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Classic Hollywood/Hollywood's Golden Age(Was: The Best Of Everything)


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#1 miliosr

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Posted 29 July 2005 - 02:46 PM

Has anyone ever seen the 1959 film The Best of Everything?

I bought the recently released DVD after hearing good things about it and I have to say I was quite taken with it. [For those who haven't seen it, The Best of Everything depicts the lives and loves of "three girls in the city," played by Hope Lange, Suzy Parker and Diane Baker. The trio all work at a publishing company in New York City and their tyrannical boss is played by none other than Joan Crawford.]

While the film is melodramatic in parts (i.e the scene with Diane Baker in her hospital bed), it is also very engaging in terms of the various problems the three leads must confront: the 50s choice of having to choose between career and marriage, confronting sexual harassment (which doesn't even have a name yet in the movie) at work, etc. Some of the content may seem dated or purely of historical interest but certain themes (like the notion that casual "hook-ups" between men and women prove destructive for both) are just as relevant today (if not more so.)

Even if you're not interested in the movie's themes, any fan of that era will love the clothes, hair, apartments, etc. Pay special attention to how Hope Lange dresses to go to the "casual" company picnic. By today's standards (or lack of such), she looks like she's going to a semi-formal event!

The DVD comes with a very informative commentary with Rona Jaffe (who wrote the book on which the film is based) and a film historian.

Highly recommended!

#2 Farrell Fan

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Posted 29 July 2005 - 05:34 PM

The Rona Jaffe novel was published in 1958. Surprisingly enough, a new paperback published by Penguin Books came out in May of this year! So somebody thinks it's still relevant. It's available from Amazon.

#3 miliosr

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Posted 30 July 2005 - 07:28 AM

Rona Jaffe makes some interesting insights about the making of the film on the commentary track. Having not read the book on which the film is based, it was helpful to hear her point out instances where the book and the film diverged. In particular, Jaffe points out that the ending in the film (with Hope Lange and Stephen Boyd) is different from what appears in the book. (Truth be told, though, I preferred the film ending to Jaffe's description of what happens in the book.)

#4 atm711

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Posted 01 August 2005 - 10:33 AM

A pretty bad film, but one I always enjoy seeing again---such delightful trash.

Last night I saw a film from the 40's with Rita Hayworth (Lee Bowman was the love interest)--I wish I could remember the name---it took place in WWII London, and she did quite a bit of dancing--but the most pleasant surprise of the film was Marc Platt (also known as Marc Platoff)---for those of you who have never heard of him, he was an American and a beautifully trained classical dancer---one of our unsung talents. The movie is silly, but he does a lot of great dancing in it---and it's worth catching---if only someone can come up with the name......

#5 Estelle

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Posted 01 August 2005 - 10:57 AM

atm, I had a look at imdb.com and it lists one film with Rita Hayworth, Lee Bowman and Marc Platt: Victor Saville's "Tonight and Every Night" (1945).

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0038178/

http://www.classicmo....htm#everynight

By the way, following some links I came across the following recent documentary "Ballets Russes":

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0436095/

which sounds quite interesting...

#6 atm711

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Posted 01 August 2005 - 11:11 AM

Wow--great work, Estelle. The Ballets Russes documentary is something I would love to see...hopefully.

#7 dirac

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Posted 01 August 2005 - 12:49 PM

Miliosr, thanks for starting the topic. There was an article about the movie by the dance critic Laura Jacobs in Vanity Fair a few issues ago, which I’m afraid I didn’t get around to reading. I’m sure she had much of interest to say about it.

I tend to think of “The Best of Everything” less as a homily on the perils of hooking up than as an interesting view of the sexual politics of the era. All the men are bosses on one sort or another. All the women are secretaries. The woman who fails to marry and persists with her career is Bad. Middle aged women without men are to be pitied -- or feared if, like Crawford, they've achieved a certain amount of power.


The movie is an example of that hardy Hollywood staple “Three Girls Look for Love in the Big City.” It takes a harsher tone than most of these – the men in TBOE are really creepy – they have all the power, they know it, they use it.
The contemporary variant, “Sex and the City,” moved to television. Somebody should write an essay making the comparisons. There’s a distinct resemblance, for example, between the Candice Bergen SATC character and the Joan Crawford role.

