entertainment, life

The Best of Everything

With all that’s going on in the world, my husband and I like to escape to a different era by watching Turner Classic Movies. We recently enjoyed a classic that we learned was the basis of a television series which aired in 2007-2015. This got me to comparing the two, and how they portrayed their characters.

Have you ever heard of the 1959 movie, The Best of Everything?

In this movie, Hope Lange plays the character, Caroline Bender, who starts work as a typist at a publishing company in New York City. Caroline is an ambitious college graduate who intends to move up the ladder to become an editor. The story focuses on the personal lives of Caroline and her two friends/roommates April and Gregg (Gregg is a woman). Since the movie takes place in 1959, most of the women are secretaries and talk about finding a husband. To call the men in this movie sexist is an understatement, not to mention the extra-marital affairs.

Does the story remind you of any television show you’ve seen over the last five to ten years? The TV series Mad Men was based on the movie. The series starts similarly, in the same era, with an ambitious character named Peggy starting a job as a typist at an advertising agency in New York City.

The layouts of the offices in both are almost identical. The boss from Mad Men, Roger Sterling, has the same personality of the boss from The Best of Everything, Fred Shalimar.

In case you haven’t seen it, in Mad Men, the men have extra-marital affairs with unprincipled women in their office. There isn’t one person with morals. The women are hateful to each other and none of them have girlfriends. Aside from the good looks and mysterious past of the main character, Don Draper, nothing about him is likeable. In 2015, I wrote a blog post about Mad Men, but I was only on the second season at the time. By the end of the series (7 seasons in all), I was extremely disappointed.

If you’d like to see the TV show, skip this paragraph for my assessment of the end of the series. Not a single character in Mad Men has any growth. They all remain narcissistic drama queens in the end.

I enjoyed the 1959 film better, because the characters are more likeable and realistic. The narcissism is tamer. The women are softer than in the series. The three troubled main female characters each have a monogamous relationship, but their boyfriends don’t treat them with respect. The women in the office are friends and care about each other. The men are secondary characters, and yes, most of them are despicable, but they do throw in a couple of good guys.

The creator of Mad Men felt he was showing the hypocrisy of that era. People spoke of morality, and so did their entertainment, while in person they behaved like degenerates. Where the creator erred, was making all the characters fully narcissistic and/or insensitive.

For the time of the movie (1959), it was surprisingly truer than the present-day series. They showed honest depictions of troubled characters, while at the same time, gave most of them a heart.

Have you seen the movie or the television series? If so, what did you think?


20 thoughts on “The Best of Everything”

  1. Love me some TCM and that film is one of my faves on the network. Never saw Mad Men and now I guess I really don’t want to, either, though I might possibly be interested in the advertising angle since I doubt the population today would have the wool pulled over its eyes for as long and as well as they were able to get away with it then, Trump and his followers notwithstanding.

    I might have known that MM was related in some way to The Best, just given the little I know about the actors and the characters in the former. I’m curious, though to get your take on and/or comparison with the Joan Crawford character in The Best. I know that by the end of the film we were supposed to feel sorry (at least as I recall) for poor lonely old career woman Joan who would die a lonely old maid as a result. This is different in many ways from the actress’ real life, though there are/were some similarities. Was there a similar character in MM? If so, who played her?

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    1. Hi There. I wasn’t sure what to make of the end with Joan Crawford. I certainly didn’t feel sorry for her. She pretty much annoyed me when she returned expecting the company to give her her job back. Why a woman didn’t feel she could have a relationship with a man (unmarried) and have a high position at a company at the same time, must’ve been a reflection of the times. Cause I don’t know why she couldn’t.

      As far as if there was a comparable character on Mad Men to Joan Crawford’s, I’d say yes. The character’s name was actually Joan. Except she didn’t have an Advertising job, she was the office manager. The creator may have named the character “Joan” for the very reason of Crawford. Her personality was very similar to Crawford’s character. In fact, Joan and Peggy from MM had a similar dynamic together as Hope Lange’s character with Crawford’s.

      I appreciate the conversation about the characters.

      Oh, and this is a nonpolitical blog with a mix of people who probably have all have different views. We don’t insult people for who they support. But it surely is a testament as to how this president lives rent free in peoples’ heads, because this topic was nothing close to political, and somehow his name came up anyway.

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  2. I never saw the movie, and I’d like to until, wait, I think about the Doris Day movie I watched right after she died. I watched her “rom/coms” when I was very young and loved Doris Day. But when I watched the movie this time, I was disgusted with the misogynist attitudes toward women by Rock Hudson’s character and, really, everyone in the movie. It brought me back to the times I was a teenager and balked at how I/girls/women were treated. I was made fun of because I called myself a ‘feminist.”
    Now go to the Mad Men series. Same thing. I watched one episode and never watched another. It brought me back to a time that was so difficult for women, and of course the creators of the TV series overexaggerated an already challenging time for females. So, I know that I agree with your assessment of the two different shows. I don’t like books OR movies/TV shows that just accentuate negative characters and give no redeeming arc.

