Monday, September 14, 2009

Ten Melos the Siren Would Watch Instead of "Mad Men"

If sticking it out for two-and-a-half episodes of Season 1 and one episode this season can be called trying, the Siren has tried with "Mad Men". She sees the attraction, even if the hype blows her mind--everything from Banana Republic to Barron's, for heaven's sake. The Siren admires the cinematic qualities of the series, the fluid camerawork, the carefully angled shots, the flawless integration of sets and costumes. It's pretty. The actors are pretty. The period detail is enough to warm an old-movie hound's heart. But on the whole, the Siren just doesn't dig it.

Despite the stratospheric sex appeal of Jon Hamm, January Jones and Christina Hendricks, the show is just so goddamned dour. The Siren suspects series creator Matthew Weiner wanted to avoid the nostalgia trap, but this is too far in the other direction. A little soupçon of affection for the past will not turn Mr. Weiner's dead-serious critique into "The Wonder Years Meets Ad Age." The Siren has seen movies from the era, and in those movies, people have a good time--every now and then, you understand, between bouts of weltschmerz. As James Wolcott wrote in Vanity Fair, "Mad Men" "has a seductive look, a compelling mood, a cast that could have been carved from a giant bar of Ivory soap, but zero grasp of the elastic optimism and vigor of the Kennedy years, the let-go spring of release after the constriction of the Eisenhower 50s."

Everyone on "Mad Men" goes around smoking and drinking and eating whatever they hell they want and having office affairs without once looking over their lovers' shoulders for process servers bearing class-action subpoenas, but does anyone enjoy it? Not from what the Siren has seen. It's like Saint Augustine wrote the scripts. Such laughs as "Mad Men" affords are tethered to hindsight--"We never indulge in such sexism/racism/anti-Semitism/homophobia now, and even if we do, we sure don't smoke."

Still, the Siren will probably watch more this season--between Wolcott's liveblogging and Lance's occasional commentaries, she doesn't want to be the clueless playground oddball. But in her heart, she'd rather watch a melodrama from the actual late Eisenhower-early Kennedy era. Good or bad, there's plenty to choose from.

So that's my justification for posting these brief takes on ten films actually made during the "Mad Men" period--dramas, because "Mad Men" is not, god knows, a comedy or a musical. These movies vary widely in terms of quality and critical repute, from bona fide masterpieces to simple soapers. But the Siren likes them all, as she likes a lot of the melodramas from this period. Many directors were exploring widescreen technique to admirable effect, and it was a great era for clothes and interiors. And when you watch the movies, you realize that people were far more aware of what was under society's facade than many suppose. (Two of the movies date to 1959--if Don Draper can fade out to Bob Dylan in 1960 then the Siren can cheat back a single year, she figures.)

Imitation of Life (Douglas Sirk, 1959)
Social Issue: Racism.
Sets and Costumes: Perfection.
Sex appeal (Low/Medium/High): Beside the point. But John Gavin was in the full flower of his lockjaw handsomeness and Susan Kohner and Sandra Dee were lovely.
Why the Siren Likes It: It's a masterpiece, that's why, one that belongs on any list of the great films of the 1950s. A master class in how to make a movie about misguided, surface-focused people trapped by a hypocritical society, without condescending to or withholding compassion from them. The proof is that 50 years after its release, the thwarted mother-daughter love still reduces many to tears. The Siren bristles when she hears this described as camp. There isn't a single unintentional effect in it. The falseness and glitter are there to throw race, this country's original sin, into high relief. But Sirk doesn't invite the audience to feel superior. He wants recognition, AND he wants identification. In the superb opening scene on the beach, when Lana Turner reacts with gooey middle-class "understanding" to Juanita Moore's having a white-skinned daughter, Sirk didn't want the white liberals in the audience to say, "What a hypocrite." He wanted them to say, "Shit, that's me." (The beautiful screen cap is from Ways of Seeing, the Siren's new blog discovery; several others, equally enthralling, right here.)

