An Open Letter to: Mick Jagger & fellow producers of The Women

The 1939 classic film The Women should never have been remade, and all this latest adaptation has done is suck out the laughs, the style – and the star power

Dear Producers

I AM writing to you about your new remake of one of my favourite films, The Women, the gloriously funny 1939 comedy, about a group of New York socialites, which banished men from the cast and which still packs a punch with its catty cutdowns and witty banter.

This film should never have been remade. It shouldn't have been tampered with in 1956 when it was injected with Technicolor and renamed The Opposite Sex. And it shouldn't have been tampered with by you and your team. Judging by the trailer, all that you lot have injected is Botox, while simultaneously sucking out the laughs and the style – not to mention the star power. I mean, come on: Eva Mendes is hardly the Joan Crawford of our times.

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Although the absence of men was obviously a first, the original film has much more going for it than the novelty factor. (In fact, given that you don't even miss the men, the gimmick quickly becomes redundant.)

There's its super-stylish direction by George Cukor and its fantastically funny script – the final version of which was co-written by Anita Gentlemen Prefer Blondes Loos, after no less a writer than F Scott Fitzgerald and his collaborator had done much of the adapting from Clare Boothe Luce's hit Broadway play.

Then there's the ensemble cast, which includes the pick of MGM's female stars – Norma Shearer, Joan Crawford, Rosalind Russell, Paulette Goddard and Joan Fontaine – as well as the cream-of-the-crop of 1930s character actresses, especially such older ones as Mary Boland (whose brassy character is, I hope, the one you've assigned to Bette Midler).

In Rosalind Russell's performance as the slithery Sylvia – the real villain of the piece, the pivotal character in terms of plot, and the one played by Annette Bening in your remake – we have one of the best comic turns of the 1930s, or any decade since.

Acid-tongued Syliva shoots from the lip, firing off one-liners so fast that they barely register and dropping bitchy asides into her endless gossipy prattle. Russell was not afraid to appear ungainly and inelegant in her pursuit of laughs. Her Sylvia slumps and slouches, frequently forgets her posture when she's excited about a juicy bit of gossip, and drapes herself round telephone booths and furniture like a python snuggling up to its victim, whenever she's sniffing around for dirt. It's probably fair to say that there's a lot of Sylvia to be found in the character of Wilhemina's sidekick, Marc, in TV's Ugly Betty. She is a gay icon after all.

And what about the fashion? The jaw-dropping clothes designed by MGM's Adrian for the 1939 movie have long made it a favourite of fashion folk. There's even a bizarre, Technicolor fashion show halfway into the black-and-white action.

But, most of all, there's the fact that, in telling the story of the breakdown of a marriage and the unmitigated glee that the husband's infidelity provokes in his wife's supposed friends, it showed the dynamics of female relationships in a much more authentic and honest way than most films of the time – or since.

Okay, it's grossly exaggerated, but I can't think of any other film which so brilliantly portrays the sniping, the point-scoring and the backstabbing that often goes on within groups of women who are supposed to be dear old friends – not colleagues or siblings, but friends. We've seen Machiavellian machinations, Broadway style, in All About Eve, and sibling rivalry gone berserk in Whatever Happened to Baby Jane, but in this movie, even the most supportive friend serves up sympathy with a side-order of snideness: "Never mind, dear. Chin up! That's right – both of them."

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In our politically correct times – and by the way is that why you've replaced Joan Fontaine's drippy young wife with a black lesbian for your remake? – we rarely see female friendships being portrayed as anything other than loving, supportive, and frankly sick-inducing; Ugly Betty and Desperate Housewives being two possible contemporary exceptions. Watching the 1939 version of The Women is a refreshing antidote to all that sappy sisterhood crap.

I hope people go to see your movie – and then rush home to watch the original on TCM.

Yours sincerely,

Alison Kerr

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