THE BEST of EVERYTHING ~ 1959

The blog: MOON IN GEMINI  is holding its WORKPLACE IN FILM & TV Blogathon this weekend. I’ve clocked in to talk about this 1959 film which I enjoy very much. I admit it’s one of thOse “comfort food” movies because of my familiarity with the movie and familiarity of characters that are pretty much archetypes ( or prototypes…or stereotypes if you wanna be a big ol’ meanie about it! )

What a Character! Ann Doran and Lurene Tuttle

My guilty pleasure is THE BEST OF EVERYTHING.”

From 16 until I retired I spent my working life earning a living in the clerical world of The Office, trying to understand and navigate human dynamics and office politics. I took Civil Service exams to work my way up, had affairs with co~workers, maintained confidences as Secretary to a few bosses, crammed all I could into one~hour lunches ~ more or less ~ (…mostly more ), and cultivated friendships that went past the bounds of 9~to~5 to include some of my best Friday night memories where we went dancing, or hung out at the Blarney Stone with games of Pictionary and glasses of booze strewn across the table by night’s end. ( I remember this time I offered my friends $50 to whoever jumped into the City Hall fountain, but that’s another story… )

The office terrain in the movie is very familiar to me. The dramatics of the life of these secretaries are drastically different from mine. Let’s take a closer look at “The Best of Everything.”

THE DISH:

“THE BEST OF EVERYTHING”

THE INGREDIENTS:

  • One ambitious blonde………………. ( HOPE LANGE )
  • One innocent brunette………………. ( DIANE BAKER )
  • One free and easy redhead….……… ( SUZY PARKER )
  • One sexually harassing boss……….. ( BRIAN AHERNE )
  • One cruelly handsome but brooding, slightly inebriated publishing agent
    ( STEPHEN BOYD )
  • One regretful blonde………………… ( MARTHA HYER )
  • One rich and oily playboy who knocks ‘em up and gets them abortions……………………… ( ROBERT EVANS )
  • One love ‘em and leave ‘em Broadway director………
    ( LOUIS JOURDAN )
  • One tyrannical terrorizing Executive Secretary who is the mistress of the company’s V.P. and accepts any crumbs of his time as he allows… ( JOAN CRAWFORD )

RECIPE:

Gently place all the ingredients into a wide colorful Cinemascopic pan ~ actually baked in New York City ~ stir gently and put in a heated oven. Sit comfortably for two hours and VOILA!!! A delicious soufflé of soap operatic portions is prepared by Chef Negulesco.

There are all kinds of things sort of wrong with this film’s message. It IS sexist. ( Hell, my description of Ingredients is sexist ). But It’s 1959 dumpling, 1959, AND the Dark Ages ( to paraphrase ‘Julie‘ in “JEZEBEL.” The film’s credits trick us into thinking we’re about to enter into the ‘World of Women In the Work Force.’ We see women come off busses and trains,

rushing around the urban jungle of NYC into office buildings, readying themselves for a day’s work; quite the opposite of the suburban housewives of “No Down Payment” or “Strangers When We Meet.” But though the women of “The Best of Everything” are more glammed up than a bunch of 1940’s Rosie the Riveters revving it up in the munitions factory, the Rosies had more of a sense of purpose for work. They were doing it for the cause. And their men were mostly at war. Here, in The Best of Everything,” work is really window dressing. Work is not a reward unto itself but a means to an end; and the be all and end all…was marriage. This is a “woman’s picture” not “Executive Suite.”

SPOILERS ~ Because if you haven’t seen this movie already, well, frankly my dear, c’mon —

Here’s a working girl…who had a boyfriend on the side with vertigo…and didn’t look like she was in a rush to marry

Look at it…wide~open prairie land.

Surveying the land is our first ‘working girl’ in white hat, gloves and pearls. She’ll meet one of the denizens of The Office. ‘Mary Agnes’ is our first intro into the working girl in action. Played by Sue Carson, she makes the most of her brief screen time in this movie. She’s a New York hoot with an accent from Brooklyn.

