This is the story of three ambitious women working at a New York publishing company in the late 1950s. The young women deal with, among other things, love entanglements and work-related conflicts.
Reaction & Thoughts:
Based upon Rona Jaffe’s best-selling novel, The Best of Everything is a beautiful-photographed (in color CinemaScope), surprisingly compelling melodrama that focuses on the issues career-oriented women faced in the 1950s. Yes, it is a glossy soap opera, but it’s extremely well-made with a cast made up of excellent actors, both seasoned veterans and stars-on-the-rise.
Considering that there are so many characters with their own story-lines, director Jean Negulesco (Johnny Belinda) and writers Edith Sommer and Mann Rubin do a pretty good job keeping the narrative relatively simple and interesting.
The Best of Everything sits at a crossroads of an indecisive era — the movie is sandwiched between 1950s conformity and 1960s disillusionment. It’s the kind of film that both glorifies and condemns traditional values and that’s interesting to watch. Although dated in places, you’ll be surprised — I know I was — to see how many of the issues presented here are still relevant today. Office politics, careerism, sexual harassment, etc., The Best of Everything tackles common workplace complaints, almost exclusively viewed from the female perspective.
There is enough talent here to fill up a stadium. Hope Lange (Peyton Place), Diane Baker (The Silence of the Lambs) and Suzy Parker (Ten North Frederick) are a trio of secretaries trying to make it in the Big Apple. Stephen Boyd (Ben-Hur) is a lonely editor, Martha Hyer (Some Came Running) is a single-mother attempting to rebuild her life after a divorce, and Louis Jourdan (Gigi) plays an egomaniacal stage director. The usually mild-mannered Brian Aherne (Juarez) is shockingly good as a lecherous editor-in-chief whose favorite pastime is to sexually harass women! Famed actor-turned-movie-mogul Robert Evans (The Kid Stays in the Picture) plays a callous playboy.
Joan Crawford (Mildred Pierce) is hands down the best thing about the movie. Her role was apparently trimmed down when the film proved to be too long — Crawford would later complain that her best scenes ended up on the cutting room floor — but what’s left is compelling enough to make you stand up and cheer (you get glimpses of the missing footage during the theatrical trailer). Crawford plays a tough-as-nails book editor, a woman who has chosen career over personal life. Crawford does an excellent job conveying vulnerability behind the tough exterior.
William C. Mellor’s (A Place in the Sun and The Diary of Anne Frank) widescreen cinematography is wonderful — corporate America never looked more beautiful! I also liked the Oscar-nominated title song, composed by Alfred Newman (The Mark of Zorro), with lyrics by Sammy Cahn, and sung by crooner Johnny Mathis.
Conclusions & Final Thoughts:
As I watched The Best of Everything, I kept wondering if this movie was the inspiration for AMC’s TV series Mad Men — it’s essentially the same concept, except that this movie tells the tale from the perspective of women. Anyhow, The Best of Everything is an interesting snapshot of a specific time in America. More important, 60 years later, there is a lot of stuff here that still rings true today, specifically the way the film explores the unique challenges women face in the workplace. Color, 121 minutes, Not Rated.