, Robert Z. Leonard
Director: Robert Z. Leonard
Screenplay: S.K. Lauren, Anita Loos, based on the play by Rachel Crothers
Cinematography: Robert H. Planck
Art Direction: Cedric Gibbons
Music: Bronislau Kaper
Film Editing: Robert Kern
Cast: Joan Crawford (Mary 'Minnie' Howard), Robert Taylor (Jimmy Lee), Greer Garson (Claire Woodruff), Herbert Marshall (Rogers Woodruff), Spring Byington (Bridget Drake), Rafael Storm (Walter Del Canto).
BW-105m. Closed captioning.
by Andrea Passafiume