Plainly put she is the office gossip who’ll give us the lowdown on all the characters. She talks fast and knows the ropes around office life. Besides, she’s caught the brass ring; she’ll be married in a few weeks and will escape. Office gossip, a staple in the world of work.

There is definitely sexism involved…

MR. SHALIMAR: “Are you looking for experience Miss Bender?”  as he fondles her knee. Check.
CAROLINE BENDER: (sternly) “Of a sort, Mr. Shalimar.” She moves his hand from her knee. Checkmate!

Ageism is touched upon…

MIKE: “Don’t underestimate him, Miss Bender. Treat him with respect. Start being 55 and worried about a job that’s not even good enough for you.
CAROLINE: “Why should he lose his job?”
MIKE: “You. Young people like you. Bright young kids with drive and a flair. He’s afraid.”
CAROLINE: “Afraid of me?”

But yo…it doesn’t excuse the sexism. Brian Aherne’s Mr. Shalimar is especially egregious in the sexual harassment area. Diane Baker’s April Morrison has her moment with him in this sequence where this aging wolf (the boss with all the power) creeps up on our Mid-Western girl. She’s supposed to be taking dictation after 5:00pm. Well…

  

Ahhhhhh…bring back the days of “MAD MEN,” said the CineMaven… tongue~in~ cheek.

But director Negulesco gives Baker a nice little moment after the embarrassing scene for her character April. Shalimar’s given her cab money and a sandwich and sends her home. She waits for the elevator and thinks about what’s just happened. She goes from being mad and indignant, to feeling a bit sophisticated by his pass. Like she’s crossed some sort of line of becoming less small~town girl…to big city woman. Yes, it’s still harassment folks, but April’s a sponge soaking in all her experiences in New York City. She’s so sweet taking it all in and accepting it.

Now’s a good time to take a look at the threesome of “The Best of Everything.” Hope Lange, Diane Baker and Suzy Parker come from a long line of cinematic triumvirates:

 ♥   ♥   ♥     ♥   ♥   ♥

BLONDE AMBITION ~ ( HOPE LANGE as Caroline Bender )

Lange’s working until her betrothed ( Brett Halsey ) comes back from a business trip to marry her. But there’s an earnestness to her approach to work. She wants to do a good job, learn all she can. We see her toughness when she squares off against Executive Secretary Amanda Farrow, played

with easy imperiousness by legend Joan Crawford. She faces her with snarky retorts.

MISS FARROW: “Caroline? When I buzz twice it means I want you for dictation.”
CAROLINE: “Excuse me. I didn’t know.”
MISS FARROW: “Makes one wonders what they DID teach you in college.”
CAROLINE: “Guess I forgot to take the course in buzzers.”

Feisty. Lange is easy on the eyes and easy to get along with, garnering two roommates within the blink of a New York minute. And 1959 girl~talk ensues. The sexual revolution is just around the corner:

CAROLINE: “Well I don’t know. If Eddie hasn’t married by the time I’m twenty~six I may take myself a lover.”
APRIL: “Really? At twenty~six I guess you’re right. If you’re that old you have a right to live.
CAROLINE: “If my mother heard me talk about love so casually I think she’d die.”
APRIL: “My mother never talks about love in any way. She’d no more tell not to have an affair than she’d tell me not to go out and steal a car. She knows I wouldn’t think of it.”
CAROLINE: “But you do think of it.”

APRIL: “Think about it all the time.”

She’s attracted to the company’s handsome teen magazine editor (Stephen Boyd) who drinks a lot. Their relationship is rocky because they both want different things for her. He practices armchair psychology with Lange, trying to sway her from a career in publishing to get her back on track to a career that really counts, being a wife and a real woman and maybe be a part of his life.

MIKE: “Don’t you get caught, Caroline. Get out while you can. Work six months, prove whatever you have to prove and marry the med student, or law student and love happily ever after.”
CAROLINE: “I plan to.”
MIKE: “No business career, no fame, fortune? No ambition?”
CAROLINE: “None.”
MIKE: “How wonderful.”