The Best of Everything (Jean Negulesco, 1959)
Social Issues: Working women and adultery (go together like a horse and carriage in Hollywood movies of all eras), unwed pregnancy, abortion, casting couch, alcoholism.
Sets and Costumes: Great New York exteriors and the ultimate in smart little suits. Best of all, the Mondrian-esque office interiors, which Negulesco, a painter, probably influenced.
Sex appeal: High; Suzy Parker, Stephen Boyd, Louis Jourdan, even Robert Evans looks great.
Why the Siren Likes It: Underrated, influential film whose critical reputation is slowly improving. One of a number of "three [or four] girls" movies from the era, direct ancestors of "Sex and the City." Enjoyable on a number of different levels--as highly informative social artifact, as a proto-feminist tract, as an aesthetic treat, as a showcase for newcomers and old pros. The Siren particularly likes good old Brian Aherne as an ass-pinching executive and Joan Crawford, refusing to play her role as straight office harridan, giving her character both dignity and sensitivity. The beauteous Parker (up top) gets the best line: "Here's to men. Bless their clean-cut faces and their dirty little minds." The best appreciation of this film that the Siren has read is over at Noel Vera's place; he pays great attention to Negulesco's use of Cinemascope.

From the Terrace (Mark Robson, 1960)
Social Issues: Alcoholism, adultery, class snobbery, cutthroat business practices.
Sets and Costumes: High-end all the way. Joanne Woodward doesn't look completely at ease in Travilla, though.
Sex appeal: High. Paul Newman rates an automatic "high" in this category, as does Myrna Loy at any age.
Why the Siren Likes It: A parable about life versus work that everybody calls dated, except "Mad Men" apes the same themes. The Siren wrote a bit about this movie when Newman died; his performance is very good but the direction is noteworthy too, as is the Elmer Bernstein score.

All the Fine Young Cannibals (Michael Anderson, 1960)
Social Issues: Racism, alcoholism, class snobbery, adultery.
Sets and Costumes: Ersatz Southern, then faux bohemian, but extremely well-shot by William H. Daniels.
Sex appeal: Medium, largely because the Siren doesn't get Robert Wagner.
Why the Siren Likes It: Supposedly based on the life of Chet Baker. Jaggedly uneven and no one seems to have a clue about real white Southerners. But deserves to be remembered, if only for Pearl Bailey's haunting performance. For the Siren and those like her, there's also the nifty bit of role reversal for Susan Kohner, the "tragic mulatto" of Sirk's Imitation of Life, in the same movie as the penultimate role for Louise Beavers, of John Stahl's excellent 1934 Imitation of Life. (Poster is from the great Cinema Retro site.)

Return to Peyton Place (Jose Ferrer, 1961)
Social Issues: Working women (don't kid yourself, that's still an issue), rape, incest, adultery, (disguised) abortion, xenophobia.
Sets and Costumes: Meh. The exteriors look great, though.
Sex appeal: High; Eleanor Parker, Tuesday Weld, Carol Lynley, Jeff Chandler if you happen to like Jeff Chandler.
Why the Siren Likes It: Um...hard to say, since by no stretch of the imagination is it a good movie. This one the Siren won't kill you for calling camp. There really isn't anything else you could call it. The first Peyton Place is camp too, but had real value in Franz Waxman's score (heaven), Diane Varsi and the New England ambiance. Return, well, Ferrer was no director, they added lyrics and Rosemary Clooney when Waxman needed neither, and most of the cast looks about as comfortable as a soaking wet cat. But I appreciate Carol Lynley's pursuit of a career over and above a love affair (similar to the reason I liked Valley of the Dolls' fadeout). Mary Astor is great, playing a full-out embodiment of small-minded paranoia and ugliness. And Tuesday Weld manages to have emotional sincerity in some scenes despite playing opposite the stiffest excuse for a Swedish ski instructor you ever saw in your life.

