George Cukor, Norma Shearer, and Rosalind Russell on a lunch break on the set of The Women
Norma had it in her contract that only a man could be named a co-star with her on any picture. For The Women, she capitulated and said Joan Crawford might also be starred above the title, but when it came to me, that was another story. she must have felt sh’d been pushed enough. I, on the other hand, wasn’t willing to settle for billing that said ‘with Rosalind Russelll.’
About five weeks into production on The Women, I got sick. You couldn’t pull that trick in the first fews days, they’d just replace you. I never attempted it again my whole career. Norma Shearer wouldn’t give in on the billing, so I wouldn’t come to work. I wasn’t holding up production, they had plenty to shoot, but I let it be known that I was going to be under the weather for quite a long time.
Everyday Benny Thau, head of talent, would call. The last time he called-it was the third or fourth day of my strike-he said, ‘Oh, something happened this afternoon. Norma Shearer says you’re so good in this film that she’s going to allow you to be starred too.’ ‘That’s very nice of Norma.’ I said. ‘Do you think you’d feel well enough to come to work tomorrow?’ Benny said. ‘I’ll call my doctor and make a stab at it.’