See…no need to worry about her. She’s got a fiancée, plans for her future with him…while working nights to read manuscripts:

Lange is a good solid actress in the Eva Marie Saint mold of reality~based acting. Okay okay, you may think I say this because they’re both blondes, but not really. Lange has three breakdown scenes she pulls off believably without going over the top. As smart as Lange’s Caroline Bender is, she is still kicked in the gut when she finds her fiancée has married someone else:

CAROLINE: “How do you stop loving somebody when they’ve stopped loving you?”

MIKE: “The man you’re engaged to? Well, this calls for old Dr. Mike’s favorite prescription. Two scotches, straight.”

The movie follows her journey and growth.

♠  ♠  ♠    ♠  ♠  ♠

MARY AGNES: “And take your time. Farrow never gets back ‘til 3:30.”
CAROLINE: “She doesn’t?”
MARY AGNES: “Of course not. She’s an executive.”
CAROLINE: “How does she get any work done?”
MARY AGNES: “Executives don’t do the work. The higher up you get, the less you have to do. Unless you’re the top man. Then you have to make decisions. The ones just under the top have the best deal. Funny about Farrow. She always wants someone like you. You know, sophisticated.”

♠  ♠  ♠    ♠  ♠  ♠

THE ( INNOCENT ) BRUNETTE ~ ( DIANE BAKER as April Morrison )

‘April Morrison’ is the nice, sweet, wide~eyed innocent from Colorado who longs for love in The Big City.

APRIL: “It’s wonderful to be in love, isn’t it?”
CAROLINE: “Yes it is.”

APRIL: “I’m in love too.”

CAROLINE: “What’s his name?”
APRIL: “I don’t know. I haven’t met him yet.”

You will honey. You will.

As a secretary…she’s a little scattered, but can do her job. I already showed you how smarmy hambone publishing exec Brian Aherne makes a crude pass at her. He plants a kiss on her and she convincingly recoils from. Her next encounter is something else again. A kiss from an old wolf like Mr. Shalimar is no match to her run~in with a good~looking, smooth~talking, spoiled, oily~haired cad named Dexter Key…played by a good~looking smooth~talking, spoiled, oily~haired young future Paramount producer: Robert Evans. Trouble really enters Diane Baker’s world with this guy.

APRIL:     “Did you ever make a girl pregnant before?”
DEXTER: “Not that I know of.”
APRIL:     “You mean some girls became pregnant and didn’t tell you?”
DEXTER: “Some girls don’t.”

His Dexter is a playa; kisses the girls and makes ‘em pregnant. At least he was gentlemanly enough to get them to a “doctor” before skulking away. I was especially shocked at 1959’s suggestion of an abortion. It’s a painful watch seeing Baker’s sweet naive character go down that well~worn road. She was not alone in 1959. She’s not alone in 2017.

♦  ♦  ♦    ♦  ♦  ♦

“I always have a sandwich with my boyfriend at a mutually convenient place, like Grand Central. While I’m working on the nightgown, he’s saving up for the furniture. French Provincial. Both rooms. See ya later.”

♦  ♦  ♦    ♦  ♦  ♦

EASY BREEZY RED-HEAD ~ ( SUZY PARKER as Gregg Adams )

“All I want is a man who’ll love me. For a little while. My mother was married three times. Each one I’d start calling Dad. Then off he’d go. It was confusing at irst, but then I bean to look forward to the change. And now the only thing I want is to be free. To have no ties. To have, to hold and then to let go.”

‘Atta girl!!!!

I have to admit Gregg Adams ( as played by the gorgeous Suzy Parker ) is my favorite character. She’s an easy breezy fast talker; beautiful, glamorous…and doesn’t really care about her job. ( Things I wish I were ). The job is a means to an end for her real dream: a career as an actress.

Let me capture this sequence for you of how we’re introduced to Gregg Adams.

