Sunday Feature-Week 8:Putney Swope (1969)

Title: Putney Swope

Tone: Off-beat, absurd, and often overlooked media/social satire

Who:

Director-Robert Downey Sr. (yes, Robert Downey Jr’s old man)

Cast- Arnold Johnson, Joe Madden, Antonio Fargas

When: 1969

What: Putney Swope is the only black member on an executive board of an advertising company. Following the untimely death of the chairmen of the board, each member votes in a secret ballot for who they want elect as the new chairmen. Each board member believes that they should be elected but are not allowed to vote for themselves, therefore each member votes for the one board member they think no one else would vote for, Swope.
Why:

  • An often overlooked satirical gem, Putney Swope is a daring, biting, and completely silly film which criticizes and satirizes the portrayal of blacks in media, white power structure, and the nature of corporate America.
  • Arnold Johnson (Swope) had difficulty remembering his lines during the production of the film and would often flub his lines during takes. In order to rectify this, Robert Downy Sr dubbed over Johnson’s voice with his own. Robert Downey Sr’s dubbing is actually one of the best aspects of Putney Swope, his loud, whiskey soaked,gritty dubbing makes the character of Swope all the more unforgettable.
  • Putney Swope is often referenced in the films of Paul Thomas Anderson, most notably in Boogie Nights (1997) wherein one of the main characters is named Buck Swope and also contains a scene where a young boy is sporadically setting off firecrackers and a character remarks “Oh, that’s Cosmo… he’s Chinese.” this references a nearly identical scene in Putney Swope.
  • Although at times a bit dated by today’s standards, Putney Swope is still a relevant and ballsy satire of Hollywood, commercialism, and how media perpetuates racial stereotypes. Furthermore, Robert Downey Sr’s quick paced, free flowing, and raw directing style makes for an overall unique and extensively quotable cinematic work . Below is a nice little clip from the film, the first commercial that Swope produces as the new chairman of the board, enjoy!

Advertisements

~ by cinematte on February 21, 2010.

2 Responses to “Sunday Feature-Week 8:Putney Swope (1969)”

  1. How many syllables mario!?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

 
%d bloggers like this: