Thursday, March 3, 2011

Quick Picks: Putney Swope

In addition to the regular longer entries, I will occasionally send out Quick Picks with just the titles, descriptions and links.

Putney Swope (Robert Downey, Sr., USA, 1969, 85 minutes)
Netflix: Robert Downey Sr. directs this whip-smart satire of race relations and corporate culture in 1960s America that explores what happens when the sole black executive at a major New York City advertising firm (Arnold Johnson) finds himself in charge. In addition to replacing his all-white board with an all-black slate of new members, he also changes the firm's name to the more descriptive Truth and Soul Inc. Netflix link.

Downey emerged from the New York underground (harder films to find include the very funny Chafed Elbows) and scored a crossover hit with this outrageous satire.  At least one technique was a carryover from his underground days: Downey himself dubbed the voice of the lead character when the lead actor (Arnold Johnson) couldn't seem to remember his lines.

As it turns out, Netflix Watch Instantly also has Downey's far less renowned film, Up the Academy. Mad Magazine publisher William Gaines paid 30,000 to take Mad's name off of after the initial theatrical release was titled Mad Magazine Presents: Up the Academy.  (The Mad references were reinstated after Gaines's and Time Warner's purchase of Mad.)

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