 

Oh man…look at her!! She goes on auditions during office hours, blows off the director, catches taxis, and her gal pals at work cover for her. What more can you ask for in a glamour working girl. She lives by the skin of her teeth. And when she’s not hired at the audition, she doesn’t care. At least she pretends NOT to care. In a scene that pre~dates “Breakfast at Tiffany” she tells her truth to the alley cat:

“You know something kitty, I wanted that part like hell.”

It’s a facade. Parker has it interesting because she’s playing this character Gregg on a couple of levels. Parker is an actress who plays an actress who can’t act. You might think her descent into stalking is a bit of a leap, but I can buy it ‘cuz she’s like the hunter captured by the game.

FaceBook poster Stephanie Kreps writes on Suzy Parker:

“Yes, she is so beautiful and a pretty good actress. This movie was like watching a 50’s version of “The Devil Wears Prada.” The great difference, of course, was that the women were not yet ‘woke’ to their rights as far as sexual harassment or equality in the workplace. The happy ending was not a better job or moving up in their careers but learning their place and getting married or at least the promise of that. Even the most successful woman, Joan Crawford’s role, was seen as a sad loser because she had no real relationship with a man. Many of the men were users and cads. The woman’s job was to find one who wasn’t and nab him.”

You see, Gregg has an affair with the Broadway director who has turned her down for a role. He’s played by that continental dreamboat, Louis Jourdan. She becomes obsessed with him I s’pose ‘cuz it’s all mixed up with having an affair with your boss. She’s too blind to see he uses ye olde casting couch to bed actresses as fast as he can cast ‘em. The Gregg Adams’ character’s motivation might be explained better in the book, but I take things at face value in movies. I’ll take the leap with you, as long as the ‘shark’ doesn’t jump too high. As I say, Gregg becomes unhinged by her obsession for Jourdan ( attending rehearsals after she’s been fired, going through his garbage… ). It’s painful to see him literally kick her to the curb as she claws to hang on. She seems like the confidant type to bag a millionaire based on her looks and banter. But underneath…vulnerable. And tragic.

♣  ♣  ♣    ♣  ♣  ♣

HE:    Uhhhh, Miss…
SHE:  St. John. Bobbi.

Along with Midge in Vertigo is my other patron saint of working girls, ANN DORAN. She’s all manner of sidekick and Gal Friday. She has a lovely five minute scene with Van Heflin in “The Strange Love of Martha Ivers” as Kirk Douglas’ secretary. She goes from cynical to interested to concern to skeptical in a seamless blink of an eye. Looks like she can handle anything Heflin or any man throws at her. Ahhhh, if only our three smart girls could. ( I’ll go into Doran’s scene more in~depth at a later date. )  

♣  ♣  ♣    ♣  ♣  ♣

We see the different approaches to work for our three musketeers. Well…to be honest, the different approaches to love. But we do see how work has…worked out for two other women who’s been at the company: Joan Crawford and Martha Hyer. Both of them heads of their department. And both of them in various stages of being/or having been with married men.

Crawford is a bit of a stone~cold bitch in this film but I may have to amend that; is she really a bitch? Isn’t she just as any male boss would be: demanding expectations. She expects her Secretary(s) to be professional. Crawford does seem to have it in for Lange’s character. Perhaps Lange’s is a younger version of herself with potential to replace Crawford in the company. It was great to see this Lange’s moxie in the face of Crawford’s jibes and digs.

Lange not only holds her own with Crawford, but with two love interests as well. Seems her ex~fiancée ( Brett Halsey ) wants to resume his relationship with her.


“I will not become your mistress!!!”

And the second ( potential ) love interest from the publishing company wants her for himself. Or at least warns her of the pitfalls of working for work’s sake. It’s the dangerously handsome Stephen Boyd as Mike Rice, and he keeps trying to dissuade her from working, suggesting she settle down and marry.

