Reviewed by Glenn Erickson
This 8-cylinder soap opera continues Jerry Wald's string of successes by finding another multi-character
story of young women and modern morals as a follow-up to his mega-hit
Peyton Place. As explained in an interesting
commentary by the original book author Rona Jaffe, Wald inspired her to write a spicy exposé of what life
is like for modern working girls. He then pounded it into a boxoffice-friendly and censor-safe Hollywood mold. What
comes out is pretty entertaining nonetheless, with interesting actresses like Hope Lange and Diane Baker
being run like spawning salmon through the typing pool of a Manhattan publishing company. Johnny Mathis sings
a gushy title tune.
College graduate Caroline Bender (Hope Lange) finds two new roommates in her first day as a typist
in a ritzy high-rise publishing house, innocent April Morrison (Diane Baker) and worldly Gregg Adams (Suzy Parker).
April minds her own business and avoids the grabby hands of editor-wolf Fred Shalimar (Brian Aherne); Gregg claims to
be a cool player of the love game, yet has breakdowns both romantic and nervous over stage director David Savage
(Louis Jourdan). Caroline has to deal with a faithless fiancée (Brett Halsey) and lock horns with a hostile
female editor, Amanda Farrow (Joan Crawford). All three proceed in an office atmosphere dominated by alcoholic
married males that prey upon the young typing talent. April is eventually swept off her feet by Dexter Key, an oily
playboy (oily playboy Robert Evans) while Caroline has to choose between a serious career and the interest of the
one decent editor in the company, the philosophical Mike Rice (Stephen Boyd).
The Best of Everything may be a soap opera, but it sustains a high interest with its attempt to be honest about
the new working girl of the late 1950s, when an awful lot of sexual freedom suddenly became acceptable - and somewhat
desirable - in the urban centers. Nobody in this publishing house is separating the good girls from those that "do" - it's
presumed that Hope Lange's Caroline has had some amorous experience, and Suzy Parker has certainly been around the
block more than once. Only young Diane Baker's April is assigned appease-the-censor duties, like Yvette Mimieux in
Where the Boys Are. Hollywood wouldn't let
innocent young things just be seduced and abandoned; they had to go nuts in remorse and walk into traffic or leap
from a moving car.
The girls get pinched, hit on, plied with liquor and lied to by a succession of heels; The Best of Everything
does make it easy to distinguish the good men from the lice. Lecherous married man Fred Shalimar likes to pounce on
women as if they were deer in hunting season. Fiancée Eddie puts in a casual call to let Caroline know he's
married another girl for business reasons, and later makes a slimy proposition to keep her on the side. The verminous
Dexter Key treats April like a disposable kleenex. Only the honest Eddie Rice behaves in a gentlemanly manner, and
that's only after our heroine has thrown herself at him in a moment of alcoholic despair. And he still respects her
the next day, even when he has to reassure her that nothing happened.
Author Jaffe originally included a wider range of women in her story. Martha Hyer's divorced mother is established in an
unhappy relationship with yet another married staff member, but her subplot is dropped almost entirely; grief of a
young mom was apparently insufficiently glamorous. The book had a fifth female character, but she was eliminated
altogether from the movie.
Joan Crawford is aboard with an unusually subdued performance in a role given her as a favor by her old producer Jerry
Wald. Her Amanda Farrow is presented as a class-A bitch and career roadblock to Caroline, but she also has a sad story
to tell. She later intimates that she tried to go away to become the quiet wife of a dull businessman, but it didn't work
out. Crawford fans will immediately find a parallel with Crawford's own story; she'd recently buried her Pepsi-executive
husband - after spending him dry - and was practically crawling back to Hollywood hoping to get a career going again.
Caroline's progress is the story's main thread. She becomes a reader and then an editor in a matter of days by flagrantly
misrepresenting herself as an editor and working with a writer "she believes in." The movie makes no comment about this bit
of chicanery. Caroline spends the rest of her time running interference for the deluded April and wondering
what happened to Gregg.
An actress on the side, the supposedly impervious Gregg goes nuts for Louis Jourdan's director. After his rejection she
turns into a psycho, hanging around his apartment and going through his garbage in search of anything to make a
connection with him. Gregg is essentially an update of the "Broadway Baby" from The Lullaby of Broadway musical number
in The Golddiggers of 1935: She loves kittens, and takes an unplanned dive backwards from the top of a tall
As for April, the sanitized script makes her a unwed mother double-crossed on what was supposed to be her wedding day. The story
then confects a revolting censor-proof
resolution that a) punishes April for her sins with undeserved violence and injury; b) gets rid of the inconvenient fetus; and
c) instantly finds April a Mr. Right in the form of a devoted young doctor who falls in love with her as she lies wrapped
up in bandages like Miss Im-ho-tep, 1959.
Fox's Studio Classics DVD of The Best of Everything is a handsome enhanced CinemaScope transfer of this
slick studio film. The design of the offices has an impressive early 60s look that invites comparison with the
The Apartment. An absorbing commentary alternates
between author Rona Jaffe's personal reminiscences and info provided by historian Sylvia Stoddard. Stoddard's good
attention to detail goes a bit too far into fashion minutiae for this male reviewer, but otherwise she offers a lot
of interesting information - is the office design just Mondrian-like, or were people in 1959 referring to the style with that
name? Jaffe's talk is fascinating. As can be expected, she had some enviable connections to producer
Wald in terms of getting the job. But she explains in full how the book came about and how the movie diverged from it.
Anecdotes contrasting her own publishing house experience - wasting time, lying about being qualified to take shorthand,
etc. - are hilarious. She does a fine job of explaining what the morals of her co-workers were like without resorting
to sleazy details, or getting out the whitewash.
The back of the package has a photo of Joan Crawford and what would seem to be author Rona Jaffe on the set. Crawford has
her "3 O'Clock plastered but looking good" smile; we can presume that the stage temperature is down in the 60s so she can keep
drinking vodka in a water glass (the Pepsi bottle is right there too) and not break out in perspiration. She's officially
"posing with someone important" and stares over the camera while holding Rona's hand. For her part, Ms. Jaffe looks like
she wants to be rescued, fast. One picture is worth a lot of words.
The extras also have a trailer (where Crawford's classic trashy line, "You and your rabbit-faced wife can both go to Hell!" is
given a strong emphasis) and a newsreel blurb on the film's premiere.
On a scale of Excellent, Good, Fair, and Poor,
The Best of Everything rates:
Supplements: Commentary, trailer, newsreel
Packaging: Keep case
Reviewed: May 8, 2005
DVD Savant Text © Copyright 2005 Glenn Erickson
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