Tuesday, January 18, 2005

Working Girl Then and Now

Packing books is boring so I usually have the VCR / DVD running while I stuff tomes into envelopes. Currently watching The Best of Everything , a 1959 potboiler starring Joan Crawford, actually she's in her first supporting role, but she dominates the movie. Hope Lange plays the aspiring young working girl aiming for the top. The bulk of the movie takes place in the "office" and the cheap walkup apartment Lange shares with two other "girls". Of course there are the assorted men who range from cads to husband material and from roving husband to callous playboys.

Best Of Everything Posted by Hello

Working Girl Posted by Hello

Started to mentally compare it to Working Girl, a 1988 remake of sorts. They even have the same openings - panoramic shots of the New York skyline with a vocal soundtrack (both are worth renting for that reason alone). Melanie Griffith plays the spunky working girl with Sigourney Weaver in the Joan Crawford Role. Once again the men range from jerks to marriage material.

superficially there are changes - word processors have replaced tyewriters, phones have buttons instead of dials but it's remarkable - and depressing how similar the workplace is, despite the 30 year gap between the two movies.

In both films the office consists of a secretarial pool of identical desks, each occupied by a young woman. The office is lined with offices with doors, most of which are occupied by men, with a token woman or two. These folks get a window with a view and a bit of privacy.

The male occupants of said offices wear suits and ties. The women executives wear suits also, with the ladies of The Best of Everything topping their outfit with a fetching hat. The more powerful the woman, the more extreme the hat. Hope Lange progresses from a demure little suit, full skirted with a white blouse with an round collar to designer suits and smart silk blouses. Her heels get higher and he skirts tighter as her career moves upward. Melanie Griffith tones down her brassy blond locks, swaps her mini skirts for power suits and improves her diction as she claws her way up the career ladder.

Most of the "girls" are only interested in getting a man, for them the job is just a job. Of course there is the one girl who wants "more" - and both of them do manage to achieve their goal.

The big difference is that Hope Lange, once she makes it, chucks it all for a man. When Melanie Griffith gets her own corner office, she doesn't have to chuck it all for a man since she got him in the scene prior to.

But when you get right down to it, in both cases the relationship triumphs. In the eye of Hollywood a girl needs a man to be complete. Will we ever get to the point in life when a compromise is possible or will it always be all or nothing at all?

1 comment:

Joan said...

Don't Be Fooled! (Sorry about the exclamation point), but these are not working girl movies, they are romantic comedies, or dramas, wearing business attire. That is all there is to them. '9 to 5' was an abberation, and a peculiar one at that. The men who work in Hollywood are only looking for an excuse for a kiss and swelling music at the end to sell tickets. They think Pretty Woman was empowering to women.