Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Simply "The Best"...

Today's featured movie turned an eye towards the pleasures and pitfalls of being a working girl in the late-1950s. The Best of Everything (1959) was based on a first-time novel by a working girl herself, Rona Jaffe, which was written the year before (with movie rights snapped up by 20th Century Fox producer Jerry Wald before the final editing was even done on it!) The novel focused on five young ladies and, while the film's poster also featured five stories, one of the featured gals had been swapped out/downgraded to a peripheral role and another's story isn't even properly told in the character's blurb. But more on that later. (You will want to look at some of these pictures full-screen to appreciate the use of color, costuming, art direction and lipstick!)

The film opens with sunny and beautiful shots of New York City while Johnny Mathis croons the title song. The song is not a particularly easy one and, even though I am not generally drawn to Mathis much, he does knock this one out of the park with his silken, honey-butter vocal stylings.

As the flurry of downtown workers speed past the camera, we're introduced to Hope Lange, fresh from Connecticut and on her way to a potential job at Fabian Publishing Company. (The ad below says "Secretaries," but the job she shows up for and lands is primarily that of a typist.)
She arrives shortly before 9:00am to find the expansive office resembling a ghost town. An office boy tells her to hang around for another minute or two and that the place will soon fill up.
Sure enough, as the hour arrives, a swarm of secretaries bursts forth and begins fluttering around the refrigerator, finishing their hair, uncovering their typewriters and so on.
Lange is asked to take a typing test by the wise- cracking gal in charge Sue Carson, which she adeptly passes. She's then told that she'll be working for one of the editors on staff there because the regular gal is out sick.

She rifles through the desk and finds a clipping of the girl, which causes her to reflect upon her own life. Taking a postcard from her handbag, we see that it's from a young man to whom she's engaged. She starts to reminisce about their loving, tearful farewell on the ship before he sailed to London for a year's time.

Her daydream is interrupted by the editor, a deliciously severe and conde- scending Miss Joan Crawford who delights in treating Lange like a complete moron over the simplest thing.

We also catch a glimpse of two other workers, Martha Hyer and Donald Harron. They exchange excruciatingly awkward looks and are clearly in the middle of some sort of personal drama.
Now inside the gorgon Crawford's office, Lange is harangued time and again because during her first ten minutes on the job she doesn't know how everything in the office works or how Crawford expects things to be done. The imposing boss (who all the other girls refer to as "The Witch") toys with Lange for a bit before finally laying into her with a spiel about how college girls like her slither in and think they know everything. (Insecure much??)

Back outside, Lange is confronted with another new hire who has mistaken her for the one in charge and begins explaining why she's late. Diane Baker is a transplant from Colorado, just in and ready to take on the world. First, though, she needs to learn to remember to properly set her alarm clock!

Lunch takes place in the gargantuan, luxuriously-appointed cafe on the first floor. (The director Jean Negulesco was an artist apart from his work in the cinema and along with his art director filled this movie with colorful, sometimes elaborate modern art.) Done out of a seat at the counter by another zealous patron, Lange finally nabs a seat next to Baker.

Now we meet fellow secretary Suzy Parker, the one who was "sick" that day. Turns out she's an aspiring actress and frequently misses work in order to audition for Broadway plays. She is Baker's roommate and by the end of her stop at the counter (for some pocket money out of Baker), Lange has been invited to share their space for a third of the rent instead of commuting.

After lunch, Baker is summoned to work for editor Brian Aherne, who is clearly fond of the ladies as well as fond of booze. He questions Baker about all sorts of details regarding her life while giving her the once (or twice!) over with his lascivious eye.

Lange is trying to draw her first long day to a close, but Crawford will have none of it. She tosses more work into Lange's lap and when Lange (looking at the clock) asks Crawford if the material is to be typed, her snarky reply is, "No... Beat it out on a native drum." During this whole scene, Crawford is imperiously donning and fiddling with her gloves, not unlike a prize fighter gearing up for a match! However, this was no mere invention of hers to steal the scene. The book refers to her character putting on gloves at this moment. Lange takes a thick manuscript home to read, one which Crawford deemed "Trash!"

The hour having gotten late, Aherne has ordered sandwiches brought in for himself and Baker, but before they can be consumed, he's tried to ply her with alcohol and finally grabs her and plants a long smooch on her lips as she struggles to wrest free! Initially horrified by his advances, she ultimately finds that he reminds her a bit of her father and on the way down in the elevator she begins to feel a bit flattered by it all!

Parker misses the start of work one day to audition for esteemed director Louis Jourdan, though he barely gives her the time of day. (BTW, I'd love to give the li'l guy she's reading with the time of day... and night!!)

Baker, despite her close call from the clutches of Aherne, has now decided that she likes the old buzzard and is sharing a drink with him after work one day along with another Fabain editor, Stephen Boyd. She invites Lange to come over and join them. Boyd, who has a considerable drinking problem, takes a shine to Lange, though she is promised to her boyfriend overseas and can only think of their reuniting.

