The Best of Everything (1959)

Synopsis:

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.

P.S. This is my contribution to The Joan Crawford Blogathon, hosted by Poppity Talks Classic Film and Pale Writer.

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16 responses to “The Best of Everything (1959)

  1. Great review of a perfect fifties soap opera—beautifully done…I like it even more than Peyton Place. Crawford does practically steal the whole movie!

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Pingback: All Hail the Queen! The Joan Crawford: Queen of the Silver Screen Blogathon has arrived! – Poppity Talks Classic Film·

  3. I love your vibrant take on this film, Eric! Well done! 🙂
    As you said, this is quite soapy yet it has a lot of realism intertwined into the storylines. The climb up the corporate ladder and the inevitable glass ceiling are both focused upon with the only seemingly real lasting option being marriage/motherhood. Even Amanda feel for it although her attempts proved to be unsuccessful.
    You are so right that Joan’s scenes are memorable and the scene where she insults her lover over the telephone is priceless. No one could get in the last word like Joan!
    This really does have such a splendid, diverse cast. Both Louis Jordan and Robert Evans play slimeballs to perfection and I must say that I was glad to see them in other roles to learn that they weren’t quite like this in real life. 😉 Brian Aherne’s character was definitely the worst of the lot and I’m really surprised that he was never called out for his blatant indiscretions, even back then. Yikes!

    Thank you for joining our blogathon and for submitting your terrific contribution!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes. Yes. Yes. I loved how the film shows the first cracks on the ceiling. Even though I’m a man, I have seen with my own eyes the difficulties women face at the workplace. The film does a good job examining problems that refuse to die.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I love this film and thanks for a very fair appraisal. Brian Aherne is fantastic and as for Joan …!! It’s an unsung hero in terms of women’s representation in cinema – and the workplace, where, you know, plus ca change!

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Pingback: Bow to the Queen: The Queen of the Silver Screen Blogathon has arrived!t – Pale Writer·

  6. Joan’s work is so fine that you want to know more about her character. I feel the same way about the Martha Hyer and Don Harron backburner storyline. Your review reminded me of what is enjoyable about the movie and makes me wish we had that longer version. I guess I’ll have to dig up Jaffe’s novel.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I wanted to see more of Martha Hyer. A working single-mom was an anomaly in the ’50s, so I was curious about the character. Unfortunately, Hyer didn’t get much screen-time … 😦

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Such a thoughtful, well modulated review on a film that as you say, isn’t easy to really pin down. I absolutely agree that Joan shines in this, especially as you pointed out, because she should have had a much larger part. I so enjoyed reading your thoughts! Thank you for participating in our Blogathon!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Your description “glossy soap opera” is spot-on. I can’t NOT watch this film when I come across it. I normally dislike soap operas, but this one is so well done I can’t resist.

    And I agree Joan Crawford is the best thing about this film. It’s too bad she doesn’t have more screen time.

    Liked by 1 person

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