Making the Grades
"Secretaries, you deserve the best of everything," reads a want ad in a New York newspaper. Hardly disagreeing, Caroline Bender (Hope Lange) is thrilled when she lands the job at the prestigious publishing company and joins their large force of female office workers.
Among her colleagues, Caroline befriends and eventually becomes roommates with April Morrison (Diane Baker) and Gregg Adams (Suzy Parker). All three girls have come to the Big Apple with dreams just as large. Gregg hopes to break into the theater, and constantly calls in sick so she can attend auditions. April is looking for Mr. Right, a man that can give her the world on a platter. And Caroline just wants a year of employment until her fianc0xE9 returns from Europe and they can live happily ever after.
But just as one should not assume an advertisement will represent the all the facts, nor should one be too sure life will cooperate with one's best laid plans.
In truth, management at the Manhattan office doesn't treat its staff with the best of anything. Senior editor, Miss Amanda Farrow (Joan Crawford), is a bitter spinster clinging protectively to the rung of the corporate ladder she's had to step on toes to obtain. Consequently, she's suspicious of every self-motivated underling and is impossible to please. Head of the paperback division, Fred Shalimar (Brian Aherne), has a mind as racy as the illustrations he chooses for book covers. He doesn't let his marriage stop him from flirting outrageously (and sometimes forcefully), along with pinching every pretty backside that wanders by. The teen magazine editor, Mr. Mike Rice (Stephen Boyd), keeps mostly to himself while nursing his cynical disposition with liberal doses of alcohol.
Life after hours is full of obstacles too. At first they think they've found the end of the rainbow when Gregg starts dating a director, April finds a rich bachelor, and Caroline gets an overseas call from her boyfriend. However, the gold turns to dust as they discover they are caught in a world that believes a woman's place is in the bedroom. Facing the unpleasant realities of their various situations, the girls must decide what path they will follow to achieve their goals.
Hitting the silver screen in 1959, just as the sexual revolution was about to explode, this Academy Award winning movie paints a picture of a business environment ripe with extramarital affairs, sexual harassment and favors. Besides depictions of characters smoking and the use of mild language throughout, it also touches on the subject of abortion. As the battle between marriage and career ambitions plays out, so does the story's message about the tragic cost one may pay if they sell their personal values to get The Best of Everything.
Discussion Ideas After The Movie
Teaching ideas and topics to discuss about The Best of Everything.
Do you feel the workplace environment has improved since this film was made? What would happen today to someone who behaved like Mr. Shalimar? Do you feel there are other changes that should be made in inter-office relations?
In the story the three women are asked to give up their virtue in order to get their heart’s desire. Does their sacrifice really guarantee they will get what they want? How does this compromise affect the promised reward? In what way is the relationship April has with Ronnie (who knows all about her, yet loves her anyway) a direct contrast to the other relationships offered in the story?