That evening, the girls bond over their now three-person apartment. They toast with some cheap Italian wine and begin to chit-chat about their lives and loves. We're not exactly sure what Parker's been up to, but Lange and Baker are virgins and intend to stay that way until marriage or, if that doesn't happen, then to about age twenty-six! Parker gets a call informing her that she didn't win the role she'd auditioned for.

Next up comes a terrific scene of Crawford on the phone. She's covertly conversing with her married lover who visits with her each Tuesday, but who has missed the last two weeks because of his wife's headaches. During this call (the dialogue for which Crawford penned herself with the screenwriter's permission after she wasn't feeling the original as being up to snuff), Crawford demonstrates practically every conceivable emotion from delight to anger to pain to fear, finally tearing into him at the finale with, "now you and your rabbit-faced wife can both go to HELL!" Hilariously, she begins to hang up the phone before she's completed the line, but it's a zesty, unforgettable moment and she handles all of the nuances of the call with immense skill. (This scene also makes us realize how much the world lost, dramatically speaking, when telephones went cordless...!)
We see how the pain of her personal life is taken out on her underlings when she next heads out into the typing pool and has more venom in store for Lange, who she sees as a threat to her position. You see, Lange has since become a reader, a step up from secretary, thanks to her recommendation of the book that Crawford disliked, but Crawford tells her that she'd better type up the items she's handing her if she'd "like to remain..."

An already rough day for Lange is about to get worse. Her mother has fixed her up on a blind dinner date with the son of one of her friends. Before she can go on that, though, she gets a long distance call from her fiance (Brett Halsey) in London. Over the roar of a vacuum cleaner she manages to make out the fact that he has wed an oil heiress while on his extended trip!! She's been kicked to the curb.

Before she's processed any of this, her date shows up and turns out to be about the biggest douche imaginable, with a lack of humor or insight and with a self-satisfied demeanor.
She's rescued from hell by the sight of Boyd, who's come down to the restaurant for the start of his nightly drinking. She invites him over, which miffs her date into leaving, and then confesses all her troubles to Boyd. They are clearly attracted to one another despite her hurt and she asks to go home with him. There, after still more drinking, she asks him to make love to her! He doesn't, but not because he doesn't want to.

At Fabian the next day, Harron and Hyer are forced to com- municate with one another over some cover art. Their awkward stifled conversation, during which Hyer can barely look at him, reveals that he is married and she is divorced with a daughter and that they've had an affair that ended not too long ago. He apparently isn't able to break free and she wants to be a married woman, not a mistress. (Their niggling romantic issues take place before a poster in which another couple seems to have an even more torrid scenario happening!)

Lange arrives at the office (in the same clothes!) and is nursing her first ever hangover. She isn't even positive what happened the evening before, but is at least told that she's now being made an editor, thanks to her insightful comments as a reader. She mistakenly thinks that Crawford gave her okay to the promotion, but is told in no uncertain terms that she did NOT. Crawford tells her she hasn't got the guts to stand up to an author and then swoops off, the pleated train of her smart dress whirling behind her!

Parker is conscripted into playing cocktail waitress and semi-maid for a party at Crawford's house that night. She isn't even paid for her trouble! Crawford believed that Jourdan might be there and thought the two might meet up, thus aiding Parker's nonexistent stage career, but he was a no show.

The party completely over, the doorbell rings and it is in fact Jourdan! While Crawford fixes him a sandwich, he and Parker, who he is clearly smitten with, duck out with a couple of bottles of scotch and head over to his place, one decorated with colorful scripts and objects d'art. Crawford reenters the living room and discovers that she's been abandoned by them both.
Now comes the day of the big company picnic, in which everyone is bussed out of the city and out to a sprawling country club for a day of grilling, drinking and three-legged races, among other things. I say everyone, but Crawford is noticeably absent. (Perhaps the organizers were not serving Pepsi-Cola to drink? Ha!) Again, this is a bit of a nod to the book in which her character deliberately stayed away from office parties, considering them "a waste of time."
As happens virtually any time they are on screen together, Harron and Hyer are chatting pleasantly until someone says something untoward that sends Hyer scurrying. In this case, it's Aherne, who tells Harron that he's just heard from his own wife that Harron and his wife will be coming over for a visit this coming weekend. Hilariously, this slip-up in the face of the tormented adulterers is done in front of the picnic bar which is decorated with a huge sign reading "Bottoms Up!"

Meanwhile, Baker has gently broken the rules and traipsed into the country club's clubhouse where she finds a young man tinkling away at the piano. Mistaking him for a coworker at Fabian, she strikes up conversation, but later realizes that he (Robert Evans) is a member of the club, who drives the snazzy, expensive convertible she was admiring outside. (BTW, another amusing sign punctuates this scene as well.)

It's pretty clear, even from this initial encounter with Evans, that Baker will soon in over her head. After he kisses her without invitation, they zoom off from the picnic in his car.
Now that Parker is bedding director Jourdan, she's been given a small part in his show. Thus, she gives her notice to Crawford who attempts to convey to Parker what a cad he is. She emphasizes that he goes through one actress after another and will never marry her. Parker points out Crawford's own lack of a legitimate love life which Crawford then takes out on an unsuspecting Baker who has come in to invite her to a bridal shower for Carson. (The invitation goes into the wastebasket immediately, of course!)