Susan Slade (Delmer Daves, 1961)
Social Issues: Premarital sex, unwed motherhood, the hazards of cigarette smoking.
Sets and Costumes: Beautiful exteriors by master cinematographer Lucien Ballard, and the vaguely Japanese-style house on the Northern California coast, given to Connie Stevens's father by Brian Aherne (there he is again!) is quite an eyeful.
Sex appeal: Medium, though Connie Stevens (above) does her best.
Why the Siren Likes It: Interesting, Sirk-esque late-career movie by the talented Delmer Daves, with several scenes that have lost none of their ability to shock. Dave Kehr: "To an America that needed to believe that 'nice girls don’t,' Daves’s melodramas responded, 'Nice girls do' — or did at least sometimes, when the appropriate distinctions had been made between lust and love, predatory older males and sincere young men, casual encounters and lifetime commitments." Kehr prefers Parrish and Rome Adventure to Susan Slade and the Siren pretty much agrees with him, but Slade is worthwhile and closest to the "Mad Men" school of social history. Peter Nelhaus has a fine review of the movie, in which he compares it to Daves' westerns.

Advise and Consent (Otto Preminger, 1962)
Social Issues: Homophobia, subversion, government corruption.
Sets and Costumes: Stiff, cold and forbidding, perfectly in keeping with the machinations of the plot.
Sex appeal: Low. Gene Tierney is in this but she wasn't looking her best. Perhaps because he was making a movie about politicians, Preminger shot everyone with a GargoyleCam.
Why the Siren Likes It: Another masterpiece, a fisheyed look at the Washington influence game, usually taken as a riff on Alger Hiss but full of other echos as well. The scenes of back-door-dealing and blackmail ring as true as they ever did. Those tempted to tag the young, upright conservative senator's operatic torment over his gay attractions as quaint should think back to Jim McGreevey, Larry Craig and their many brethren--not to mention their wives. Despite the Red Scare trappings (and those are somewhat back in fashion, if you've noticed), Advise and Consent is one hell of a prescient movie. (To see just how prescient, the Siren recommends you check out this article by Meredith Hindley, senior writer at Humanities, on "The Transformation of Advise and Consent.") The above is from Ways of Seeing, whose proprietor clearly has excellent taste; for more screen grabs to show just how good this movie is, please click over and check out the rest.

The Light in the Piazza (Guy Green, 1962)
Social Issues: Mental retardation, class snobbery.
Sets and Costumes: Stunningly beautiful Italian setting (Guy Green was a highly accomplished cinematographer), Christian Dior dresses for Olivia de Havilland.
Sex appeal: High; Yvette Mimieux, George Hamilton and Rossano Brazzi, and de Havilland is much lovelier than the frightening lip color above suggests.
Why the Siren Likes It: Tender romance with a great performance by de Havilland, who carries the movie. Recently turned into an acclaimed musical that the Siren, alas, did not see. She does think the movie's insistence on the primacy of love, both parental and romantic, makes it a good choice for a musical treatment. At a time when the common practice was to shut the mentally retarded away in institutions, the notion that a developmentally delayed girl (albeit a beautiful one) deserved to marry a prince of an Italian and have babies was nothing short of revolutionary.

The V.I.P.s (Anthony Asquith, 1963)
Social Issues: Cutthroat business practices, tax evasion, adultery, domestic violence, depression.
Sets and Costumes: Enough to make you fly to Heathrow and wait to get fogged in--if flying were still like this.
Sex appeal: High. (Elizabeth Taylor at this point in her career does the same for a movie as Paul Newman. Elsa Martinelli was nothing to sneeze at, and neither was Richard Burton or Louis Jourdan.)
Why the Siren Likes It: See Return to Peyton Place. Plenty of lush period visuals, and there are pleasures to be had from Orson Welles even in unworthy roles (this one tinged with painful self-parody). But it's a pretty bad movie, though hardly the offense to all civilization that Walter Chaw paints it, and Elizabeth Taylor is an unconvincing version of Vivien Leigh. (Note to Mr. Chaw: Rod Taylor was a native Australian.) The Siren likes this primarily for Maggie Smith as the devoted secretary. I do love Dame Maggie. Christina Hendricks is good, but she still could learn something from what Smith accomplishes with a cliched role. Smith's scene with Richard Burton is the highlight, the so-so writing propped up with perfectly timed and calibrated reactions and beats.

