Woman's World is a glossy, mid-'50s drama, with comedic undertones provided by June Allyson, and finally available on DVD on-demand from Fox Cinema Archives.
The plot centers on automobile mogul Ernest Gifford (Clifton Webb) and his search for a new general manager from a small pool — three of his best and brightest salesmen. Gifford Motors' (not so loosely based on Ford Motor Company) corporate headquarters is in New York City, and Gifford intends to bring his three top candidates — and their wives — for a long-form interview and look-see.
Bill and Katie Baxter (Cornel Wilde and June Allyson), from Kansas City, are both thrilled and frightened by their first vista to the Big Apple. Bill clearly would love to get the big job, and Katie, even more clearly, would hate it if he did, as she loves their life back home. Allyson has a blast being an "aw shucks" kid of goofball, but she is so sweet and sincere that her antics amuse and never get too over-the-top.
Sidney and Elizabeth Burns (Fred MacMurray and Lauren Bacall) may seem like the most obvious candidates for the job at first. Elizabeth is poised and intelligent, and Sidney is experienced and willing, but their marriage appears to be in shambles, due to his workaholic attitude and failing health.
The final prospective pair are Texans Jerry Talbot (Van Heflin) and his wife Carol (Arlene Dahl). Carol would do anything (anything) to help Jerry get the job, as she believes that New York is the only place for her. Dahl vamps it up as the script requires. Jerry wants to be judged on his own merits.
Elizabeth and Sidney (Lauren Bacall and Fred MacMurray)
The set-up of the dutiful wives supporting their ambitious husbands may seem dated at first, but there are some slight (and surprising for the '50s) feminist undertones. Gifford believes that the success of top job is just as due to the wife as the husband, and he is as interested, if not more so, in the ladies. The film is splashy, but also truly entertaining, as viewers are taken on a tour of 1950s Manhattan and treated to some very cool-looking vehicles. The "Giffords," we are informed in the credits, are all concept cars of the Ford Motor Company. Also treated quite honestly is the toll a CEO's job will inevitably take on one's life; at home and otherwise. This country is so success-oriented that it is rare for a movie to depict both the good and bad aspects of reaching for the top.
But mostly, Woman's World is fun. Director Jean Negulesco (Humoresque, How to Marry a Millionaire, Three Coins in the Fountain, Daddy Long Legs) knows how to deliver colorful entertainment, but also has a deft touch with scenes that don't include Gifford Motors: Elizabeth and Sidney dining at an Italian restaurant where they used to be regulars in their younger, poorer days; Elizabeth helping Katie navigate a fierce sales floor to get the perfect dress for a big dinner at Gifford's; Gifford giving the men a tour of his country home, and proudly showing off his "wall of fame"— beautiful women he claims to have "collected" over the years. Film buffs will get a chuckle to recognize one of the portraits to be Gene Tierney from Laura, a former obsession of Waldo Lydecker, probably Webb's most famous role.
The 94-minute film is released by Twentieth Century Fox. It doesn't have any extras, apart from scene selection. The transfer is good, but not as super-sharp as high-definition television viewers may be accustomed to. That said, Woman's World is still a welcome arrival to DVD. Like another of Negulesco's films featuring Lauren Bacall, How to Marry A Millionaire, it is good fun and should be enjoyed on repeat viewings.