Reno Divorce: The Women

The Women is a glossy Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer release from 1939 featuring a group of women who visit Reno for divorces. Directed by George Cukor and based on Clare Boothe Luce's stage hit, the play was adapted to film by Anita Loos and Jane Murfin, with uncredited help from F. Scott Fitzgerald and Donald Ogden Stewart.

The film's storyline includes women on a train heading west to get divorced, or as they put it, "Reno-vated." On board, actresses Paulette Goddard, Mary Boland, and Norma Scherer toast "Reno: the biggest little city in the world" and "Reno: cradle of liberty." These references, when heard today, continue to associate Reno with the divorce trade, even though the need for such an industry faded long ago and none of the movie's scenes were shot in Nevada.

Luce's biting wit is one reason the movie has aged well, though stars add to the shine, with lines perfectly spit out by the likes of Joan Crawford, Rosalind Russell, and Joan Fontaine. On the other hand, the movie is of its times, with mannered acting that borders on posturing, plus countless attitudes that rub like a ragged razor on today's feminist sensibilities.

Other movies dealing with Nevada's divorce trade include The Merry Wives of Reno (1934), Phffft! (1954), The Misfits (1961), Desert Hearts (1986), and Edie & Pen (1996).

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