December 1939: “The Women”, at Glasgow’s Alhambra Theatre

Advertisements in The Glasgow Herald, for Clare Boothe’s The Women, a comedy of manners, describe it as the “Play that made London and New York gasp;” “one glorious welter of smashing wisecracks;” “a modern ‘School for Scandal;’ “the most brilliant play America has sent us for years;” and that it “is indeed womanhood with the lid off.”


One, from page nine of the Monday the 4th of December edition of the paper, informed potential play-goers, that The Women had a cast of 40, all women, and that the play was “outrageously funny and sensational.” It opened on Broadway in 1936, and a Hollwood movie starring Norma Shearer, Joan Crawford, Rosalind Russell, Paulette Goddard, Marjorie Main, Joan Fontaine, and Hedda Hopper playing herself, was released in 1939.


The Women opened at Glasgow’s Alhambra Theatre on Tuesday the 5th of December with the “Entire Company and Production from the Lyric Theatre, London.” The Herald’s theatre critic’s review was published on page nine of the 6th of December’s edition. It opened with the following:


“The poor, modest male requires a good deal of courage to face the No Man’s Land of Clare Boothe’s play.


“His ideal stimulant would be a few blasts of John Knox’s trumpet defying the play’s ‘monstrous regiment of women.’ His aid in actual fact must be the comfort that all women are not like the leading ladies of Miss Boothe’s ensemble.”




“Witticisms and vivacious acting drive the play through its array of feminine accoutrements. The talk crackles as if coming from the sound track of a smart film … and sometimes it oversteps the boundary line of propriety.”


“The ideal production of this play would demand a tip-top cast throughout, and sets, decor, and costumes of a lavish and opulent order. The Alhambra production strikes a fairly good compromise under war-time conditions.”


Among the cast were: Mary Alice Collins as ‘Sylvia’; Kathleen Boutall as ‘Edith’; Meriel Forbes as ‘Crystal’; Karen Peterson as ‘Mary’; and Joan Greenwood (1921-87) as ‘Little Mary.’



1943 photograph of Meriel Forbes (1913-2000), who played ‘Sylvia’ at The Alhambra.


Another notice about the play, on page eight of the Herald, on Tuesday the 12th of December, comments: “‘The Women’ is a tragedy and a comedy, just as you look at it. But it’s no play for a man who wants to preserve romantic illusions about women.”


Images from the 1939 London Lyric Theatre production, can be seen at:



George Fairfull-Smith, July 2020.