At the shower, we glimpse Carson's hunky fiancee for the first time. And, par for the course, as Harron and Hyer are there congratulating her, Gordon makes a remark about people who give up on their marriages, sending Hyer to her office.

Aherne, drunk and frisky as ever, trots in behind Hyer and shortly therafter she is heard screaming! He's lunged for her and torn the sleeve of her blouse. Amazingly, Harron escorts him out rather calmly and Aherne lingers at the party long enough to make a joke, which sends everyone into gales of laughter!

Even though she is highly resistant, Baker is feeling the heat to lose her virginity to the slick, allegedly charming Evans. Believing firmly that they will eventually wed, she acquiesces to his animal longings.

As Parker's play is in out of town tryouts, it's determined that even though it looks to be a smash, her own part is faltering and holding the play back a bit. Apparently the cute costar is doing okay, though! (Sadly, this actor Steven Gant seems to have only ever done one other movie.) Jourdan breaks the news to her that she is being replaced and will not open with the show in New York. This disturbs her tremendously and she begs him to at least allow her to be an understudy, which he does.

My longtime readers are familiar with "The Under- world's Favorite Extra" and cinematic good luck charm Leoda Richards so I feel obligated to share with them her brief appearance in the film. As is customary, she's spotted close to one of the stars (in this case, over Parker's pretty shoulder.)

At Carson's wedding reception, most of the gang is gathered to send the happy couple off on a honeymoon. (Hey, if Carson can't make it, I'll go!) Carson tosses her bouquet into a crowd of ladies, but aimed especially at Baker, who she hopes will land her man. However, he wasn't even considerate enough to come in and join the reception even though he caused Baker to miss the actual wedding! After she catches the bouquet, we discover how important that wedding will be because Baker is pregnant!

Outside, in one of several gorgeous location shots done in The Big Apple, Lange declares she's feeling domesticated and would like to take Boyd to her apartment and fix him a huge dinner. They are on the verge of getting romantic when a phone call comes that disrupts the mood. It seems Halsey is back in the States and would like to have lunch with Lange when he comes to NYC on business soon.

Parker listens from behind the curtain as Jourdan works the new actress over in her old part. The dialogue is, of course, reminiscent of the situation she's currently in with him. The heaving actress seems already to have her eye not only on Parker's part, but also on one key part of Jourdan's as well!

An increasingly neurotic Parker heads over to Jourdan's apartment and enters with a key she took without permission. She's leafing through his belongings when he comes out of the shower and begins to berate her. He's clearly done with her and is likely the woman-using jerk that Crawford tried to say that he was. Incidentally, don't miss the art direction shown below in which two pendulous, testicular lamps dangle from the ceiling by Jourdan's bed. One is even very slightly lower than the other. Brass balls indeed!
It looks like Baker is finally going to get her wish when it comes to holy matrimony. She's all done up for a wedding day, Lange has some champagne and Evans arrives in his blue suit to pick her and her suitcase up.
Unfortunately, not long after she's in the car, we discover that he has no plans at all to marry her and is, in fact, on his way to an abortionist! Baker becomes more and more agitated and upset as he coolly and cruelly drives on. (This is one of the very few rear projection shots in the film, which had heretofore been so good in its use of locations.)

Things are beginning to come to a head for some and a close for others. Crawford suddenly hears from an old flame she'd declined to marry years before. Sensing it's her last chance, she resigns from Fabian and hands the mantel over to Lange. (Symbolically, one of the things she finds in her drawer is a long-forgotten glove with "no mate.")

Lange is faced once again with the handsome Halsey and looks as if she might finally get the life she's always wanted.

Baker endures a harrowing trip to the hospital. (What? You thought she just enjoyed very Spartan, non- decorative sleepwear and snowy white sheets?)

Parker gets more and more unglued when it comes to Jourdan, especially after listening at the door as he makes love to his latest conquest. I won't go on any further with the later details of the story. Let's just say that some folks have a happier time of it than others.

Lange was on a high career trajectory at this period. After a role in Bus Stop (1956) and a pivotal part in Peyton Place (1957) for which she gleaned an Oscar nomination (the award went to Miyoshi Umeki in Sayonara), she was now given top-billing (in a part originally slated for Lee Remick.) As far as the cinema goes, she really wasn't able to sustain it for long, though. It was two years before her next movie, Wild in the Country (1961) with Elvis, along with Pocketful of Miracles (1961) alongside then-boyfriend Glenn Ford and Bette Davis. Lange tangled a bit with Crawford here and did with Davis as well, which means she probably could have given a lively interview about the dueling divas, though I don't believe she ever did. By 1968, was starring in a TV sitcom The Ghost & Mrs. Muir (1968-1970), though she did win two Emmys for that. There was a small, but unforgettable role as a rape-murder victim in the brutal Death Wish (1974.) She died of a colon infection in 2003 at age seventy.

