Are You Going to Sydney’s?
In 1956’s The Opposite Sex, Sydney’s is the spa salon standing in for New York’s Elizabeth Arden, when miracles occur and ladies transform themselves into carbon copies of the latest style icons….
Olga, played by Bewitched’s Alice Pearce, is the nail filer who dips her brush into a vat of poisoned Jungle Red. She sets off the sexy series of events with her gossipy updates for nosy clients whose sideline is undermining the status quo of the sanctioned social set.
Clients come to Sydney’s be coiffed, patted, massaged and dried in the upscale haven for hellions on heels. Like everyone’s favorite Maleficent,* Sylvia is ready to spread dirt like a dragster at a tractor pull and doesn’t disappoint. Stepping out of Roz Russell’s role in the original The Women, Dolores Gray rebirths the part as the Marvel Comics version of the evil twin, more stylish and more venomous than originally conceived. Hiding behind slick crepe de chine, chilly chiffon, and Belgian Lace helps the naughty keep the haughty.
Ann Miller, in a role where she doesn’t dance or sing, manages to enthrall us anyway with her snappy dialogue delivery and her winsome, well-dressed ways. Agnes Moorehead connects with her love of lavender and lilac in her Helen Rose creations and doesn’t see such colorful ensembles again until she greets Samantha as Endora.
Agnes Moorehead gown…
The singing, dancing June Allyson elicits our pity as Kay, and Leslie Nielsen plays it straight as her wandering Broadway-producer husband long before his comedic successes in Airplane and The Naked Gun films. Joan Collins creates her first cold-hearted, sexy vamp, which she revealed to Robert Osborne became the precursor to her Alexis iteration in Dynasty during her introduction to The Opposite Sex on TCM.
Don’t miss that “Yellow Gold” number!
Three New York ladies hop the train to Reno, Nevada, one of the few places in the 1950’s where a six-week divorce can be granted for those women who need to move on with their lives, their wardrobes and their new sparklers. Charlotte Greenwood makes her final screen appearance in The Opposite Sex as the owner of the guest ranch where divorcees go to stow away for the waiting period. It ain’t easy keepin’ them gals from derailing their locomotives, leaving behind a memento, or keeping their gloves off of a handsome, singing ranch hand, like Buck Winston, played by former baseballer Jeff Richards.
Ooh. Jeff Richards!
Ooh! Look! A Bananyanaire!
Screenwriter Fay Kanin, who scripted such films as Rhapsody (1954) and Teacher’s Pet (1958), also crafted award-winning television movies like Heartsounds (1979) , Friendly Fire (1979) and Hustling (1975) to her credit. Kanin, president of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences from 1979-1983, reportedly didn’t much care for the final film of The Opposite Sex, but made an appropriate update of Clare Booth Luce’s play for the attitudes of 1950’s. An activist for film preservation and a leader of the cinema community, her legacy as a woman of conviction and an arbiter of good taste lives on.
Comparing this film with 1939’s The Women is an easy exercise in sharpening a reviewer’s more critical sense, but enjoying the musical romps, the flouncy Helen Rose creations, and the landscapes of Leslie Nielsen and Jeff Richards allows viewers to accept The Opposite Sex on its own terms, the only way to unabashedly relish this film. Stylish back-biting, shiny, red nails, and the underbelly of the upper crust always contrasts well with mermaid gowns, cowboys, and well-dressed redemption.
It’s a party!
See you at the poolside screening of The Opposite Sex on Friday night 8 p.m. on April 11. Illeana Douglas and Dennis Miller are scheduled to introduce the film.
“The smog will be so refreshing!”
*SLEEPING BEAUTY (1959) is screening at the #TCMFF2019 at noon on Friday in the Egyptian, too!
Learn more about The Opposite Sex (1956) and That Darn Smack from Christy’s Inkwells here.
More about the fabulous Fay Kanin here.
The Fashion Institute of Technology in New York compares and contrasts the 1939 and 1956 films, the designers and the stars here.