My favorite movie geeks are gearing up for the new season of the AMC cable series Mad Men, set in a Madison Avenue ad agency during the the JFK's Camelot era. Until it's back on air, may I suggest my six favorite movies about hucksters, some of which influenced the series in content, art direction and attitude?
(Pictured is Cary Grant, who famously twice played an adman, in the delicious Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House, where he struggles over an ad campaign for canned ham, and in the superlative North by Northwest, where he is too busy eluding arrest to do any copywriting.)
1) Christmas in July (1940) Preston Sturges farce about an ordinary joe (Dick Powell) who thinks he wrote a winning slogan for a coffee company and spends the prize money before he's got the check.
2) The Hucksters (1947) Involving drama starring Clark Gable as a Madison Avenue yes-man who contemplates saying no to an autocratic client. Co-starring Deborah Kerr as the lady he wants and Ava Gardner as the dame who wants him.
3) Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House (1948) Charming Cary Grant/Myrna Loy comedy of a Madison Avenue copywriter suckered (by persuasive advertising!) into buying a colonial Connecticut fixer-upper.
4) A Face in the Crowd (1957) Budd Schulberg's and Elia Kazan's savage satire of the unholy marriage between Madison Avenue and politics stars Andy Griffith in his best role as a country singer who becomes a political demagogue. Co-starring Patricia Neal as the lady who wants him and Lee Remick as the babe he wants.
5) Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter? (1957) Frank Tashlin's cartoony lampoon of celeb endorsement stars Tony Randall as the adman out to land movie star Jayne Mansfield for his client, Sta-Put lipstick.
6) Putney Swope (1969) African-American admen take over an agency, giving it some soul and cool, and producing super-sexy ads in the Robert Downey satire starring Arnold Johnson.
7) What Women Want (2000) When a woman (Helen Hunt) is hired over him as the agency's creative director, Mel Gibson seeks revenge -- and then by magic is given the instrument to achieve it: The ability to know what female consumers want. Directed by Nancy Meyers.
8) In Good Company (2004) Dennis Quaid is excellent as a veteran ad salesman for a sports magazine who after a consolidation must report to a kid (Topher Grace) half his age. Directed by Paul Weitz.
Your favorites? Why? What am I forgetting?