We've profiled Boyd here before, so you may visit that page to learn more about him. It's strange that even though I like him a lot, I always forget - despite second-billing and a considerable part - that he's even in this movie! I've seen this at least four or five times and I'm always startled when his name pops up on the screen!  LOL  In 1959 alone, he had this film, A Woman Obsessed with Susan Hayward and a little picture called Ben-Hur in release.

Parker, one of the most famed and highest-priced models of her day, was only near the beginning of her acting career at this time. She'd appeared as a model in Funny Face (1957) and won a part opposite Cary Grant in Kiss Them for Me (1957) followed by Ten North Frederick (1958) with Gary Cooper. It was alleged that the movies intended director, Martin Ritt, departed the project over her casting, though he later changed his story and said it was the material itself. She was pregnant during the filming of Everything, though her marriage would be over within two years. She later married Bradford Dillman and enjoyed forty years with him (and their three children) until her death from kidney failure at age seventy in 2003 (the same age and year as Lange.)
Hyer received fourth-billing for a film in which she only appears infrequently. An Oscar-nomination for Some Came Running the prior year (which went to Wendy Hiller for Separate Tables) probably accounts for this disparity, but her role was meant to be more significant. Her character was featured more heavily in the novel (with the affair happening presently rather than in the past, though the man didn't work AT Fabian), but a great deal was cut out of the movie for reasons of time. In truth, for what is left of their storyline, Harron and Hyer's characters ought never to have been included in this crowded landscape. There tale is never fleshed out (nor finalized!) Hyer died in 2014 of natural causes at age eighty-nine.
Here is a glimpse of one deleted scene. It includes Hyer interacting with Harron (perhaps thanking him for saving her from the clutches of Aherne, it ends with her planting a kiss on him.
Publicity photos for the movie showed the couple in romantic poses and further kisses inside one of their offices at Fabian, presumably taken from deleted moments or perhaps merely staged before filming. Nothing like this appears in the movie.
Baker (in a role first intended for Diane Varsi) had just broken into movies with a part in George Stevens' prestigious The Diary of Anne Frank (1959) as Anne's sister Margot and a small role as an ingenue in Journey to the Center of the Earth (1959.) She would proceed to a long, busy career on the big screen and on television. Some of the movies she appeared in that happen to be Underworld favorites are The 300 Spartans (1962), Marnie (1964) and Krakatoa: East of Java (1968), but her career has spanned far beyond these. (It was a delight to see her pop up in Silence of the Lambs in 1991.

Of the young ladies cast in Everything, Baker was the only one who took any interest in Crawford and who Crawford felt any considerable affection toward in return. She has described helping to bolster the recently-widowed and somewhat vulnerable Crawford prior to takes. Later, during Strait-Jacket (1964), Crawford was unhappy with Anne Helm as her daughter and had Baker come in to replace her. That same year they costarred in Della, a TV pilot movie. Baker is still with us today at age seventy-eight.

Stage-trained Aherne had begun in British films back in the 1920s, but eventually came to Broadway and then on to Hollywood. He and Crawford had been costars in the 1935 movie I Live My Life and when it became evident that they weren't going to share any scenes in Everything, they asked for permission to put a brief one together using their own dialogue and it was kept in. He was Oscar-nominated for Juarez (1939), but lost to Thomas Mitchell in Stagecoach. Bowing out of the business in the mid-1960s, he lived until 1986 when heart failure took him at age eighty-three.
Evans had been working with his brother in the clothing business (Evan-Picone) while occasionally dabbling in acting when Norma Shearer spotted him at a swimming pool and declared that he should play her late husband Irving Thalberg in the upcoming movie Man of a Thousand Faces (1957.) he proceeded to win other parts including one in The Sun Also Rises (1957), but realized that acting was not his calling. Instead he segued behind the scenes, eventually becoming a highly-successful (and highly-colorful) producer whose tangled love life included seven wives, several of them famous. Today, at age eighty-five, he is still producing, albeit on the smaller scale of television.

Halsey is another of the dreamboats we've featured here in his own tribute. You can read more about him (and his gorgeous blue eyes) here. One bit of trivia. His love interest here, Lange, played Selena Cross to great acclaim in Peyton Place (1957) with David Nelson as her boyfriend Ted. In 1961, Return to Peyton Place had Halsey now playing Ted, but Lange's character was portrayed by Tuesday Weld. This movie provides a sort of cross-hatch idea of what the two would have been like in the sequel. Halsey is still alive today at eighty-three and acted as recently as last year.

Canadian actor Harron began working on American television in the mid-1950s. Everything was his Hollywood movie debut. With his role amounting to so little in the end, it didn't lead to any more movies for a while, but he did maintain an active career through the mid-1980s. His biggest (and most surprising!) claim to fame was developing a malaprop-laden character called "Charlie Farquharson" which he portrayed most of his adult life, including a lengthy stint on Hee Haw (1969-1992.) He also wrote 17 books from the character's point of view. He died of cancer in 2015 at age ninety.

Carson (shown on the left next to fellow player Linda Hutchings) was a then-popular nightclub comedienne who was simultaneously making her debut and swan song on the big screen. It's a shame because she was very effective and amusing in her role. That role was bigger and more important in the book. She was one of the five girls depicted in the story. In the film, she's referred to more than shown, though her life events and parties draw the other characters together at times. I'm afraid I don't know if she's alive today.

