Private screenings are a guilty pleasure. Every once in a while I'll sit myself down, invite no one (except the cat who doesn't take no for an answer) and watch a pivotal movie, one that I either always wanted to see or one that meant so much (for one reason or another).
"The Best of Everything" is of the latter. I saw it multiple times (pre VCR, pre Turner Classics) at its release in 1959, read the original novel by Rona Jaffe and tucked it away for my future move to New York. That happened in 1964. A lot else was happening too. Anyone familiar with "Mad Men" can tell you 1964 was light years from 1959.
|Don Draper reading Rona Jaffe|
I'm sure there still were many, many secretaries working until Mr. Right whisked them off to suburbia. Fortunately I wasn't one of them. My mother had told me never learn to type; a caring professor gave me a ridiculously hefty dose of self confidence.
Nevertheless "The Best of Everything" recalls New York City of that time accurately and deliciously in Technicolor and Cinemascope. Exteriors were filmed on location. Interiors were not the Hollywood version of Manhattan. The girls' apartment is believable (if a wee bit roomy). What I really loved were the clothes. By the time I got there, no one (man or woman) wore a hat, but we gals still wore gloves (stockings and girdles too). "Street fashion" had not been invented. If you were a bohemian, you dressed like one. But you didn't work in an office.
|Hats off... soon|
You spent the most you could to fit in. "Fast fashion" hadn't been invented either. Some stores, such as Ohrbach's and Stern's, were known for better prices. Beloved Bloomingdale's had a bargain basement, but we all lived with less clothes because we had no choice. I don't ever recall anyone having "brand envy" or the burning desire to get the latest whatever. That all came in time.
The romances in "The Best of Everything" are not so outlandish either. Joan Crawford's married lover is never seen onscreen. Their plot develops in telephone conversations. She does a bang-up job. Diane Baker is little-miss-innocent. Her story is a bit melodramatic, but it plays to the all-too-real fear of "what if I get pregnant?".
Suzy Parker is the gorgeous creature/spurned girlfriend, but she's very believable. Any woman who ever wanted to stalk an ex-boyfriend will live through her shenanigans. Totally underated as an actress, she retired from the screen in 1964 after a second serious auto accident. The star of the drama is Hope Lange, serviceable if a little stiff in the part. She actually has the most wardrobe revelation as she goes from college grad (with hat) to department head (with French twist). No, I'm not giving anything away. You knew that promotion was coming. What's up in the air is whether she finally gets together with the studly Stephen Boyd to save his character from a life of lonely martinis. Let's hope so, because Stephen Boyd, sadly, died in 1977 at age 46.
|You know he's the one...|
So "The Best of Everything" really has it all— romance, career, fashion and New York City. The best of everything.