Episode 4.3 "The Good News"
In this episode, Joan focused for once (yay Christina Hendricks!) the worlds curviest office manager handles her confusing marriage with surprise tenderness and her career with less control than usual, her temper flaring. Meanwhile, Don (Jon Hamm) travels to see his first ex-wife and gets very bad news. He returns home early, ditching a planned Apaculpco vacation. Come the middle of the holiday afternoon, Lane (Jared Harris) and Don are already drunk and planning a boys night out.
Don: [drunk, with mouth full] We're going to the movies.Cut to: Different office. The movie ads have switched hands. Don is pouring a drink, missing the flask entirely.
Lane: Do you think we should?
Don: Does Howdy Doody have a wooden dick? [reading from newspaper] Zorba the Greek -- seen it, but would see it again. It's a Mad Mad Mad World -- no kidding. Send Me No Flowers?
Lane: The Guns of August![cut to:..]
Don: I hate guns and I hate August.
Lane: It's all over the rug!
Don: Then we''ll have to smoke the dress.
Lane: Don't know that one. [Back to paper] The Umbrellas of Cherbourg.
Don: [pause for entirely appropriate internal actress reverie] Catherine Deneuve.
Lane: ...apparently it's for all the young lovers of the world.
Heyyyy, that's not Catherine Deneuve! No, the boys have chosen a Godzilla movie. Or wait is that Gamera? Some folks online are saying Gamera (the trailer) but that came out after this episode takes place. edit: I thought it was Mothra vs. Godzilla, which would be in the right US release time frame... but the more I look at it, yes, Gamera. My god I used to love those movies as a kid on the telly. But they all bleed together. Seriously, if you've seen one giant monster crushing Japan...
Lane and Don are now even more inebriated and loudly talking through the movie.
Don: You know what's going on here don't you? Hand jobs.Drunk Lane is hilarious -- Don even thinks so. It's so rare to see him laugh! -- finally giving Jared Harris something to work with for the first time since he fired everyone in Season 3. He later will hold a slab of well done steak against his crotch and shout about his Texas sized belt buckle. This episode has four dick jokes. No joke. Season 4, only 3 episodes in, is already infinitely more crass than the previous seasons but the 1950s era propriety is beginning to slip away from virtually all of the characters save possibly old timey youngster Pete Campbell. But he's blue blood.
Lane: Really? What percentage do you think.
Angry moviegoer: Do you mind?
Lane: [shouts politically incorrect Japanese gibberish at angry moviegoer. Then points at the screen and shouts] ...MONSTER !!!
Anyway... the movies!
We relate to Don's reverent invocation of Catherine Deneuve. This is Deneuve circa 1964 on the set of Cherbourg.
But, really, whichever year you capture her in, she's a breathtaker. Deneuve has to be among the twenty or so greatest movie stars that the planet ever produced, n'est-ce pas?.
We're betting that even if Don hadn't yet seen The Umbrellas of Cherbourg -- it opened in NYC two weeks prior to this episode's time frame -- he'll get to it soon enough. He likes the foreign films. And if you haven't yet seen Umbrellas, better get to it. It's only one of the greatest movies of all time. Plus it's a colorful musical and we like those. It also holds one of those rare Oscar distinctions of being nominated for statues in two separate years (before they changed the rules to prevent foreign films from doing so). It was France's Oscar submission in 1964 and won a Best Foreign Film nomination. In 1965, when it was presumably released in LA during the traditional eligibility period, it was nominated for four more Oscars, three music categories and best screenplay. Today's rules would have stopped the second batch of nominations, since a Foreign Film nomination preceding your release renders you ineligible for other nods (see the Aughts case of Hero for a rather famous example. The current rules also mean that France's A Prophet and Argentina's The Secret in Their Eyes cannot be nominated in any category for the upcoming Oscars even though they opened in the States during the 2010 eligibility period.)
About the other rejected movies.
- The Guns of August opened on Christmas Eve in NYC in 1964. It was a documentary based on a Pulitzer Prize winning book. This isn't the first time I've noticed an actual illustration of a book on an old movie poster. Could you imagine a movie today advertising itself with a photo or drawing of a book? Even Harry Potter and Twilight wouldn't risk that!
- Send Me No Flowers was one of Doris Day's many popular hit romantic comedies with gay co-stars. Excuse me gay co-star. No plural.
- Zorba The Greek was released in December 64 and was a big hit with Oscar voters. Antonio Banderas will be reviving this Oscar nominated title role on the Broadway stage soon.
- It's a Mad Mad Mad Mad World (Don left out one of the "Mad"s) was an all star comedy that was actually released a holiday release the year prior to this episode but movies used to stay in theaters much longer. Anyway, it was the biggest box office hit of 1964... at least according to my ancient book Box Office Champs: The Most Popular Movies of the Past Twenty Years which covers the years from 1939 through 1989. (I must have bought it shortly after I decided to live and breathe cinema. I blame Pfeiffer on that piano top. It's all her fault.) The book tells me that the movie "brought together virtually every living Hollywood comedian from Buster Keaton to The Three Stooges to Jerry Lewis. But it opted all too often for tired slapstick gags instead of moments of genuine wit. On balance, it was funny -- clearly it was a hit with audiences -- but so much talent should have produced something so much better." GEE, THAT DOESN'T DESCRIBE ANY OF TODAY'S COMEDIES!
With its pared down cast (only Joan, Lane and Don get any play) and weirdly aborted vacation sequences, the episode aired to some unusually charged online griping. Maybe the naysayers wanted the show to stay in 1960 with its original cast and character dynamics for its entire run? It's true enough that the show has lost parts of itself that we loved but there is no way to stop the world from spinning. And the times they are definitely changing.
Best Moment / Line
The finale. Five ad men are seated for a department head meeting. Joan Holloway Harris sits at the head of the table. "Gentlemen, shall we begin 1965?" With all of their personal lives spinning rapidly towards destinations unknown, 1965 is beginning whether or not they're ready for it.
Mad Men Unbuttoned explains that Harry "Hollywood Brown Derby" scene
Omega Level got great screenshots and thinks Don & Lane's big night out was the funniest 8 minutes of MM ever.
Time Abortion legalities from December 1964
The New Republic Matt Zoller Seitz thinks "The Good News" was Mad Men's first bad episode.