MIKE: “Don’t you get caught, Caroline. Get out while you can. Work six months, prove whatever you have to prove and marry the med student, or law student and love happily ever after.”
CAROLINE: “I plan to.”
MIKE: “No business career? No fame? Fortune?”
CAROLINE: “None.”
MIKE: “How wonderful.”

Sheesh! It’s almost as if something’s wrong with a woman who wants to work. They have tiffs about this very thing, but he’s also there for her, in a chivalrous way, when her fiancée breaks her heart and Boyd takes her out for a bender. He’s a good guy; just a product of his time…women should be married.

“I have one small corner of your life. I’ve never asked for more. And I will not settle for less. Now you and your rabbit-faced wife can both go to HELL!”

Is the movie’s underlying message if you stay at a job too long, it turns a woman into a harridan like Crawford? [ She’s a ball buster, but you hear her on the phone with her head-of- the-company-married-lover-asking-for-more-time-together. Been there, done that ]. Martha Hyer is the other example of a working girl. She heads the fashion department, has had an affair with a married man who seems sincerely into her as we watch him look at her longingly, and follow her around to iron things out. Nice wistful romantic music is also played underneath their scene.

SIDNEY: “How’s your baby?”
BARBARA: “Fine. How’s your wife?”
SIDNEY: “Fine, too. She’s in Nantucet for the summer. Have dinner with me.”

BARBARA: “I’m the girl that wants to get married again, remember? The girl for whom an affair with a married man, is not enough.”
SIDNEY: “Have dinner with me. Just dinner.”

BARBARA: “Why Sidney? Because your wife’s gone for the summer?”
SIDNEY: “No. You know that’s not why.”

She has quiet reserve but you can tell this affair has broken her. I understand much of Hyer’s role in the film was left on the editing room floor. A shame. I’d have liked to have seen more of her story ~ home and work. ( Sidney is played by Donald Harron.

♣  ♣  ♣    ♣  ♣  ♣

MR. SHALIMAR: “Ahh Miss Bender. I’ve just been talking to Miss Farrow. You are no longer a typist here.”
CAROLINE: “Well I’ve worked very hard—”
MR. SHALIMAR: “You are now a Reader.”
CAROLINE: “A what?”
MR. SHALIMAR: “A Reader. You’ll get a raise. I fought for you upstairs and managed to get you $20 more.”
CAROLINE: “$20 more a week?” MR. SHALIMAR: “No,  not a week, a month. Oh perhaps it isn’t very much, but think of the honor.”

I’d actually think of calling H.R. and find out what the male Readers get ( if there ARE any ) but oops…it’s 1959. She runs into her nemesis Miss Farrow.

MISS FARROW: “I told Mr. Shalimar that you were not qualified, Miss Bender. You’re too soft. I don’t think you could stand up to a writer and say: ‘Your work is no good.’ I don’t think you have the guts.”
CAROLINE: “Thank you for your confidence in me.”
MISS FARROW: “I call them as I see them.”

CAROLINE: “I’m beginning to think you’re right not to like me, Miss Farrow.”

To get Miss Farrow’s respect is a hard row to tow. She might’ve wanted someone like Caroline ( …what did Mary Agnes say: “Funny about Farrow. She always wants someone like you. You know, sophisticated” ). But faced with the person she used to be when she started out, she might just be seeing pitfalls ahead for Caroline.

♣  ♣  ♣    ♣  ♣  ♣

Near the end of the movie there’s a big wedding reception for one of the gals ( …the chatterbox from early in the movie ) The brass ring: Marriage. [ An interesting side note: The movie definitely had parts filmed in New York as I recognized. And when Lange and Boyd attend the reception, they’re walking onto the grounds of the public housing development I used to work in, Jacob Riis Houses, along the FDR Drive. When they walk into the apartment…THAT is definitely a movie set. No project apartment is that big ]. What does work mean to a person. It provides freedom and independence and a means to make one’s way in the world.  You’ll see many other entries from bloggers in this blogathon where the crux of the matter is more work~related. I like a post I wrote two years ago on His Girl Friday where we spend the bulk of the film INSIDE the job, and see Roz Russell at work. Admittedly with “The Best of Everything” work is pretty much tangential, the bulk of its story a shiny, glossy microcosm of human relationships dealing with sacrifices, compromises, self-worth, and most importantly…finding love. 

