Her Working Women Wisdom

Her Working Women Wisdom

Posted by Mike Finnegan on Jun 12th 2018

Many a book occasions the evaluation: “This’ll make a great movie.” A rarefied subset of this is the book that is written because movie creators will it into being so that it can be brought to the screen in as pronto a fashion as possible. For Rona Jaffe (1931-2005), born 87 years ago today, Hollywood producer Jerry Wald was the catalytic agent, desirous of a current, topical and wised-up “working women’s book” about carving out careers and pursuing potential romance in the Manhattan corporate world that he could adapt into a stylish, starry and adult-themed Cinemascope feature which just might, if carefully curated for the cinematic camera, follow in the critical and commercial reception footsteps of his recent Twentieth Century Fox efforts like An Affair to Remember and Peyton Place (both 1957, the latter a Twilight Time title). The Radcliffe College alumna plunged into the deep end with a blend of her own experiences as a publishing house associate editor and research garnered from 50+ interviews of professional colleagues, penning a bestselling 1958 book that would then generate a subsequent Jean Negulesco-directed movie tantalizingly titled The Best of Everything (1959), on which Jaffe served as a detail-oriented advisor for Wald, Negulesco and screenplay adapters Edith Sommer and Mann Rubin. 

This first book would lead to 16 more novels or short story collections (including 1981’s Mazes and Monsters, her only other work adapted to the screen) across the next 35 years, a period in which she also established (in 1995) the annual Rona Jaffe Foundation Writers Awards for emerging women authors. Jaffe’s debut tome had an impact that transcends its origin and its nominal era time-capsule appeal. To explore its influence and flesh out the material’s journey from conception to page to screen and thereafter, you are invited to explore Mitchell Owens’ obituary of Jaffe from The New York Times (here: https://www.nytimes.com/2005/12/31/arts/rona-jaffe-author-of-popular-novels-is-dead-at-74.html), Her Brilliant Career: Ten Extraordinary Women of the Fifties author Rachel Cooke’s 2011 reflective appreciation in The Guardian (here: https://www.theguardian.com/books/2011/may/08/best-everything-rona-jaffe-review) and director Allan Arkush’s 2012 Trailers from Hell salute to the film (here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cm5n-BNCaYc). The Best of Everything, the birthday honoree’s book’s raison d’être, shines on TT hi-def Blu-ray.