The Best of Everything (1959)


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. Moreover, many 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.

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


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.

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  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!

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  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.

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    • 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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