This is the story of three young and ambitious women working at a New York publishing company in the late 1950s. The career-oriented women deal with, among other things, love entanglements and work-related conflicts.
Reaction & Thoughts:
“Here’s to men. Bless their clean-cut faces and dirty little minds!”
Based upon Rona Jaffe’s best-selling novel of the same name, The Best of Everything is a beautifully-photographed (in CinemaScope), surprisingly compelling and engaging melodrama that focuses on the issues working women faced in the 1950s. Yes, it’s a glossy soap opera, but it’s extremely well-crafted with an excellent ensemble cast.
Considering that there are so many characters with their own storylines, director Jean Negulesco (Three Coins in the Fountain) and screenwriters Edith Sommer (This Property Is Condemned) and Mann Rubin (The First Deadly Sin) do a superior job keeping the narrative relatively simple and interesting.
The Best of Everything is sandwiched between 1950s conformity and 1960s disillusionment. 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 a female perspective.
There is enough talent here to fill 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. 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 (Chinatown), plays a callous playboy.
Joan Crawford (Mildred Pierce) practically steals the show as a tough-as-nails book editor, a woman who has chosen career over personal life. Crawford conveys vulnerability behind a tough exterior beautifully. Apparently, her role was trimmed down when the movie proved to be too long, but what’s left is compelling enough to stand up and cheer (you get glimpses of the missing footage during the theatrical trailer).
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:
The Best of Everything is like a feminist version of TV show Mad Men. Anyhow, the film is an interesting snapshot of a specific time in America, when a lot of women began pursuing a career outside the force. More important, decades 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.