Dueling Country Divas (And Their Diva Duel Movies That Might Have Been)

12 Dec

Backlots once again is hosting the Dueling Divas Blogathon, which highlights glamorous classic movie stars who hate each other glamorously and fight out their troubles glamorously.  I’m participating in this officially a little later on, but I want to kick things off a little early with a pre-blogathon post that doesn’t exactly fit the criteria.

I’ve chosen five classic country songs that feature ladies in varying degrees of duels.  Each song, in my opinion, would have made a great classic diva duel movie.  Therewith, I will share with you why the ladies in these songs are divas and how the movie that could’ve been made might’ve looked (and I apologize in advance for all the crappy posters).

Honorable Mention:  Jeannie C. Riley’s “Harper Valley PTA

The Song:  A sassy widow, the bane of Harper Valley, exposes the PTA as the hypocrites they are when they have the nerve to send a note home criticizing her lifestyle choices.

Main Diva:  The sassy widow shows her divatude in the climactic confrontation with the PTA.

Supporting Diva: Shirley Thompson, PTA board member, who, if you smell her breath, “you’ll find she’s had a little nip of gin.”  There are many antagonists in this story; however, I think Shirley would make the best lead because there’s a lot of inherent pathos in being an alcoholic.

The Movie:  I know there’s already a movie, and I’ve seen parts of it many years ago, but I imagine this starring Ginger Rogers–maybe as a post-Primrose Path or Kitty Foyle endeavor, where she is from the wrong side of the tracks and works her way up and marries a rich dude and then is jilted by him (and then he up and dies), and then the movie includes some flashbacks to life before Harper Valley and then some Stella Dallas-esque scenes of her embarrassing her daughter (the narratrix of the movie, like the song) and then the climactic showdown.  Meanwhile, a glamorously and furtively drunk Ann Sothern–a woman both hard and soft who delivers one-liners like an absolute champ but who can also convey deep emotions–plays Shirley Thompson, whose marriage to Mr. Thompson is on the rocks, and she has her own troubles when Ginger Rogers rolls into town.  The ladies hate each other at first, but then they come to an understanding after the showdown because Ginger’s dad was an alcoholic and ya da da.  And maybe at the happy ending they trade recipes and snicker about the gal who’s having an affair with the ice man.

Harper Valley PTA


#5: Tammy Wynette’s “Your Good Girl’s Gonna Go Bad

The Song:  Tammy Wynette’s love likes to go to bars and mess around instead of stay home and do husband stuff, so Tammy decides if she “can’t beat ’em, join ’em” and changes herself to become more attractive to her husband.  Note:  I would probably hate this song on principal, but I get the feeling she’s saying all of this in a guilt trip sarcastic way.

Main Diva:  Our narratrix takes matters into her own spiteful hands when her husband starts steppin’ out.

Supporting Diva:  This is a more implied supporting diva than any of the others on the list.  I imagine there’s a trashy broad somewhere in the mix if this dude is visiting honky tonks.

The Movie:  Greer Garson–that fragile-and-regal-looking yet undeniably physical actress–plays our society dame protagonist who marries a working class dude who went to her fancy college on a scholarship.  They have a few good years, and then problems at work impel him to revisit his old lifestyle.  Greer at first doesn’t mind, but after Hubby pays a little too much attention to saloon chanteuse Marlene Dietrich (who else could we have as a saloon chanteuse?), she decides to dress up like a hussy and do some intel.  Hilarity ensues.  Maybe a food fight, as well.

Your Good Girl's Gonna Go Bad


#4: Dolly Parton’s “Jolene

The Song:  Our narratrix laments Jolene’s good looks and begs her not to take her man.

Main Diva: A good girl, maybe a little plain, pleads with another gal and lays it all out on the line.  That’s some courage!  (Even if it is slightly pathetic.)

Supporting Diva:  “Your beauty is beyond compare / With flaming locks of auburn hair / With ivory skin and eyes of emerald green.” She’s also got a pretty voice and an almost supernatural hold on the other gal’s man.

The Movie:  I hate to typecast, but I want Norma Shearer in this one playing a wronged wife who very much loves her husband and will fight for his love (à la The Women).  The role necessitates someone gentle, yet steely, so Norma fits perfectly.  The lady she confronts:  Gotta have me some Mary Astor, perhaps as a concert pianist Jolene.  While I don’t want it to be a remake of The Great Lie, I wouldn’t mind a baby’s involvement.  Maybe Norma Shearer is pregnant when Hubby leaves her for Mary Astor, and that’s what spurs Shearer on to confront Astor–like she would’ve just let Hubby leave her so he could find his own happiness, but then she finds out she’s pregnant, and her best friend (played by someone awesome like Joan Blondell) encourages her to fight for her own happiness/child’s welfare.  So, Shearer confronts Astor, and Astor at first doesn’t want to relinquish the man, but then she remembers her misspent youth and the baby she gave away for adoption that she had out of wedlock and blah blah blah.  The final scene finds Astor pounding her frustrations out in some melodramatic Chopin or Rachmaninoff number as Norma’s all backlit and glowy with her husband and baby.  Heck, maybe Joan Blondell and Mary Astor can become drinking buddies by the end.  Yes, definitely that.



