Plot: Alison Drake (Ruth Chatterton) has been in charge of Drake Motors since her father’s death and despite a turbulent economic climate, she has performed well and is a much respected executive. She is ambitious, driven, and focused on business, which has left her personal life on the back burner. While most women settle down and get married, then raise a family while the husband works, Alison has never wanted that kind of life for herself. She wants the kind of life most men have, where she can do as she pleases and follow her own path in life. Her lack of a husband doesn’t mean she is lonely in the least, as she is never shy to invite an interesting man to serve her needs outside the boardroom. While she is never short on potential suitors, not all the men can handle her aggressive tactics, even though they’ve used similar methods when pursuing women themselves. But when she meets a man who is resistant to her charms and sparks her competitive spirit, how will she handle the challenge?
Entertainment Value: This is a wild one, the tale of an empowered, bold woman who knows what she wants and is relentless in the hunt, unwilling to accept a place in the social strata she isn’t satisfied with. Of course, this was the 1930s and a woman having it all like Alison Drake wouldn’t have won over audiences, but even in the finale, Female is able to deliver some blistering barbs aimed at not just social norms, but the audiences who craved a certain conclusion. This is one of the most subversive ways to give the audience what they want, but ensure you also make some subtle statements about their mindset. In any case, Female is a remarkable movie that features an unforgettable effort from Ruth Chatterton, who is radiant here as Alison Drake. She is confident, focused, and owns her choices, she is fearless in going after what she desires, both in the boardroom and in the bedroom. Or on the floor, where she tosses a pillow to let the men know their place in her world. Chatterton is charismatic and commands the screen, her turn here is pure cinema magic. The rest of the cast is also good, but this is Chatterton’s movie and she never disappoints.
No nakedness. But the movie is never hesitant to feature Chatterton in various stages of undress, as she primps and keeps her appearance top notch. This makes sense within the narrative, as she is an on point type of woman when it comes to her looks and those scenes reinforce that, while also being a touch scandalous for the time. The movie is also quite open about Alison’s sexual habits and her high drive, though none of her escapades are shown in detail, of course. No blood. This one has no violence aside from some carnival marksmanship, so the lack of blood is no surprise. The dialogue is masterful and insanely fun, with Chatterton as a constant source of memorable, wild, and razor sharp lines and exchanges. Alison has some bold takes on gender roles, how men behave, and her opinion of social norms, all of which are delivered with sufficient enthusiasm and venom by Chatterton. Other characters also have some memorable moments, but they’re often opposite Alison’s scathing wit. As for craziness, the movie is more bold and brash than over the top, so it feels grounded for the most part. While no woman would helm a car company until eight decades after Female was released, Alison Drake is such a whirlwind, you never doubt her for a second.
Overall Insanity: 2/10
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