Comparing The Opposite Sex to 1939’s The Women is a little like comparing a Mercedes-Benz convertible with a Pontiac Firebird Trans Am: both popular when they first debuted, but only one would stand the test of time. Seventeen years after The Women premiered, MGM decided the story was ripe for a musical treatment, so they gathered a cast that included June Allyson, Joan Collins and Ann Miller, and then tossed out the best gimmick of both the Clare Boothe Luce play and the George Cukor-directed 1939 film: a total absence of men onstage or in front of the camera. In this version, Norma Shearer’s Mary becomes June Allyson’s Kay, a semi-retired Broadway star who’s married to Leslie Nielsen as Steve, who strays when he can’t resist the charms of a gold-digging showgirl, played by Joan Collins, vs. the perfume-counter salesperson played by Joan Crawford in 1939.
The changes didn’t seem to matter to audiences or critics when The Opposite Sex arrived in theaters; Bosley Crowther, the famed critic of The New York Times, pronounced the film “a treat.” While it’s widely agreed that the musical remake doesn’t stand up to the original, it’s a fun watch for pure camp value — the moment when Allyson slaps Collins so hard that one earring goes flying is especially delicious — while Helen Rose’s parade of gowns definitely merit a look for anyone who loves wow moments in 1950s costume design. (Dolores Gray’s ensembles are especially good.) Crowther agreed: “It might be added that it is this corner’s opinion that the lush wardrobes, enhanced by excellent color photography, provided for this covey of dames, is enough to drive distaff viewers to distraction,” he wrote in his 1956 review.
This release features a new restoration of the film, as well as the original trailer.