Suzy Parker, a lovely ex-model unable to act her way out of one of those cast-iron Fifties brassieres, goes impressively crazy. I seem to recall a scene where she goes through Louis Jourdan’s garbage?

#8 miliosr

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Posted 03 August 2005 - 08:56 AM

Oh dirac, romance is still the best of everything! :devil:

I would encourage anyone who's interested in this film to read the Vanity Fair article which dirac references as it contains many interesting facts. For instance, the novel depicted five "girls": Caroline (Hope Lange), Gregg (Suzy Parker), April (Diane Baker), Barbara (Martha Hyer) and Mary Agnes (Sue Carson). Apparently, test audiences didn't like the stories involving Barbara and Mary Agnes so the director cut many of their scenes.

In the case of Barbara, this causes a strange imbalance in the movie. While the movie sets up her romantic travails, she disappears from the movie about two-thirds of the way through and there is no resolution to her problem. (She is in love with a married man.) A scene was filmed at the Museum of Modern Art resolving everything but that scene was cut.

The article also has much to say about Joan Crawford's involvement in the film. Her supporting role as Amanda Farrow was something of a comedown for her as it was her first supporting role. She took the part because her then-husband -- the president of Pepsi-Cola -- had just died and she was experiencing a cash flow problem. The article has many interesting anecdotes about her (i.e. how she demanded that the set be kept at freezing temperatures.)

Suzy Parker's Gregg does come unglued over the course of the movie and she does go rummaging through Louis Jourdan's garbage before her untimely demise (death by stiletto caught in a fire escape!) I actually think Parker is good in the part but I found it implausible that someone who looks like Parker does in the movie would be slaving away in the typing pool at Fabian Publishing or would be unable to find another man once Louis Jourdan gives her the heavo-ho.

#9 dirac

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Posted 04 August 2005 - 09:39 AM

I actually think Parker is good in the part but I found it implausible that someone who looks like Parker does in the movie would be slaving away in the typing pool at Fabian Publishing or would be unable to find another man once Louis Jourdan gives her the heavo-ho.


I was a little hard on her -- she wasn't all THAT bad. I quite agree -- Parker wouldn't have been in that typing pool very long. Some executive would have snapped her up pronto. (I felt the same way about the casting of Isabella Rossellini as a legal secretary in "Cousins." Yeah, sure. :blush:)

Your mention of Jourdan made me think of another movie in which he flirts and betrays, the wonderful Letter from an Unknown Woman with Joan Fontaine. It seems plausible that Fontaine would spend her entire life in thrall to this one man, because as the character is depicted, love is her life, her reason for being. And that motivation becomes less plausible as women are shown holding real jobs, having careers.

#10 miliosr

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Posted 04 January 2006 - 09:37 AM

FYI -- Rona Jaffe died this past weekend at the age of 74.

The obituary was an interesting read. So strange to see Robert Gottleib quoted in his capacity as her former editor (instead of as the aspish dance critic for the New York Observer.) And I had to agree with the review (quoted in the obit) that "bonbons and chilled blush wine" are the best accompaniment to watching The Best of Everything. Yes, bonbons and chilled blush wine are truly the best of everything!

#11 dirac

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Posted 04 January 2006 - 12:12 PM

Thanks for the heads up, miliosr. I’m sorry to hear it. Below is the link to the NYT obituary, which has the Gottlieb quote.

http://www.nytimes.c...html?oref=login

Critics howled, but America was entranced, which is precisely what its editor, Robert Gottlieb, was sure would happen. "It was a basic story - three or four or five girls start off together, one finds love, one goes crazy and/or dies, and one of them becomes a huge success - but Rona's take was very up-to-date," Mr. Gottlieb said last night in a telephone interview. "What made it work for the time was that it had a fresh young-career-women-in-New York quality with a fillip of shock."



#12 Paul Parish

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Posted 04 January 2006 - 04:51 PM

If you liked that, how about "Stage Door" -- FABULOUS movie with Katharine Hepburn, Ginger Rogers living in a borading house run by a faded star of the English stage and a bevy of theater-gals hoping t make it -- including Eve Arden, Lucille Ball, and a very pretty girl who's thought to have a colossal dramatic talent (being coached by the British dame) but dies and Hepburn gets her chance.... With major sexual harrassment from Adolf Menjou..... The calla lililies are in bloom again, such a strange flower.....