The year before this, Frenchman Jourdan had starred in Gigi (1958), the Oscar-winner for Best Picture. He'd been working in movies since the early-1940s before being brought to Hollywood for The Paradine Case (1947) and continued until the early-1990s. Unlike many of his peers, he married in 1946 and remained so until his wife's death in 2014, close to seventy years! The next year, he too passed away at ninety-three, undoubtedly, despite any other ailments, brought on by a broken heart.

There was a contest held prior to filming of The Best of Everything for a real secretary to win a part in the film as one of the office employees. (Rona Jaffe had actually wanted this for herself, but it wasn't to be for whatever reason.) I've gone back and forth and over and over to determine if it's the girl in the gray dress on the phone here, but this gal seems to be awfully skilled at performing for a non-professional.

In any case, this next shot is DEFINITELY the winner, Pat Cameron, because her moment in the sun (a split-second encounter with Lange on the street) is awkwardly inserted into the movie for no apparent reason. I just couldn't help wondering if she wound up being animated enough to earn the little moments that appear in other spots as well, and judging by her effervescent enthusiasm at the premiere, it's possible! Compare and contrast the faces and see what you think.

The movie credits save Crawford for last and so we did, too. After her marriage in 1956 to Pepsi-Cola CEO Alfred Steele, she concentrated less on her movie career (apart from The Story of Esther Costello, 1957) and dabbled in television, having relocated to New York City. When he suddenly died of a heart attack in 1959, the happiness she thought she'd finally found evaporated. But more than that, their expenditures in building a glamorous apartment and the inheritance that went to his prior wife left the fifty-four year-old actress in dire financial straights.
Jean Peters, a frequent star of Negulesco's films, had been off-screen for four years in self-imposed retirement and was slated to come back in this supporting part, but ultimately begged off. Crawford, in need of a career jump-start (not to mention a decent salary) stepped in ten days before shooting began. Negulesco had directed her in Humoresque (1946) and producer Jerry Wald was a close friend. She understood that it was a secondary role (in the book even less so, just a villainess for the girls to hate), but saw that it was also nonetheless meaty. The book described her character as having copper-colored hair pulled into a chignon and that's the way she showed up for work. She the part her complete attention, particularly in a scene which had her character in a bar after one too many drinks.

To her dismay, the scene - some shots of it from the trailer are seen here - was trimmed out of the picture due to length. (Some reports say that the scene was only added to the screenplay in order to get her to sign on for such a smallish part and that it was never intended to be included in the final print. I find this difficult to believe for the simple reason that in the movies, time is money, and they went to the expense of a set, costumes, actors, crew, etc... to complete the sequence, but never had any intention of using it??) Someone please unearth this footage!!!!

In any case, the shoot was a strain for the still shell-shocked widow and while sometimes she was in tears and vulnerable, other times she was assertive, sometimes to her own detriment. For example, she was supposed to be an on-screen hostess for the movie's trailer, but when they went to film it and she wouldn't remove a sizable Pepsi bottle from the shot (she was now on the board of directors of the company), she refused to continue. (Not sure why she and bit player Hutchings are clasping hands here!)

Then there was the infamous power struggle with Lange in which Crawford left her office and went to close the door to it with Lange still inside, but Lange wanted to be the one to close the door after Crawford exited. The veteran star balked at having the momentum of her exit hampered and raised the point only to have Negulesco give top-billed Lange the right to close the door. That pretty much closed the door on her relationship with Lange, too!

Not too long after this, Crawford's career was reignited by What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? (1962) and that film's success (in which she had profit-sharing) put her back in good stead, though her attention from then on was divided between Pepsi and acting in movies and on TV. When both were out of her life, by around 1972, that was it. By 1974, she'd basically secluded herself from the public eye and was gone in 1977 of a heart attack at age seventy-two.

When it comes to The Best of Everything, though, her hard-won professionalism and electric intensity before the camera paid off. Audiences and reviewers alike were stunned that someone of her ability was relegated to such a comparatively small amount of screen time. The New York Herald Tribune famously noted in its review that despite all the youngsters emoting themselves silly that, "...Miss Crawford comes near making the rest of the picture look like a distraction." She is also the chief reason anyone has watched it in recent years, though the retro, office-set series Mad Men (2007-2015) featured John Hamm reading the book, which lead to a reprint of that and a resulting interest in the movie.

The film garnered two Oscar nominations.  The title song lost to "High Hopes" from A Hole in the Head. Adele Palmer's smartly-tailored dresses and suits were also nominated, but the award went (understandably!) to Elizabeth Haffenden for Ben-Hur. Check out this hooty advertisement for the movie in which each character is asked what they consider to be "The Best of Everything." Poor Hyer, an editor in the film, is once again slighted by being listed as a secretary!

Another interesting ad is this one in which Hyer's image is cut and pasted in with the girls at their apartment (which, of course, never happens) and champagne glasses have been placed into everyone's hands. (The girls drank red wine...) The picture that this image of her was taken from appears above, sans hand.

