Wednesday, October 22, 2008

The Best of Everything

Posted by Thombeau of FABULON.

"You and your rabbit-faced wife can go to hell!" exclaims a pissed-off Joan Crawford, in just one of the many precious moments this big-screen soap has to offer. As publishing executive Amanda Farrow, Joan steals the show in what was her first supporting role since becoming a star. And what a show it is!

The Best of Everything, from 1959, is one of the last "three chicks seeking dicks" flicks, a genre that came crashing to an end with Valley of the Dolls. Both movies were based on popular and trashy novels, yet whereas the latter film is nothing but trash, Best of Everything maintains the decorum that the 1950s demanded. That said, it must have been considered rather daring back in the day.

Director Jean Negulesco never reaches the melodramatic heights that Douglas Sirk specialized in; there's little symbolism and no arty pretensions. Direction and screenplay are straightforward and without subtlety. Any nuances are provided by the large and able cast. The under-rated Hope Lange grows from simple secretary to cold, calculating career woman; Diane Baker is perfectly cast as a naive, small-town girl who learns some hard lessons; and the fabulous Suzy Parker adds a touch of glamour and psychosis that is a joy to watch. Of the men, gorgeous Stephen Boyd charms as a dreamy alcoholic; even more gorgeous Louis Jourdan is, well, Louis Jourdan; and Robert Evans, in his last onscreen role, plays a smooth and heartless cad. Then there is La Crawford, who is simultaneously hurtful and hurt.

Very much of its day, The Best of Everything is a perfect time capsule, capturing mid-century American ideals before they all imploded. The themes, sets and costumes, acting styles, even the smarmy title song (crooned by Johnny Mathis) make this all one could want in a fifties movie. Whether taken on its own terms, or enjoyed strictly for camp value, in many ways it really is the best of everything.

Sorry, I couldn't resist.

(See related post here. The entire film can be seen here)


MichaelMcl said...

Good to see a Film Score Monthly cover make this blog!

-The opinionated australian

Thombeau said...

We aim to please!

K. R. Seward said...

Thanks for the review & Hulu link.

Hope Lange rocks.

Always cool to see Diane Baker.

And by the end of movie Suzy Parker gives deranged broken heartedness new legs.

Thombeau said...

I love Suzy Parker.

TJB said...

Based solely on this film, I'm surprised that Suzy Parker never "made it" as an actress. She has presence, she has decent acting chops... she has CHEEKBONES, for chrissake, that could heal the sick.

And anyone who can hold your attention while in the same frame as Joan Crawford (or Louis Jourdan, for that matter, if for different reasons) is worthy of no small praise.

Thombeau said...

So true. She must have been too busy being fabulous to focus solely on a film career. Our loss!

Anonymous said...

I adore this film. Saw it for the first time on TV when I lived in NYC in the early 60s. Great story. Great script. I look at it differently from your other commenters because I'm a moviemaker. From the very beginning, this is a special film. It stars with Johnny Mathis singing the title song over opening credits. This is the first time and one of the few times I can ever recall seeing Manhattan shot from Central Park looking east and shot against the light. The Seagram Building tie-in is there when Hope Lange looks up a the publishing company, which happens to be the Seagram Building. The building also appears as a night shot in The Producers and as the corporation home in How to Succeed in Business. That same biz neighborhood located in back of Trump Tower appears in other shots, like the New York Athletic Club.

Ted Diamond, moviemaker