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    1. Hi Pam. I know. They didn’t give any redeeming qualities to the Mad Men characters.

      I like to write (and read) about characters who have emotional issues that cause a lot of misguided decisions in their lives. They have redeeming qualities, but their behavior causes problems in their relationships. The point of my stories are how anyone can grow and change, even the most hardened. That is why I watched all the seasons of Mad Men, thinking they were leading up to some depth of growth, but they never did. I wished I could’ve written for that show.

      Having said that, the movie had characters with more depth. They showed that women could have leading roles in business without sleeping around. Many of the men were pigs, but they threw in a couple of good ones, too. The emotional issues of the women were sad at times, but realistic.

      As far as the word, “feminist,” I think different people define it in different ways. Despite having had some sexual harassment in my younger years, it never happened twice with the same person. I nipped it in the bud immediately. I think perhaps that is a bit of feminism in me. 😉

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  3. I haven’t seen the movie but I did watch the series. I didn’t realise that Mad Men was based on a movie (and that the movie was based on a book). I enjoyed it, up to a point. I kept hoping that Draper would improve himself, and when he gets married for the second time, it sort of looks like he will, but alas, not so. I agree, this series was unrelievedly full of the most self-centred egoists, and my take was that it was meant as an indictment of the sorts of people who go into advertising, that the viewer is supposed to get that it attracts a certain type because it’s an inherently dishonest business. Nothing like sticking everyone in the same pot.
    A very enjoyable post. 🙂

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    1. Hi Lynette. Great to talk to someone who saw the series. I had watched Mad Men first, and just recently saw the movie. I was shocked at how similar it was to the series, so I did some research to find out if they were affiliated. I learned that the creator of Mad Men told his cast before they started filming to watch the movie, The Best of Everything, and study it. Supposedly he based Don Draper on some advertising mogul though, and not anyone in the movie. I’m pretty sure Roger Sterling was based on the character, Fred Shalimar from the movie, they were so similar.

      Every time I’d watch another episode of Mad Men, I’d hope that somebody would start to see the self-sabotage of their own narcissistic behavior. As a writer of character driven stories, I was dying to jump in there and write something better for them. Realistically, not everyone grows, but the cast was huge, and they could’ve at least had a few of them grow. I was sorely disappointed in the ending.

      BTW, I didn’t know the movie was based on a book either. Jill taught me something new. I think you might enjoy the movie. Despite the characters flaws in this one, I was able to feel compassion for them. I’ll have to research to see if that book is still available. I’d be interested.

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts. It’s good to know I wasn’t the only one who saw the dark flaws in the series.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Thanks, Lori. I’ll look for it. Did you see it on Netflix? That’s so interesting about the series background.

        I agree, I kept hoping that one of them (really, I wanted it to be Don) would turn around somehow. Not become a paragon, but learn from his actions and successfully make some progress somewhere.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Hi Lynette. No, I don’t think the movie is on Netflix. I saw it on our cable network here called Turner Classic Movies, or TCM. I’m not sure how to find the movie, but if I see it anywhere, I’ll let you know.

          Thanks for the nice chat.

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  4. No, I haven’t seen them either, Lori. Sorry. But we did watch a couple of old-time movies recently and were both shocked at the way the roles of men and women were portrayed. Horrible, in so many ways. And yet, I’ll bet in another 50 years people will look at the modern movies of today and say, “Can you believe they thought like that? – So old-fashioned!”

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    1. Yes, women were treated differently, yet at the same time, if they had drive and ambition, they could get where they wanted to go (without having to sleep around).

      The thing about these two shows is that they were character driven stories, which is what I like to write as an author. I was dying to get in there to hone those characters.

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Anneli.

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        1. Yes, Anneli. In fact, I finished the novel and have gotten back together with my critique group from Florida. We meet on zoom. As I critique their work, they are critiquing mine. I needed some eyes on it, because it’s a really complicated plot about a modern day prophet. I’ve mentioned it before. I’m chomping at the bit to get it completed.

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    1. Hi Jill. I had no idea The Best of Everything was a book first. That’s very interesting to learn. I can imagine how much more in depth they could get into each character’s mind. As a character driven author, I was dying to get in there and hone the characters in these shows.


    1. Hi Kate. As a writer whose stories are character driven, I tend to have a critics eye on character development. These two stories were filled with characters I was dying to hone.

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