While having her nails painted "jungle red," the vindictively swivel-tongued Sylvia Fowler (Rosalind Russell) learns from Olga, the manicurist, that her good friend Mary Haines's (Norma Shearer) husband Stephen is embroiled in an affair with perfume clerk Crystal Allen (Joan Crawford). Mary is hosting a luncheon that afternoon, and Sylvia cannot wait to spread the good news among their Park Avenue friends, who will be there.

Soon the sweet, trusting Mary becomes the victim of vicious insinuations regarding her husband, which are made worse when Stephen calls to cancel a trip they had been planning. Sylvia strikes the final blow by sending Mary for a jungle red manicure with Olga, who stupidly blurts out the entire story of Stephen's infidelity, not realizing that Mary is Mrs. Haines. Mary's mother, Mrs. Morehead (Lucille Watson), counsels her to keep silent and ignore the advice of her friends, but while at a fashion show, Mary unexpectedly encounters the conniving gold digger Crystal. Much to Sylvia's delight, the two rivals' meeting erupts into a major conflagration that makes the front page of the society columns.

Her pride wounded, Mary demands a divorce and is soon on her way to Reno. On the train, Mary meets her confused friend, Peggy Day (Joan Fontaine), who has just left her new husband, as well as Miriam Aarons (Paulette Goddard) and Flora, the Countess De Lave (Mary Boland), as they all flock to Reno to file for divorce.

Soon after arriving at a dude ranch for women, they are joined by Sylvia, who has been cast aside by her husband for the kinder Miriam. On the day that Mary's divorce is to become final, the worldly and wise Miriam sternly lectures her to forsake her pride and take back her husband, but Mary is too late, for Stephen has been ensnared by Crystal.

Two years later, Crystal, now bored with Stephen, turns to singing cowboy Buck Winston, the countess' new, young husband, for entertainment. Mary still longs for Stephen, but has abandoned all hope of ever reconciling with him until her daughter, Little Mary (Virginia Weidler), confides Stephen's misery with his new wife. Deciding to fight finally for the man she loves with "jungle red" claws, Mary tricks Sylvia, who has become friendly with Crystal, into publicly disclosing her friend's infidelity. With Crystal eliminated, Stephen asks to see Mary, who goes to him with open arms.

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Adapted from the successful Broadway play by Clare Boothe Luce, the film continued the play's all-female tradition - the entire casts of more than 130 speaking roles were all female. The stunt is that there are no men on screen—it's all mothers and daughters, best girlfriends and cooks and maids and nurses—and the boys are just on the other end of the telephone, or sending notes or emissaries (invariably other women.) But the fur flies in a big way, as the absent gender is the principal subject of conversation. As the original tag line exclaims: "It's all about men!"

Set in the glamorous Manhattan apartments of high society, and in Reno where they obtain their divorces, it presents an acidic commentary on the pampered lives and power struggles of various rich, bored wives and other women they come into contact with. Throughout the film, not a single male is seen — although the males are much talked about, and the central theme is the women's relationships with them. Lesbianism is intimated in the portrayal of only one character, writer Nancy Blake. The attention to detail was such that even in props such as portraits only female figures are represented, and several animals, which appeared as pets, were also female.

Filmed in black and white, it includes a ten-minute fashion parade filmed in Technicolor, featuring Adrian’s most famous designs of the day.

It's clear from the credits just what we're in for, as each of the principal members of the cast is introduced with a photograph of an animal. (Easily the best of these is the billing for Phyllis Povah, who plays Edith—she's compared to a cow, chewing her cud and all.) And things only get meaner from there—the opening sequence is set in a beauty parlor, where one character charitably remarks to another, "I hate to tell you, dear, but your skin makes the Rocky Mountains look like chiffon velvet."

The principal dramatic action concerns Mary Haines. Mary's heartbreak and efforts to maintain her dignity drive the story forward. Norma Shearer plays Mary, and while she's perfectly creditable, a good friend and wife and mother, she just isn't a whole lot of fun. Of course, she is the one being cheated on.

But, there are plenty of others to pick up the slack. Joan Crawford plays Crystal Allen, the other woman, and if you know Crawford, you'll be knocked out by her performance here. She's a slinky little number who knows just how to play the married man who's infatuated with her, and Crawford demonstrates a sharp gift for comedy nowhere to be found in too many of her later performances.

Best of all, though, is Rosalind Russell, who plays Sylvia, the most gossipy and backbiting of all these women, and in this company, that's surely saying something. Sylvia has a nice word for no one, least of all her husband, and takes her greatest pleasure in making mischief for others. There's something slightly horsy about Russell, and she's not shy about making herself look more than a little ridiculous—she does some great physical comedy and isn't afraid to show her rough edges. Since she's not asked to carry the story, she can just go wild, and the movie invariably gets funnier when she's on screen.

Not that she's lacking for good company, though. Paulette Goddard is a pip as the chorus girl stealing Sylvia's husband away, and Mary Boland is especially delicious as the ever-hopeful romantic getting yet another divorce—her fourth husband has been trying to poison her, not long after her third tried to push her off the side of a mountain.
The film proved to be a great success, both commercially and critically, and although it received no Academy Award nominations for 1939, many critics now describe it as one of the major films of the year in Hollywood, right along side of “Wuthering Heights”, “Goodbye, Mr. Chips” and “Gone With The Wind”.