#3: Sylvia’s “Nobody

The Song:  Sylvia keeps getting hang up calls from someone she suspects to be her husband’s mistress, and she keeps guilt tripping him about it.

Main Diva:  The star of this little show is the angry wife who keeps fielding calls and suspecting every lady who passes by to be a harlot.  She’s pretty raging and cool.

Supporting Diva:  The mistress with a conscience of sorts who can’t keep her hands off the married man but can’t find the gumption to confront the wife.

The Movie:  Barbara Stanwyck–in tragic/domineering The Strange Love of Martha Ivers mode–headlines as the wife of a corporate exec whose secretary, Joan Crawford, is hopelessly in love with him.  Joan Crawford–in tragic/submissive/not-confident-at-all A Woman’s Face mode–is conflicted about the affair–because she’s a good girl at heart–especially when she calls wanting to speak to her paramour at home, and Stanwyck answers the phone.  Stanwyck begins a vicious campaign to end Crawford, and tragedy, out-of-wedlock pregnancies, and running folks out of town ensue.



#2: Reba McEntire and Linda Davis’s”Does He Love You

The Song:  Reba’s the wife; Linda’s the mistress.  They know about each other, and they both have kind of spiteful compassion for each other while they lament their own respective plights.

Main Diva:  Reba loves her husband and wants to keep him, but she knows he has another life and another love.  “Is he deceiving me, or am I deceiving myself?”–what a poetic anthem of misguided love!

Supporting Diva:  Linda knows what she’s getting into, but she can’t stop herself!  She’s a tragic figure who just wants someone to believe in her!

The Movie:  I’m gonna take a page out of Reba’s playbook.  The music video is the movie that should have been!  Glamorous ladies dueling and then the wife blowing up a yacht!  Heck yes!  We’ll have to make this one a pre-code to let that arson/double-homicide thing slide. Starring Kay Francis (she can do that Reba smirk!) as the wife and Ruth Chatterton as the mistress (in furs!).

Does He Love You


#1: Loretta Lynn’s “You Ain’t Woman Enough/Fist City

The Song(s):  Loretta Lynn sings about a gal who keeps boasting that she’s been with Lorretta’s man.  Loretta answers this claim thus: “You ain’t woman enough to take my man,” and “You better move your feet / If you don’t wanna eat / A meal that’s called fist city,” respectively.

Main Diva:  Our narratrix is a BAMF.  She will “grab you by the hair of the head / And lift you offa the ground” if you mess around with her man.

Supporting Diva:  It takes some gall to stand up to a brawler like Loretta. In fact, she’s been “making [her] brags around town,” and she seems to want to engage in an all-out battle.

The Movie:  There are just not enough physical confrontations between glamorous ladies in classic movies (there’s a fray in Destry Rides Again that leaves Dietrich soaked to the gills, and a pretty great choking scene in Old Acquaintance, and some slapping in both Mildred Pierce and Queen Bee, and lest we not forget the gunfight in Johnny Guitar, but other than that I’m kind of coming up blank.  Was there some slapping in Now, Voyager, or am I making that up?).

I’m having trouble deciding what and whom this movie should include, however.  Maybe in a small Appalachian town, Carole Lombard, a girl from the wrong side of the tracks, is married to the mayor, but–scandal of scandals–he’s having an affair with a lady politician (Claudette Colbert) who’s in town for a few weeks for some political stuff.  Lombard’s pugilistic attitude toward the husband-stealer jeopardizes the town’s standing in the state government, but they come to blows anyway.  Hilarity ensues.  I’m thinking this is a Preston Sturges screwball affair with a lot of slapstick and bizarre twists.  Perhaps the mayor is actually married to Colbert the entire time, and the final scene is Colbert chasing Lombard off with a shotgun–like they’ve completely switched roles by the end.  IDK, but both ladies are always great at physical comedy and zingers, so we’re good to go for whatever.

Fist City

One Response to “Dueling Country Divas (And Their Diva Duel Movies That Might Have Been)”

  1. silverscreenings 12 December 2012 at 8:31 PM #

    Great idea for a “dueling” post. Two thumbs up!

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