Love With the Proper Stranger (Robert Mulligan, 1963)
Social Issues: Premarital sex, abortion, unwed motherhood.
Sets and Costumes: Supposedly low-end, but a mite too clean for all that. Steve McQueen made everything he wore look like a well-broken-in motorcycle jacket.
Sex appeal: High. Look at that publicity shot and tell me different.
Why the Siren Likes It: Has comic moments, but at heart a rather melancholy movie about a still-relevant topic, with legendary leads giving warm, authentic performances despite a wan third act. McQueen seldom let his vaunted cool slip to as much effect as here. When "Mad Men" gives a nudge about how far we've come, we should remember Wood planning an abortion, without hysteria. How many recent Hollywood movies or TV shows have let a beautiful, sympathetic lead do the same?

All right, so it's been a while, have at it. Tell me why I'm wrong about "Mad Men." Point out the movies I missed. (The Apartment isn't there and doesn't belong there; it's a comedy, and a satire, and very funny, and "Mad Men" isn't any of those those things.)

But, as always, play nice. The new banner, which MrsHenryWindleVale recognized without a telescope, is courtesy of the great Glenn Kenny. It is of course Dorothy Malone, from another Sirk masterpiece, The Tarnished Angels. Dorothy is meant to illustrate the Siren's general mood for the past month and probably the next.

Postscript: I've added a link to Peter Nelhaus's fine writeup (with lovely screen caps) of Susan Slade. Despite the deliberately provocative title, my main idea in writing this piece was "Hey, these early-1960s films that I love deserve a second look." So if anyone else has a post on some of these, or a similar movie from 1959-1963, post a link in comments by all means and I'll add it here. I'll start by also linking to Peter's post about Strangers When We Meet (b/w Town Without Pity, which also roughly fits our parameters despite the German setting). The Siren forgot about Richard Quine because--well, see banner above. Because of that.

Awesome screen caps from The Best of Everything right here. Apparently my mistake was not Googling "Suzy Parker."

Nathaniel of The Film Experience has been doing a series on movie references in Mad Men; one post involves a Draper household pillow-talk discussion of The Best of Everything that the Siren is sorry she missed. Great for "Mad Men" fans but rewarding for non-watchers too.


Vertigo's Psyche gives some love to Siren darling Sandra Dee and her exquisite performance in A Summer Place.

Arthur S., one of the most astute commenters in the film blogosphere, links us all up to a Douglas Sirk interview that is not to be missed.


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Karen said...

Interestingly, Vanwall, two episodes ago they had Don Draper don his hat as he got out of his car in front of his house, and I remember thinking--have we seen that before? You're right: hats were still huge then. I remember my father in them well into the mid-60s.

"impustr" is my verification word, which is appropriate for a discussion of Mad Men.

X. Trapnel said...

I don't know if it's just chronological age (shouldn't Hal be the same age as Cliff Robertson?); it's just that the eager-to-please boyishness (Yes Sir!/Yes Ma'am!)doesn't suit Holden; he's not a boy-man,

I agree with V's Psy that Holden delivers the hitchhiker story well (hell, he does everything as well as possible given the miscasting), but the story? More of that male victim/woman as predator stuff. Blecch.

X. Trapnel said...

It's not Holden's chronological age; he's just not the right actor to play a boy-man, a ubiquitous type since the 50s.

I agree with V's Psy that he does the hitchhiker story well (hell, he does a good job with everything in spite of the miscasting; in the long run it doesn't matter, we're not talking abt a marred or scotched masterpiece), but the story? More of that male victim/woman as predator stuff. Blecch.

X. Trapnel said...

My mistake. I thought my post hadn't gone through. I forgot abt the page turn at 200 posts, so not just repeating myself.

Trish said...

I'm shocked. Was Holden that young? He looks a decade older. Newman would have been great, but not getting the role didn't affect his career trajectory. Personally I'd choose The Long Hot Summer over Picnic any day.

DavidEhrenstein said...

Well The Long Hot Summer is the opposite of Picnic. Instead of desperation everyone's primed and hot-to-trot. MAN was that a giant hit when it was released! And no wonder.

