03 October 2014

Friday is the (Inspirational) Movie Night: Dinner at Eight (1933)


This one is educational instead of inspirational, be warned. Dinner at Eight (1933, George Cukor) is a manners comedy/drama and - despite having a marvelous ensemble of expressive actresses - not a feminist masterpiece. Nevertheless, it very clearly depicts the role of soft power that women have been relegated to in many times and places throughout the history, especially when separating her power inside the family and the expected persona of a sweet and demure wifey in public.

The cast does the job perfectly and - when everybody meets at the dinner table at eight, perfectly dressed and perfumed - almost none of the scheming and moving is visible.
Even more, the anxiety of the wives to influence and assure success (social and/or economic) is also to be understood in light of the realization that the husbands and their luck in business is all they have. Because, yes, you guessed right: it was believed to be unwomanly to work for a wage if that was avoidable. Think of the stress of being completely dependent and - supposedly - with no voting rights regarding the family finances! That's why Dinner at Eight ladies do their little secret planning and negotiations.

+ You get the adorable Jean Harlow as a very ambitious social climber! Power to her!

To remind that the ethos of scheming behind the partner's back in the family still hasn't died even in postindustrial societies, see, for example, My Big Fat Greek Wedding (2002):

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