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With her unofficial fiancé Eddie Harris studying in England for a year, Radcliffe educated Caroline Bender decides to get her first ever job as a secretary at Manhattan located Fabian Publishing, which offers its employees "the best of everything". There, she finds her story is somewhat similar to all the other secretaries, who are biding their time in the secretarial pool either before getting married - to a current or future beau - or moving on to their dream job. In the latter category is aspiring actress Gregg Adams, who with fellow secretary, the naive and inexperienced April Morrison, become Caroline's new roommates. Caroline also finds that as a secretary to the editors, she has to learn the special needs and foibles of each. They include the "witch" Amanda Farrow whose demanding exterior masks a truly lonely woman, the aging Lothario Fred Shalimar, and the understanding Mike Rice, whose best friend is a bottle of booze. The path to true happiness for each of Caroline, Gregg ... Written by
This working girls go to hell soap is a time capsule candidate, courtesy of its immaculate physical production, 50s costuming (look at all those bows and pearls), creamy Johnny Mathis theme song and oh-so daring (for its time) sexual attitudes. Rona Jaffe's novel, on which the film was based, keeps on being republished, and just a few years ago Vanity Fair actually devoted an article to this delectable bon bon of a movie. Take a look at the new DVD transfer and you'll know why.
The three leads - Hope Lange, Diane Baker and Suzy Parker - echo the girls from "How to Marry A Millonaire" or Carrie Bradshaw and her friends from "Sex and the City." "Gentlewomen songsters off on a spree..." Their romantic adventures and sexual entanglements are the stuff of paperback passion: empty caramel corn calories, devoid of nutrition, impossible to resist snacking on. Lange is genuinely touching in her neo-Grace Kelly way, Baker is properly dim and idealistic as a timid virgin who gets (gasp) knocked up by a (hiss) cad. It helps that the cad is played by Robert Evans, the throaty voiced, coke snorting film mogul who surely has lead many an innocent young lamb to the slaughter in his Beverly Hills bedroom.
Suzy Parker is fascinating in the first half of the film, all blithe self assurance and knowing remarks. She struts her stuff with the panache of the fashion icon she was in the 50s. Alas, she's not up to where the film sends her: into madness and obsession. But she exudes glamour and savior faire and her acting is at least adequate. One wonders why the critics loathed her, virtually driving her out of movies a few years later. Perhaps an aloof attitude on the part of a good looking woman is just too much to bear. It sank Ali McGraw's career a generation later, and, when you think of it, Ali McGraw and Suzy Parker were basically the same actress.
The film's only major flaw is a weak ending. It pretty much collapses into a romantic swoon at the end, rather than rising to a wham bang melodramatic finish, like the other famous soap opera from producer Jerry Wald, "Peyton Place," which had Lana Turner weeping and gnashing her teeth during a rape trial. Here, Hope Lange wanders out onto the New York sidewalk, spots burly, eternally hung over (but now, of course, sober) Stephen Boyd and they simply walk off together...into the sunset, one presumes. Otherwise, this is pretty much the definition of a guilty pleasure.
Oh Yes...there's also Joan Crawford, breathing fire at all the young girls and smoking cigarettes while she hisses to her married lover over the phone. And the titles are done in hot pink, with ribbon lettering that recalls the department store ads of the late 50s. Don't miss!
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