DavidEhrenstein said...

by Frank O'Hara

How funny you are today New York
like Ginger Rogers in Swingtime
and St. Bridget’s steeple leaning a little to the left

here I have just jumped out of a bed full of V-days
(I got tired of D-days) and blue you there still
accepts me foolish and free
all I want is a room up there
and you in it
and even the traffic halt so thick is a way
for people to rub up against each other
and when their surgical appliances lock
they stay together
for the rest of the day (what a day)
I go by to check a slide and I say
that painting’s not so blue

where’s Lana Turner
she’s out eating
and Garbo’s backstage at the Met
everyone’s taking their coat off
so they can show a rib-cage to the rib-watchers
and the park’s full of dancers with their tights and shoes
in little bags
who are often mistaken for worker-outers at the West Side Y
why not
the Pittsburgh Pirates shout because they won
and in a sense we’re all winning
we’re alive

the apartment was vacated by a gay couple
who moved to the country for fun
they moved a day too soon
even the stabbings are helping the population explosion
though in the wrong country
and all those liars have left the UN
the Seagram Building’s no longer rivalled in interest
not that we need liquor (we just like it)

and the little box is out on the sidewalk
next to the delicatessen
so the old man can sit on it and drink beer
and get knocked off it by his wife later in the day
while the sun is still shining

oh god it’s wonderful
to get out of bed
and drink too much coffee
and smoke too many cigarettes
and love you so much

DavidEhrenstein said...

"Steps" is one of O'Hara's Vincent Warren poems. Vincent Warren was adancer with the New York City Ballet. Not a star. Just one of the dancers.

While O'hahra had an extensive and extravagant sex life, and a great amny boyfriends, Vicnent Warren was very very special. He wrote his greatest love poems to him, my favoirte being "Having a Coke With You.

DavidEhrenstein said...

And here he is reading it.

Goose said...

Re: The casting of Picnic - Ralph Meeker offers coarseness, something that neither William Holden or Paul Newman do not. In the staid and repressed small town, that is a large part of what makes him stand out. Holden is too well-groomed to bring that out, which I think is a bigger problem than his age.

Goose said...

Someone mentioned that There's Always Tomorrow is a Sirk movie he is interested in, because for once he likes the actors, if I remember the comment correctly.

But let's not forget Scandal in Paris with the ever-popular George Sanders, the interesting Signe Hasso as the leading lady, and such stalwarts as Caole Landis, Akim Tamiroff, Gene Lockhart, Alan Napier and Vladimir Sokolov in support. The Lockhart disguise at the end must be seen.

George Sanders also was in A Summer Storm, with Linda Darnell and in the role of a lecher, Edward Everett Horton! I've not seen it, but it sure sounds tempting.

These films are from the mid-1940's and are in black-and-white, but the poetic extravagance is much in evidence.

And let's not forget The Tarnished Angels with excellent work from Robert Stack and Jack Carson, although less so from Rock Hudson and Dorothy Malone, IMHO.

X. Trapnel said...

Goose, I was referring to "official," i.e., 50s Sirk. I'm very curious about his forties films. Summer Storm is based on the longest story, or, if you prefer, the only novel Chekhov ever wrote (he regarded it as a piece of hackwork). Since I've never seen a successful filming of APC (including the overrated Soviet-era Lady with a Dog; Oh, what Max might have done!) I'm certainly curious. Ah, Signe Hasso; the best of the soi disant Bergmans (of course, if the suits of the era had any imagination they would have seen that Dorothy McGuire could have been our own, homegrown Ingrid). Michele Morgan was criminally wasted here and Madeleine Le Beau was lovely in her brief refugee bit in Hold Back the Dawn (I'm sure I'm not the only admirer of that film around here; if there's ever the Siren [who I suspect though is a peace-loving sort] does an overrated/underrated director post, Mitchell Leisen tops my underrated list).

DavidEhrenstein said...

I didagree, Goose. A coarse Hal wouldn't have worked. He's not Stanley Kowalski. He loves Madge. He doesn't want to destroy her, or harm her in any way. And no one else would have liked a coarse Hal either. What's interestign about the play is the way the other characters see their hops and dreams refected in Hal and Madge coming together.

Trish said...

I never thought of Meeker as coarse until Goose mentioned it. As Mike Hammer he never forgets that he has to look good, so his coarseness is controlled by his suit. Makes me wonder how a shirtless Meeker would have fared in Picnic.