If "Tonight and Every Night" was tolerable, another Rita Haywroth movie with Mark Platt in it -- "Down to Earth" -- is really unbearable. I just rented it -- Platt is wasted, he has not enough dancing (he IS a wonderful dancer) and too much acting of exactly the wrong kind, and the vehicle is strictly from hunger -- Hayworth plays Terpsichore, up on Parnassus, who gets upset when she hears that there's going to be a Broadway show about the 9 muses and it's just going to be a lot of hotsy totsy girls, and though it COULD have been funny, "Take back Your Mink!" comes from another show..... alas.

The movie to SEE is "7 Brides for 7 Brothers" -- IMHO, of course, but I rented it from Netflix and watched it 6 times before I sent it back, Platt is wonderful in it, actually modest and decent and just wonderful as he takes a back seat to Tommy Rawls.... Jacques d'Amboise is similarly enchanting, EVERYBODY's great (Matt Maddox dances wonderfully, as does Jane Powell, and Russ Tamblin fakes it really well, in Michael Kidd's FANTASTIC choreography, which fits the screen really well....

Of course it's not Sex in the City -- but Jane Powell's character is a fantastically upstanding woman, strong, resilient, knows her own mind, and in love... they found the right balance.... I loved them all, loved her, and OH those boys....

I jusssst got Night and Day in todays mail, will let you know. It has George Zoritch in it -- As Maria tallchief said in Ballets Russes, "Zoritch came out on stage and my heart just stopped!"

#13 dirac

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Posted 04 January 2006 - 06:27 PM

Stage Door. Paul is absolutely right, it’s a wonderful ensemble piece, with tough-but-vulnerable-loser Ginger Rogers facing off against La Hepburn and more than holding her own. Constance Collier is the landlady and she’s terrific, and Andrea Leeds is the suicide. (I think between us we pretty much gave away the movie, Paul.) Menjou had a recurrent itch for Kate BTW-- he seduced her in "Morning Glory" a few years earlier. :wink:

“Down to Earth” is sad, but then most of the Hayworth vehicles after she returned to pictures post-Aly Khan were sad.

“Seven Brides” is fabulous. You see real dancers doing real dancing, and lots of it, and don’t forget Julie Newmar (billed as Julie Newmeyer) in addition to the boys. Tommy Rall is a personal fave of mine but all those leaping lads are to die for. Maybe the score isn’t the greatest, but you can’t have everything. I also like Howard Keel in it, but then I always like Howard Keel, and Jane Powell is a seriously underrated performer IMO. She wasn’t a dancer but she kept up beautifully with Astaire in Royal Wedding, without appearing to “keep up.”

“Night and Day” has to be seen to be believed........

Paul, this one’s not out on DVD yet as far as I know – but I think you would be interested in It’s Always Fair Weather, which stars Gene Kelly, Dan Dailey, and Michael Kidd as three old friends who discover they can’t abide one another. It’s not great, and it’s sort of a downer, but it has a great cast and fine dancing. Dan Dailey, in particular, is wonderful. The ladies are Dolores Gray and Cyd Charisse.

#14 miliosr

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Posted 07 January 2006 - 07:27 AM

Speaking of Rita Hayworth, Gilda was on television this morning and it's as smashing as ever. The dialogue between Hayworth and Glenn Ford crackles with sexual tension and the Gilda/Johnny/Balin triangle was way ahead of its time -- it's hard to believe this threesome made it past the Hays Office.

Hayworth should have done more film noirs. This movie and The Lady From Shanghai showed her off to her best advantage (in comparison to the lame musicals she was often stuck in.)

#15 Paul Parish

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Posted 07 January 2006 - 09:42 AM

Thanks for the tip, dirac-- I'd LOVE to see Michael Kidd on the screen....

You're right, Night and Day is sensationally weird -- Hollywood fictionalizing taken to an amazing height...... Jane Wyman singing Let's do it, it all starts there --

WHAT A PLAYLIST!!! those songs! Cary Grant! Suffering! Alexis Smith! suffering!

It was good to see Monty Wooley do his act -- that explains a lot, actually.

But oh dear -- Warner Bros weren't interested in dance -- maybe it would look too much like a cartoon. The dancers when they do appear are given such peculiar things to do, and then kept at such a distance they could be like the cigarette or pipe smoke curling around in the edges of a photo of Churchill or some other "great mind" of the 40s.... they're phantoms at the edge of a song, the movie is interested much more in the face of the singer.....


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