Mrs. California

The time is pre-women’s lib 1955, the place a Los Angeles hotel, where a homemakers contest is in progress—the winner to embody the epitome (at the time) of the ideal woman: “a happy, good and beautiful homemaker.” Entered as Mrs. L.A., Dot, sponsored by the local gas company, vies with the others in ironing a man’s shirt, sewing an apron from an original pattern, setting a table, preparing a meal and delivering a monologue entitled “My Proudest Moment” —which, for Dot, was when she saved an American naval force from submarine attack while serving as a decoder in the WAVES during World War II. She is also abetted by her tart-tongued friend Babs, an electronics wizard who is not above tampering with sewing machines and stoves as the contest comes down to the finals, with Mrs. Modesto, Mrs. San Bernardino and Mrs. San Francisco going head to head with Dot for the victory. Urged one way by the brassy Babs (who can’t resist showing up the contest for the ridiculous farce it is) and another by the fatuous man from the gas company (who pleads with Dot to play by the rules) Dot ultimately decides to do what she thinks is right rather than what she is told to do—the result, of course, being that the final nod goes to the contestant who best fulfills the image ordained by the macho men who run the contest and the one who manages to blend a good helping of sex appeal with her compliance.

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