Yojimboen said...

I was not nearly as familiar with Frank O’Hara as I ought to have been. Thank you, Mr E for remedying that.

Though modesty may forbid you from posting this, I am not so inhibited.
This is a lovely post. Thank you.

fregan said...

There, David, that's just what Mad Men is missing: that Frank O'Hara, run on sentence, sense of everything happening at once. The makers of MM are tethered to Sirk at the expense of it's own truth. The line readings are derived from the movies of the time, not from the actual way people were speaking.
"Oh Lana Turner, we love you, get up."

MM needs to get busier, more distracted, appreciative of the time's tendency to get very tangential and out on limbs which couldn't bear it's weight.

Marilyn Monroe just killed herself, did anyone in MM mention it?

Trish said...

Yes, Marilyn's death was more than mentioned, Frank. Season 2, episode 9, "Six Month Leave".

fregan said...

Yojimboem: Just bookmarked David's page on Frank O'Hara so I can go back and back. Thanks for that and David, I'm in awe of how you pulled it all together into a scrim of O'Hara subtexts. Boy, would he have loved youtube and he would have made blogging into art the way you did with that amazing post.

DavidEhrenstein said...

The magnificence that is Good News (1947) is currently unfurling itself on TCM.

DavidEhrenstein said...

Thanks for linking my Frank O'Hara ay Ypjimboen!

I've got a Rainer Werner Fassbinder Day coming up soon on Dennis' site. I'll be sure to link it when it does.

DavidEhrenstein said...

Marilyn is a runnign subtext on Mad Men as is JFK. Weiner tends to shy away fromthe Big Events of that era, less the show becomes pure melodrama.

X. Trapnel said...

Here's something everyone should like:

Beauty and the Beast

I go nightshopping like Frank O'Hara I go bopping
up Bleecker for juice, croissants, Perrier, ice-cream
and Gitanes filtret pick up the laundry, get back
to five (5!) messages on the answering machine
from Mary K, and Eliza, Louis, Barry and Jack,
and on TV sixty channels of mind-polluting yuck.
Thank God for the VCR. Now at last I can screen
the old movies I haven't seen since I was "young"
--A Night to Remember, Rear Window, High Noon,
The Man Who Never Was, A King in New York...
Tonight, for example, tickled to bits, I stick on the "original, uncut" version of King Kong:
childish, perhaps, but a cultural critic's dream.
I re-wind, fast-forward, and replay the scene

a black speck outlined against the morning sky
clutching Fay, said Noel Coward, "like a suppository".
It's all inconsistent, of course, and disproportionate,
he's too small there and too big on the street, I know,
but it makes no difference, it's a magnificent show.
...The little biplanes come gunning for him now
and Kong, by Jove, knocks one of them out of the sky
with a hairy hand. They wear him out, of course,
and he falls to extinction among the crowds below.
And Fay??? She screams but she's safe; it might've been worse.

I breathe again and zap, lord of the universe,
the credits. Semiotician, couch potato,
I've had them all here in my room on video --Leigh, Grahame, Taylor, Kelly and Monroe;
but why so few poems for the women I know?
Because these things used to be open to innuendo?
Fay, born in Alberta, you were also in Dirigible
and "existed most forcefully when faced with terror” says Video Guide-- like most of us, probably, Well,
Kong and I dedicate this one to you, old girl, wherever you are; pushing 90 and hanging in there,
we want you to know we love you and root for you still.

Derek Mahon

DavidEhrenstein said...

Pas mal.

Vertigo's Psycho said...

In 1955 Newman was still closer to his The Silver Chalice novice days then his ultra-sexy drifter in Hot Summer, which came along a few years later, so I agree with Woodward's asessment that he wasn't really ready to play the lead. We all know what he became onscreen to a generation, but he did take a little time to develop into "Paul Newman- Superstar." I'd have loved to have seen him reprise his stage role in the film, though, to see how he fared alongside Holden.

Does Holden really look a lot older than 37? I thought he appeared pretty damn fit in the movie. I know he enjoyed the pleasures of life, so maybe he comes across older to some.

DavidEhrenstein said...