Lastly, I give you this screamingly campy publicity photo of a moment that is only heard in the movie and not shown. No wonder! If this was how it was enacted, there would surely have been more titters than tears from the audience no matter how horrible Aherne's behavior was. It looks more like Hammer horror than office offensiveness. At least this movie shows just how rough it could be for women prior to the liberation years, when they were thought of by some men as just items on a smorgasbord, ripe for tasting!

I will be out of touch for a time, my loves, as I head out on a long weekend to the Great Smoky Mountains of Tennessee. My first day back I am attending a theatre performance in order to adjudicate it, so don't panic if it's a while between posts. You know I'll return ASAP with more foolishness. 

Editor's Note (7/7/16) -- I had to come back and add this photo, which I just found today, of the five ladies all together! I wish the quality were better, but this was as good as I could get it. Interesting variety of expressions and positioning (jockeying?!) going on here. 

18 comments:

Gingerguy said...

"The Best" period. I LOVE this movie, what a thrill to check the underworld and find this. This was a childhood favorite of mine, and I won't repeat myself, but my Mom and I once had an endless discussion about Suzy Parker and this movie on a long family car trip when I was about 8. There was never a chance I would grow up straight after this movie. As a fellow redhead Suzy was fascinating to me. I found out later she was from NJ. She had a famous Sister who was also a model, Dorian Leigh, who got her started in the business. The color palette of this movie is so striking in your photos, what a gorgeous period, and a gorgeous cast. Funny that Diane Varsi was replaced by Diane Baker, she would have been too similar to Martha Hyer to my way of thinking. Speaking of similar, the older office pervert is Brian Aherne, I always though it was Walter Pidgeon! And Robert Evans has had an amazing life and amazing wives (Catherine Oxenburg for five minutes), I forgot he acted too, I don't find him that handsome but obviously Ali McGraw and countless others did. Stephan Boyd will forever make me think of "The Oscar". Interesting about Joan's hair color and style. I assumed she had finally moved away from the short coifs of the early 50's and this was the interim before the towering do's of the 60's. And I think you cleared up a question for me about Joan's age. I read conflicting dates of birth, either 1900 or 1908, which would have made her 77 or 69 when she died, you go by 1905. I am always watching her and trying to figure out how old she is in a movie, as I know she was a fanatic about her skin and figure. Have a great weekend and thanks for such an informative and lush posting for a long time fan of this flick. I still listen to the title song occasionally, it's still "a certain thrill"

David Brum said...

The Soviet film 'Moscow does not Believe in Tears' (1980) wasn't a remake of this, but it's reaaaallly similar. Three young women go to Moscow to forge their careers, they have romantic entanglements, one of them gets pregnant, etc. Worth a look.

Roberta Steve said...

Poseidon, I saw this movie eons ago. To tell the truth, I only vaguely remember it. Your post brought a lot of it back. Two scenes I did remember were the telephone scenes of Hope Lange and Joan Crawford.

I remember Lange's scene and the lovely music that underscores it. I think Alfred Newman did the score. Also, how her lovely blue eyes fill with tears. Hope was a great crier, as she also displayed in Peyton Place. Her turn in Pocket Full of Miracles, as the sassy, sexy chorus girl love interest of Glen Ford is not her usual, earnest nice girl role. She is a delight. Too bad she wasn't cast against type more often. She had two interesting Hollywood marriages, one to Don Murray, her costar in Bus Stop, and to the acclaimed director Alan J. Pakula. As for The Ghost and Mrs. Muir TV series, it was a favorite of my sisters and I. Hope had great chemistry with co-star Edward Mulhare.

The other phone scene with Joan was a nice addition to the film, and she makes the most of it. I had no idea she wrote the dialogue herself! When I think of that scene I always remember how beautiful Joan's speaking voice was. What a dame!

Vince Frank C said...

A great review of a fun movie.l enjoyed the earlier scenes dealing with all the office shenanigans more than the later focus on the gals love lives.Robert Evans did the acting world a service when he switched to the other side of the camera.La Crawford stole every scene she was in.
There was a very short lived daytime soap in 1970 spinoff that was an amalgam of the book and movie and starred the Bad Seed herself,Miss Patty McCormick along with Hollywood refugees Gale Sondergaard and Geraldine Fitzgerald.



rico said...

Great post, Poseidon!
I own this movie and find it endlessly fascinating and entertaining, at times unintentionally so ; )

Watching Hope Lange give the one truly naturalistic performance in the film, it's a shame her career petered out so quickly. She was genuine looking and acting...not common during the last gasp of the studio era starlets.

On the other end of the spectrum was Martha Hyer. She was like the starlet version of a pod person! Her Oscar nom for Some Came Running was absurd, because Hyer is just as stiff and artificial as ever--though it's a hoot when she tells "writer" Sinatra that he has a "very exciting talent!"

Seeing Crawford in action as dragon lady editor feels like we're peeping into her career at Pepsi. It's really a shame that Joan's part was cut, because she's not afraid to go there, as the lonely career lady.

