Friday, June 30, 2017

CAFTAN WOMAN'S CHOICE: ONE FOR JULY ON TCM



Bonbons at the ready, ladies. Also, help yourself to a large glass of your favourite libation. It is soap opera time. Gentlemen, you needn't pretend you don't occasional enjoy a large helping of mid-century melodrama. I know better since the day I returned home from feminine pursuits outside the home to discover the hubby knee deep in a double bill of The Help and A Summer Place.

Has director Jean Negulesco ever let you down? He gave us Humoresque, Road House, Three Came Home, Titanic and Johnny Belinda. Negulesco also proved himself a master in the popular sub-genre of three girls vs. life which dates back at least as far as 1928s Our Dancing Daughters and includes such titles as 1932s The Greeks Had a Word for Them and Three on a Match, 1946s Three Little Girls in Blue, and 1951s Painting the Clouds with Sunshine which was a reworking of Golddiggers of 1933. Jean Negulesco's contributions, beyond our feature, include How to Marry a Millionaire, Three Coins in the Fountain, Woman's World and The Pleasure Seekers.


And another hundred people just got off of the train...

Rona Jaffe's first novel The Best of Everything was purchased by Twentieth Century Fox prior to its publication in 1958 and the confluence of publicity guaranteed success for both. There is a built-in audience for the story of young women in the big city making their way in Life (capital L intended). New York City is the big city in the film and the location filming adds a lot to the allure of The Best of Everything.


Three Little Maids from School.
Hope Lange, Suzy Parker, Diane Baker

Hope Lange stars as Carolyn Bender, a young woman from a solid Connecticut background and an equally solid university education. Her emotional side belongs to boyfriend Eddie Harris played by Bret Halsey. He's a businessman embarking on a year long assignment in England while Carolyn begins work as a secretary at Fabian Publishing in the big town. At work Carolyn makes friends with April Morrison played by Diane Baker and Gregg Adams played by Suzy Parker. April is a small town girl from Nebraska with romantic notions. Gregg is a beauty with stage aspirations. Her sophisticated facade is a soft shell for a soft heart. They share an apartment, their dreams and their heartbreaks.

Back burner romance adds interest.
Don Harron, Martha Hyer

Fabian Publishing is a hive of worker women in the bottom rung in the steno pool. The women in executive positions are Amanda Farrow played by Joan Crawford and Barbara Lamont played by Martha Hyer. Miss Farrow is an editor who has sacrificed her personal life to a married man. She is smart, tough and bitter. Secretaries call her "the witch". Mrs. Lamont is a divorced mother of a young child. She finds herself in love with a married man played by Don Harron (Charlie Farquharson!). Theirs is a relationship played out mostly in longing looks. It gives the subplot an interesting and complicated quality.

Mike is less than thrilled with Carolyn's success. Men!
Stephen Boyd, Hope Lange

The other men we get to know are Mike Rice played by Stephen Boyd. Mike has unresolved personal issues that make him a bit of a lush. He needs a reason to pull himself together. Perhaps Carolyn is that reason. Brian Aherne plays Fred Shalimar. Fred may be good at his job, but the girls at the firm learn not to work late in his office and know who has just passed by if they feel a pinch.


Carolyn participates in the business tradition of meeting for a drink after work.
Hope Lange, extras

Gregg falls for a womanizing Broadway director David Savage played by Louis Jourdan. She falls hard. He is a player. It is, as Miss Farrow predicted, a recipe for disaster. April is swept off her feet by rich country club louse called Dexter Key played by Robert Evans. The only thing that will save her is her sincerity.

Joan Crawford brings years of experience to Amanda Farrow.

At this time and place there was very little, if any, talk of the balance of home and work life. One made a choice between the two. The mindset and the pressure was always to choose romance and the home over whatever minor benefits one might derive from the pursuit of a career. You cannot have the best of everything. The opening theme song courtesy of Johnny Mathis' rendering of the Alfred Newman tune and Sammy Cahn lyrics lays it all out.

We've proven romance is still the best of everything
That sudden thrill, the best of everything
That one little sigh is a treasure you cannot buy
Or measure, by any test, the best of everything

You've found the moon and the sun
Yes, he's the one, it seems
But soon it's done
And not the fun it seemed

You walk through the night just groping
It's still alright, you're hoping
Love can be all or nothing, but even when it's nothing
It's still the best, the best of everything
We've proven romance is still the best of everything

Most of us have to have a job. Some of us have a calling. Either way, our relationships with others, romantic in nature or not, ultimately define the success of our lives. I think we can have the best of everything, but it is a matter of priorities and attitude. Whatever we consider success isn't handed to us, it is created by us.