It's Dirk Bogarde Weekend at Dennis Cooper's

Yojimboen said...

Pas mal.
Pas mal du tout.

DavidEhrenstein said...

Just watched Strangers When We Meet again on cable. Superb!

fregan said...

Please forgive me for beating the dead horse of Mad Men ennui, which I feel is the major fault of the show.
I just saw Brigadoon on TCM and there is a night club/barroom scene near the end which is just frantic with activity by guys in suits and gals in amazing dresses and hats. It's beautifully choreographed (no dancing)and the foreground shots of a bartender's hands making martinis framing the actors in cross-talking dialogue are nicely done. B'doon was 1954 and while many of the women seem over dressed, there is an East Side/Midtown crammed in frenzy which I remember being common in the fancy ginmills in the early sixties.

Yojimboen said...

Just saw my second complete episode of MM - not quite as good as the first, but...
Sirkier and Sirkier.

Sharon said...

The Kennedy Era might have been optimistic for some, Women or African Americans but if you were gay?

Mad mens bleak portrayal of capitalism probably makes the American right wing very nervous.

Kat said...

Thank you! I was wondering if it was just me that couldn't sit through Mad Men. I agree 100% with your assessment. Everything about the set, clothing, etc is fabulous...but that spark is lacking.

DavidEhrenstein said...

What makes that Brigadoon scene is my favorite movie tough guy --

Elaine Stewart.

The Bad and the Beautiful was her apotheosis ("Saw you picture, Georgia. You were swell."), but she's really good here. And she's totally fabulous in Don Weis' The Adventures of Haji Baba

Yojimboen said...

Thanks, Mr E., for reminding me of the beginning of my dissolute childhood – the image of Elaine Stewart shrugging off her wrap – at 3:35 here – was my first genuine Schwing! experience at the movies

X. Trapnel said...

Elaine Stewart=Elsie Steinberg from Montclair, NJ, roughly 20 minutes from where I spent MY dissolute childhood, but she had long since departed for other shores.

As Bjorn said...

entirely off the point, but perusing the estate records of late medieval england/france gives us an idea of the vast quantities of alcohol consumed in western civ for those years and that info makes us modern folk pretty much lightweights. There's also a paper detailing a theory as to the prevalence of fetal alcohol syndrome in those days. They averaged in the gallons per person per day. So the drinking in Mad Men and The Grand Hotel are not so much, really. I preferred the days of gentlemanly joints in the not so long ago 1970s before pot became designer laden and expensive.

cgeye said...

One show that does get the glee in excess of the 60s is, um, ARCHER. It's set in an industrial graphics 60s-70s design, but its mores are pure Bond, but with potty mouths and post-Apatow puerilty. Still, worth a watch at least once.

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Ladrón de Basura (a.k.a. Junk Thief) said...

All great choices, though "The Best of Everything" is my favorite. Whether or not she could act is debatable, but it is such a joy to spend two hours with Suzy Parker.

As Bjorn said...

Mad Men, best writing on tv that I've encountered in years. I'm an old movies fan, in my sixties. Sorry you don't get it. Certainly diminishes my perceptions of you. But, nobody can get everything. That is just true. So, glad you enjoy what you enjoy, and I've learned a few things from you along the way. Good enough.

James Keepnews said...

SO glad to finally see -- here, in Daniel Mendelsohn's peerless NYRB takedown and one or two other spots elsewhere lately -- someone other than me finds Mad Men to be the emperor that has no grey flannel suit. It's been a long couple of years and I've felt so, so alone...just me and impeccable set/costume design and, it would seem, very little else...

rasputin1963 said...

Siren, great blog and film recommendations. re: MAD MEN

Oh it's dour, alright, and that's the express purpose of the show. So many Americans (mostly white middle-class het ones) romance the 50's and 60's as some kind of golden age in whicn there were fewer problems; MAD MEN courteously reminds us that the era was filled with alcoholism, smoking, rigid conformities impossible to live up to, racism, homophobia, blatant misogyny, jingoism, denial, hypocrisy. We see why things HAD to change, and why the white-picket fence ideal of the 50's was illusory and filled with much angst. That's the point of the show!

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