Most of the characters are hilariously hopeless: Diane Baker's April is a total dip! Who's more oily, literally and figuratively--Louis Jourdan or Robert Evans? Suzy Parker starts off light and snappy, then goes all Fatal Attraction! And everytime I hear Mr. Shalamar, I think of that one hit wonder singing Dancing in the Sheets...which would be most appropriate for this movie!

I enjoy The Best of Everything because it gives you a real glimpse of life in the Big Apple during the Mad Men era, but mostly because it's the tail end of studio era film tales about a trio of girls going off to find romance and success, only to find hardship and heartache! Again!

That opening scene with the magenta font over Mathis crooning with great shots of New York...hell yeah!

Cheers,
Rick

angelman66 said...

Awesome, Poseidon, you've captured the glossy appeal of the kind of movie I love to watch on a lazy Sunday afternoon...and this is indeed one of the "best" of its genre, along with Peyton Place, A Summer Place, and Imitation of Life (the late 1950s were obsessed with sex, and success!). These films were gorgeously produced, peopled by beautiful actors, and featured melodramatic turns by some of the best veterans in the business. Though very small, the part of Amanda Farrow really did open the successful third act of Crawford's career.

Your amazing blog truly offers its many readers "the best of everything"!
-Chris

joel65913 said...

Wonderful as usual Poseidon! I love this film in all its lush bright and shiny soapiness. The one thing though that's always mystified me is why when they were hacking Martha Hyer's part to ribbons they didn't excise her entire subplot since what's left is little more than a bit especially for someone of her stature at the time. I suspect it was purely a decision based on the fact that they would have another bankable name attached to the film, what's left adds zip to the picture.

I hadn't been aware that Jean Peters had toyed with the idea of coming back in Joan Crawford's part. For her to return in such a diminished spot seems an odd decision on her part since when she voluntarily bowed out a few years before she had been a top 20th leading actress. I guess she decided so too since she withdrew and even after she divorced Hughes decades later she only dabbled lightly in a return to acting.

Suzy Parker wasn't that great of an actress, though she's quite touching in her final scene, but what a stunner! Those pictures of her in the red dress are breathtaking.

I've always loved Hope Lange, I was a faithful watcher of The Ghost and Mrs. Muir reruns when I was a kid, not only Hope but the added bonus of Reta Shaw as her housekeeper!, and never quite understood why her feature starring career was so brief. She holds the center spot just fine here and goes toe to toe with Crawford without disappearing. I've read some stories where it appears that stardom went a bit to her head for a period and she was something of a pill though that seems to have been only a temporary thing and she was quite open later on. So maybe that played a part.

I remember when she and Suzy died within six months of each other my immediate thought was that I hoped that Diane Baker was okay! And indeed she was and still is fortunately. I was watching an interview with Sophia Loren just the other day from the TCM Film Festival and there she was in the audience looking hale and hearty. I haven't seen her on screen lately but she seems quite active both teaching and on the production side of the business.

One last note, I always try and watch these sort of films at a historical remove so that the horrendous sexual harassment present in this didn't ruin my enjoyment of the dishy melodrama, fabulous clothes, Crawford's delicious barracuda and the beautiful location filming but I lent this to a woman friend of mine who absolutely hated it for just that aspect. She said she liked all the things I just mentioned but that part made her so mad that she wanted to put her fist through the screen.

DevilYouKnow said...

Another fantastic recap! I too own this movie (which, like so many "old" Fox films, was given the barest bones of DVD releases) and find it very entertaining. There's something so enthralling about those 50s/early to mid-60s glossy melodramas that I could watch 'em all day! I live for the ridiculousness of the characters and the over the top opulence of the sets and wardrobe! Of course, I bought this movie for one reason only - La Crawford. This was right in the thick of what I call her terrifying look phase - auburn/copper hair, harsh, dark brows, oddly lined lips - but she's still fantastic in the role. That woman NEVA phoned it in. I love the "rabbit faced wife" phone scene and was actually a tad startled when I saw it for the first time and saw that Crawford slams the phone down before the line was even finished! Of course I laughed and still wonder why that take ended up in the film. Not that it's bad, but I can't imagine Crawford thinking that was her best take (or maybe a pissed off editor slide that take in!).

Everyone in this film was pretty close to perfection save for Robert Evans. Something about that man always rubs me the wrong way. I think it might be his overly pinched nose, but I suppose he was good as a smarmy, creepy asshole. It would be fantastic if this were re-released on blu ray with deleted scenes and those hilarious film posters.

F. Nomen said...

I'm with you on the dramatic loss of the slammed telephone receiver. Dramatic phone calls have really paled in the cellular age, but at least sound people have started adding beeps to let the audience know that a party has hung up, a vast improvement over the stop-gap of the other party going " Hello? Hello?"

Rick Notch said...

A limited edition blu ray of this film is sold at http://www.screenarchives.com/title_detail.cfm/ID/29263/THE-BEST-OF-EVERYTHING-1959/

Special Features include an isolated Score Track / Audio Commentary with Author Rona Jaffe and Film Historian Sylvia Stoddard / Fox Movietone Newsreel / Original Theatrical Trailer



Poseidon3 said...