The mid-town skyscraper workplace in The Best of Everything is a dream of mid-century design with its clean lines and bold colours. Costume designer Adele Palmer was nominated for an Oscar for The Best of Everything. The two years she spent at Twentieth Century Fox at this, the end of her career, capped decades of solid work at Republic Studios. The movie is a veritable fashion show without stopping the story to point it out.

TCM is airing The Best of Everything on Monday, July 10 at 10:00 PM during an evening salute to Mid-Century Modern. Ah yes, mid-century modern, the design, the dress, and the cock-eyed philosophy. Let's take that time machine.










13 comments:

  1. I remember seeing this movie in the theater, Pat. But I have to admit that even at the time I saw this, I thought it was overwrought, but enjoyable. I never liked the Gregg character because I thought she was so unrealistically portrayed by the gorgeous Suzy Parker primarily because of the way the role is written. I always found it so unrealistic to suppose that a woman who looked like Suzy Parker would have ANY trouble NOT finding a job in show biz or failing that, becoming a model. (Which she was in real life.) I mean, come on, look at her. I also though her relationship with Jourdan strained the boundaries of any sort of reality - romantic or otherwise. And I have always found Bob Evans too oily as an actor. HA!! My favorite thing about the movie is that part of it was filmed where I grew up - the lower East Side of Manhattan. Though in the film, it's not supposed to be the lower east side I think. The Alfred Smith Projects always made for good building background, they've been used in countless Manhattan films. My brother and I get a kick out of spotting them all the time - supposedly situated all over the Isle of Manhattan. Move-makers assume that viewers do not know where anything is in NY. Ha. At any rate, I enjoyed reading your review very much, Pat. Brought back memories. It's funny though, everyone I knew then worked and still found time for a personal life. I'm not sure where the movies and/or books got the idea that the two were mutually exclusive. Or maybe I just wasn't paying attention. I've never been very observant so I probably missed all the clues. No wonder I sometimes feel I slept walked through the 'swinging sixties' - HA!!

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    1. Great memories.

      "...supposedly situation all over the Isle of Manhattan." It's true that sometimes movie makers underestimate the knowledge of their audience. I read once where Louis L'Amour said a writer should be certain of any factual or historical information they use because they can be darn sure that somewhere, sometime a person who knows all about it will pick up their book.

      I think you have made a point that I have always observed. People go about living their lives, unaware that "experts" have categorized the entire thing. Those that don't fit the mold don't exist. It is easier to understand group than it is to understand individuals. It's an easy habit with sociologists and blanket assumptions may not always be correct.

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  2. And of course these days, with DVDs and Blu-rays that can stop a movie and analyze each individual frame down to the pixel, it's harder than ever to get away with errors. Sometimes it's better to just try and explain them away within the continuity of the film. It wasn't a goof - the director meant to do that!

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    1. Few, if anyone, could have imagined the scrutiny film would one day be under by audiences.

      I've always found it a good idea to cover goofs with intention.

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  3. I always enjoy these kinds of films from this era! This one is especially fun because I'm a fan of both Hope Lange and Diane Baker. Both actresses has successful careers playing nice people. That said, I think Diane's character was almost mean in THE BIRDS. She certainly caused trouble for Tippi! I'm looking forward to seeing THE BEST OF EVERYTHING again. Thanks for the reminder!

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    1. I suppose some people would call The Best of Everything a guilty pleasure, but I just call it a pleasure.

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  4. Love your review. I seem to have a love/hate relationship with this film. It took a working lifetime for me to get past the stereotypes - yet I love the dresses, the gloves, the gossip and the drama! Help!

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    1. Yeah. I hear you. It may not be good for us, but it is so good for us. Yeah. When you think of all the female role models to be found in earlier films, these girls don't measure up. Nonetheless, it seems like it reflects a sad reality.

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  5. I saw this film once, on TCM. At first I was rolling my eyes, thinking I wouldn't last five minutes with the material. But then I was suddenly hooked and I couldn't tear myself away. I HAD to know what happened to everyone in the end!

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    1. That's it! It, or maybe it's Jean Negulesco's way with the material, draws you into the world and you JUST HAVE TO KNOW WHAT HAPPENS.

      Besides, there are a few us (I think we're among them), who love the style, the look - and could easily picture ourselves slipping into that world, with our later decade smarts intact.

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  6. Love your review and your story about your husband! Who could resist all that gorgeous architecture, melodrama, and Joan in her power wardrobe.

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    1. Exactly. There's a lot to enjoy about this film and I'm so pleased it is on TCM in prime time.

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