             

I think this is a great idea for a blogathon Debra, and for you folks out there, there are some more bloggers who tackle the Job of Work. Just click on the banner above to read more. Thanks for reading and thanks for including me, Debbie.

[   H  O  M  E   ]

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17 thoughts on “THE BEST of EVERYTHING ~ 1959

  1. Hey there, Theresa. Loved the way you put this one together. The office environment is always interesting, there is always so much going on. I have never seen this film, but as of now it is another on the ever growing to watch pile. I love watching films from classic era set in workplaces, it is always interesting to see what things have changed since then, or see what has stayed the same. What a cast! I love Diane Baker, so that’s another reason for me to try and check this one out.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Pingback: Workplace in Film & TV Blogathon: Day 3 Recap – MOON IN GEMINI

    • Oh I might still buy some of this movie’s crazy messaging. You know what…it’s a wonder women in general aren’t batshit crazy what with what movies’ messages are.

      I’ll be reading your take on the film in a day or two. Eloquent? Me??? Go on, with yer baaad self. ( Thank you for reading… I’m STILL adding more pictures and more quotes to this piece. ACK!!!

      Like

  3. Theresa, I am FASCINATED by this film, and I love your essay on it. Every time I start it, I think I can’t take all the melodrama…but before I know it, I’m knee-deep in this film, asking Joan Crawford to please be a little nicer, and fawning over Suzy Parker’s wardrobe.

    Yes, I admit I talk to the television set when I watch this film. I could never watch it in a theatre with other people.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Haaaaaaaa! You wouldn’t be alone talking in the theatre. We all have advice for all those “career gals.” When it comes on, I’m in. I think TCM should show this one next year! 🙂

      Like

  4. Thanks for writing about this film. It is one of my favorites. I get sucked into it every time it’s on – even though I own a copy. It’s the music and the gorgeous colors and beautiful people. I was thrilled that they showed it on the TCM Cruise with Diane Baker in attendance. It was amazing. With all of that said, I appreciate how you honestly look at films, Theresa, and point out things like the blatant sexism and ageism here. I’ve see this film countless times, but you pointed things out that I missed because I get so lost in all the melodrama. I got a kick out your opening with the ingredients – it was clever but true: there’s no denying there was a formula to the film. And Stephen Boyd was definitely dangerously handsome!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi there my dear Toni. Thanks for reading my compendium of critique and advice on this movie. I love it. And believe me, I do get caught up in the melodrama and blatant “~ISMS” of it all. LOL! I can’t imagine a young woman in my early 20’s in 1959 watching this and getting all the wrong messages. I was 20 in 1972 with a bit of the benefit of “Ms.” and Women’s Lib ( a dirty concept to some ) so I feel a tad more enlightened in independence. Oh yeah…I still made pitfalls for the sake of “Love”, but I never thought of NOT working to earn my own living.

      EEEEEEEK! It was already shown on a TCM Cruise?!!!! And I was going to lobby like Hell for the film to be shown landslide at the TCL Multiplex, with Ms. Baker there. Oooh, I’d love to hear more of what Diane Baker’s reaction to seeing herself just about sixty years ago. Hell, I’m still going to push for “THE BEST OF EVERYTHING” to be shown to us landlubbers. Thanks again for reading and stopping by, Toni.

      Like

  5. This is a brilliant breakdown of this movie! In spite of its outdated message, the film is still an obvious prototype for Sex and the City.

    The thing I always find hilarious (or troubling, depending on my mood) is it makes the case that marrying an alcoholic is a far better fate than being a “career woman.”

    Thanks so much for joining in the blogathon!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Pingback: Announcing the Workplace in Film & TV Blogathon! – MOON IN GEMINI

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