Oscar Nominated for Best Costume Design, and Best Music and original Song (Alfred Newman, Sammy Cahn).
Like "How to Marry a Millionaire," "Three Coins in the Fountain," and "The Pleasure Seekers," "The Best of Everything" was another installment in the three-girls-looking-for-luv sub-genre, which simultaneously exploited the panoramic capabilities of CinemaScope, and gave audiences pretty people falling in, out, and back into love, with dashing young men.
Though all of the four films above were directed by Jean Negulesco, "The Best of Everything" differed in having somewhat darker conflicts, nastier men, and better-defined characters who don't necessarily find true happiness. In fact, all of the men in "Best of Everything" are genuine stinkers: elegant Louis Jordan plays a womanizing cad to trusting Suzy Parker; glimmering and tanned Robert Evans fiddles and diddles with naïve Diane Baker, before something unspeakable happens; alcoholic Stephen Boyd romances dreamy Hope Lange, herself a victim of unrequited love; Joan Crawford is tormented when her married lover changes his matinee schedule; and Brian Aherne's thumb and index finger are never far away from nubile posteriors.
Rona Jaffe's novel essential came out of her experience in working at a publishing house, and the author, co-commenting with historian Sylvia Stoddard, address the novel's key theme - in which young women went to the big city, waited until a marriage proposal came along, and abandoned their intended careers - and also discuss the realities women faced while searching for fulfilling careers, and idyllic love. That isn't to say "Best" is an accurate document; in spite of the faithful screenplay to Jaffe's novel, Hollywood conventions and censorial attitudes had to prevail, and both commentators point out ridiculous changes, plus deleted scenes that expanded some of the film's secondary characters (like Canuck Don Harron, who has an affair with co-worker Martha Hyer).
More than anything, "Best" is a fascinating snapshot of Fifties corporate culture, and while women have integrated further into the business world since 1959, the internecine politics, petty aggravations, back-stabbing, romances, and power plays are pretty familiar. A surprisingly contemporary moment occurs when the staff of the publishing house are bussed to a weekend motivational retreat, with plenty of party tricks (ah, the limbo stick) and free booze (which ignites more crossings into the demarcated sexual harassment zone).
In the commentary track, Jaffe also describes the crazy luck that led to the creation, publishing, and success of her first novel while the author was still in her early twenties, and provides a funny anecdote of Robert Evans selected as the film's second-meanest male. Stoddard's observations - from costumes, colours, styles, attitudes - are excellent, and she also places into context the unique movement of the period, when young women graduated from universities and moved to the big cities, wanting careers that reflected their degrees, and the roadblocks that often scrambled things later on.
Classic, glossy melodrama, and a significant cultural snapshot.
Expanded into a short-lived, daytime soap by ABC in 1970, starring blink-and-she's-gone Bonnie Bee Buzzard, M'el Dowd, Geraldine Fitzgerald, Patricia (Patty) McCormack, and Gale Sondergaard.
© 2005 Mark R. Hasan