Tuesday, April 03, 2007


[Spoilers follow!] Glossy 50's soap operas aren't usually my cup of tea, but I enjoyed watching this one and I'm not sure why. It's like a mild VALLEY OF THE DOLLS, or a more serious (and non-musical) HOW TO SUCCEED IN BUSINESS. The attitudes about women, business, and morals are dated but not so foreign to us that we can't identify with the situations. The set-up reminded me of THREE COINS IN THE FOUNTAIN, as we follow the stories of three roommates in New York City, all of whom work in the secretarial pool at a large publishing company where virtually everyone is having an adulterous affair or two. Hope Lange, fresh out of college with a boyfriend (Brett Halsey) forging a career overseas, is new to the city and has aspirations to work as an editor; Diane Baker is a young secretary, a little ditzy, more in the market for a husband than a career; would-be actress Suzy Parker is temping until she can land a role in a play. Their stories: 1) Ambitious Lange works under and has the occasional run-in with Joan Crawford, a tough-as-nails senior editor. At one point, Lange dares to take home a manuscript that Crawford has rejected as "trash"; she thinks it has potential and bypasses Crawford by giving her notes on the book to big boss Brian Aherne, who apparently likes her spunk and gives her a job upgrade to reader and eventually to editor. When Halsey calls her long distance to tell her he's married someone else, she gets involved with handsome but brooding editor Stephen Boyd, but later, when Halsey comes to town and announces his marriage is falling apart, Lange has to make a choice. 2) Baker falls in with rich but slimy playboy Robert Evans who goes to work right away on, in his words, "storming the citadel"; when she gets pregnant, she assumes he's going to marry her so she gets all decked out in a nice civil wedding outfit, but instead he's decided to take her to get an "underground" abortion, so she leaps out of his moving car in Central Park and winds up having a miscarriage.

3) Parker, who clearly hates her day job, auditions for director Louis Jourdan and doesn't make the cut, but when she's introduced to him socially, they hit it off. She moves in with him and he gives her a part in his play but it soon becomes apparent that she's not very talented and she loses her role as actress and as mistress, which drives her to obsessively hiding outside of his apartment, spying on him and going through his trash. As in most "three on a match"-type stories, there has to be at least one tragic figure and Parker is it here. The acting helps make most of this palatable; Crawford in particular is quite good and is given enough of a separate subplot to be more than just a cardboard bitch. Evans, later a producer at Paramount (best known for CHINATOWN) is the exception, seeming to sleepwalk through a role that could have used more charm and/or grit. The sexual politics are laughable but entertaining, and sometimes not as antique as we might like to think, as early on when Boyd suggests that Lange should "prove what you have to prove" then leave the business world to get married. [FMC]

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