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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 was the first time Joan Crawford accepted a supporting role in a movie, supposedly because she found herself in debt after the death of husband Alfred Steele early in 1959. According to cast member Diane Baker, Crawford's role was cut even further before release, causing the removal of a show-stopping drunk scene by Crawford. Bits of this scene are in the trailer included on the DVD. See more »
A huge palm tree is visible during a company picnic supposedly set on an estate near New York City - a botanical impossibility. See more »
Claire Booth Luce's "The Women" shows relationships with men through a woman's point of view in a play, (and 1939 film that also has Joan Crawford playing a bitch: a character who might have been Amanda Farrow 20 years before), that has no male characters. Here we see the male characters and what a bunch they are. They use women like toys and throw them away, leaving the women to suffer. Ironically, the women in "The Women", perhaps because they are all we see, are shown in a less than favorable light, alternately silly and scheming, with the only "nice" one, (Norma Shearer), growing "claws" by the end. In "The Best of Everything" we see the men for the cads they are while the women are largely innocent and vulnerable.
This is a film about women leaping from things. Diane Baker leaps from a car, (in perhaps the most absurd scene in cinema history, which is not in the book). Suzy Parker falls from a fire escape. The women in the film are leaping into the workplace, looking for success and love at the same time. Women would leap into the future and leave this type of soap opera behind in the next decade. But they would come back to it in the 80's and 90's through the novels of people like Sidney Sheldon and Judith Krantz, (although their trashier works aren't as good as this).
The best thing about this film is the way it looks. I love the glossy cinemascope films of the 50's and 60's. They look so much better than the pixel-challenged home movies we've been making since, especially in the letterboxed version we see on TV, and the DVD, with the picture so clear you could walk into it. The look of the bevy of young beauties in it is also memorable. This film probably has more beautiful women in it than any other. It has a supermodel, (Suzy Parker), a beauty queen, (Myrna Hansen, who was not Miss America 1954 as Rona Jaffe says in the DVD commentary but rather Miss USA 1953, per the IMDb: but so what), and a Playboy playmate, (June Blair, from January 1957). My vote goes to Suzy, one of the astonishing beauties of all time. Her acting here isn't as awful as people pretend: they are just reacting, as people did then, to the sight of a supermodel, (the first, really), trying to act. Nobody seemed to care how well she did. Her role, that of an apparently worldly woman who turns out to be the most vulnerable, is the most complex in the bunch and she does just fine.
The most touching thing about the film now is the age of the female leads at the time. Hope Lange was 27 when they filmed this in the spring of 1959. Diane Baker was 20. Suzy Parker was 26. Hope, who looked to be Grace Kelly's heir, never made it really big and wound up being Mrs. Muir on television and, per the IMDb, wound up living in a home with "crates for coffee tables" because she spent her money on causes she believed in before dying at age 72 in 2003. This film must have seemed a very distant and irrelevant memory to her by then. Baker, always a welcome face in 60's TV, (especially to Richard Kimble), and still active as an actress and acting coach, just turned 67. Parker found "the best of everything" with Bradford Dillman for 40 years before dying at age 70 the same year Lange did. But here they are, young, beautiful and ambitious for success and love, just like their characters.
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