Hello everyone! I'm finally back in the saddle again after my long weekend in the Smokys. It's quite gratifying to see how many of you love this movie and enjoyed this post, because it was quite a doozie to put together before my departure!

Gingerguy, I'm glad you mentioned the color palette of this movie. The soft grays and blues are so soothing, with the occasional burst of red (usually signifying wealth or success of a sort.) I loved reading your memories of this and about Ms. Parker. I'd forgotten about her sister. As for Joan's age, as you say I'm going with 1905, but who truly knows?! Coulda been 1805! LOL

David, interesting about "Moscow..." I'll have to keep an eye out for that one!

Roberta, Hope did have great emotion in her face and voice. I have never, ever seen "The Ghost and Mrs. Muir" but I see that the channel RetroTV is about to begin running it, so maybe I'll catch a few episodes if I'm lucky. BTW, Joan prided herself on her very clear speaking voice (for all her blind fans!), but sometimes it could be amusing, such as the way she pronounces her married lover's name "Arthur." You just have to hear it. I can't describe it.

Vince Frank C, I think I have to agree about your remark concerning the office shenanigans versus all the romantic entanglements. They went to the trouble of setting up a playing space/environment for all the employees and then sort of almost abandoned it to a degree. I have posted about the daytime TV version of this story before (here--> http://neptsdepths.blogspot.com/2016/01/they-say-good-things-come-in-threes.html )but for some reason neglected to mention it here. Thanks for mentioning it!

Rico, I loved reading your comments about the movie and agree with them. I find myself enjoying some of Hyer's performances, but it's often for the wrong reasons. LOL Maybe it's the voice. I thought she was truly dreadful in "The Happening" and not too great in "Once You Kiss a Stranger," either. I hated to see Suzy's character go from so rebellious and confident to the depths of degradation. She deserved better. And, yes, both Evans and Jourdan are slimy, but at least Jourdan is slightly human.

Angelman, You're so kind. Thank you for your compliments. Needless to say I agree with your assessment of these gorgeous, entertaining films and about Ms. Crawford!

Stay tuned for part two of this long comment!

Poseidon3 said...

Part 2!

Joel, as always you provide apt commentary on the subject at hand. No harm to Ms. Hyer, but her storyline should have been dropped. There's just too much going on in the film and it gets nowhere as a result. Her billing, as the film stands, makes no sense. Also, thank you for mentioning Diane Baker at the Sophia thing. I would never have known to look for her had you not noted it and unless I am mistaken she only popped up briefly on-screen one time. I know there are people such as the friend you mentioned who get hung up on applying today's sensibilities to yesterday's entertainment, but, like you, I always accept that I'm watching things from another era as they were commonly presented (and expected?) To me, seeing the way stories were told in the past is an education in itself and I am always livid if things are edited or changed in an attempt to be more acceptable now.

DevilYouKnow, thanks much! I too love movies from this polished era for the reasons you mention. I got the DVD that came out several years ago ("Fox Favorites"or something?) and it wasn't loaded down, but it wasn't bare bones necessarily. It had a booklet, a commentary and some newsreels and a trailer. But, of course, I would LOVE a deluxe release with deleted scenes. Fox seemed to hold on to so much footage. I wish they would turn up somewhere. BTW, I used to show that "rabbit-faced wife" moment to friends and we'd always howl at that classic insult.

F. Nomen, that's right! But don't forget either the joy that could be had of watching a glamorous gal like Tippi Hedren dial the phone with the eraser end of a pencil! Now that was awesome, too.

Rick, thanks for cluing people in about the DVD. I must confess that I do not enjoy Sylvia Stoddard's commentaries. Her voice annoys me, she tends to miss trivia opportunities and fun details that are happening right under her nose and is often incorrect in her comments as well!

Thanks again everyone. I'm happy that so many of you got a kick out of this one. Be back soon!

Khalid said...

Thank you for this article. Can you post a photo of Suzy Parker when she got old?

Greg Goodsell said...

Lange was also a powerful presence as the young hero's no-nonsense mom in Blue Velvet in 1986!

Joe said...

Always a pleasure to visit the Underworld but this post brought back so many memories of one of my favorite good/bad movies.
I think the three leads are terrific -- Suzy Parker might not have been a great actress but what a knock-out!
The portrait of the slow, three-martini lunch era brought tears to the eyes of this media guy who barely has time for a sandwich at my desk! Wouldn't it be great to be able to get co-workers to cover long absences from the office the way Gregg does?
Anyhow thanks for a great post.

Poseidon3 said...

Joe, thank you so much for taking the time to read this and to share your perspective on it. We've gained a great deal in terms of technology and ease of getting work done, but there have also been sacrifices, some of which we may not even be fully aware of yet because we're too in the midst of them all to know what the effect may be on our mental (and even physical) health.

Poseidon3 said...

This post brought out a LOT of commenters, so I wanted to let you know that I just went back and added a picture at the bottom, which I felt the tribute couldn't afford to do without. I hope you find it interesting!

Gingerguy said...

This is great. They are all in character (Diane Baker looks so sweet!). I have to hand it to Joan, she looks really good amongst all those youngsters, and she is sitting down with no tummy spoiling the lines of her outfit. What a great find.