Sunday, August 16, 2009

Mad Men at the Movies 1.3

The new season of Mad Men begins tonight. Hooray! Meanwhile we're going all the way back to the beginning to share the show's movie references for fans and Mad Men virgins alike. Even if you don't watch the show, you're here because you love talking about the movies. Previously we covered episode 1 and its telling Gidget reference and episode's 2 throwaway Wizard of Oz bit. I'm cheating with this next installment which discusses neither a movie nor a television show, but a book. Since the classic book has fascinated multiple filmmakers, I'm allowing it to count. Mostly because I love the scene so much.

1.3 "Marriage of Figaro"

Lady Chatterley's Lover. Scandalous!
Joan Holloway: You know girls, we'd be happy to bring you coffee. I was on my way over anyway. [pause] I have something of yours. Lady Chatterley's Lover ... I finished it last night.
Office Girl #1:
Good to the last drop, right?
I can see why it got banned.
Office Girl #2: You don't have to be so shy about it, it's literature.

[Distracted] That is a huge pocket book, Joan.
Joanie: Well, it's got a change of clothing and a toothbrush in it.
Office Girl #2: Ahhh, a hope chest!

Office Girl #1: [offering book] Have you read this Peggy?
Joanie: I don't think that's a good idea
. There's uh.... this word in it a lot.
Peggy: I know the word, Joan.

Girl #2: Well, it's sad really. Because even with its reputation, men won't read it and they really should.
Joanie: I don't care if it's 500 years old. It's another testimony to how most people think marriage is a joke.
Girl #2: [fondly] They rip a lot of clothing.
Girl #1: It's a fantasy: He's married, she's married, the desperate passion of the forbidden.
Peggy: Can I borrow it?
Joanie: She's making it sounds better than it is. There's a few good parts that's all. And the book just opens to those pages by itself [giggles]

Girl #1: Hey, don't read it on the train. It'll attract the wrong element.
I love that the you can see "UNEXPURGATED" across the top in bold yellow text, like a wormy hook baiting the prurient. The book is well worn -- how many ladies at Sterling Cooper have already devoured it? It's interesting that Joan, sexually liberated in a sense, is so naughty-schoolgirl dismissive of the books artistic value, since in other instances she seems to take the arts seriously (The Apartment and Marilyn Monroe). There's something in Chatterley's proto-feminism that escapes her.

<--- Major film versions of D.H. Lawrence's novel from France (1955), UK (1981) Italy (1989) and France again (2007). The property also generated spinoffs, comedies, and loose riffs in other countries.

The US ban on Lady Chatterley's Lover was lifted in 1959 so it makes sense that it'd be a wate
r cooler topic in early 1960 when this episode takes place. The book had received its first cinematic translation in France in 1955. Danielle Darrieux (8 Women) starred as Lady Chatterley but American girls in 1960 wouldn't have seen her doing the horizontal. The film was banned stateside, too. Twenty some years later people were trying to get the 1981 English Language version banned in the States. It played US moviehouses in the summer of 1982 despite their efforts.

True to America's puritanical DNA, there's never been an American movie version of the torrid affair between a proper Lady and her rough gameskeeper

The only version of the film I've seen is the most recent Lady Chatterley from France [netflix]. It stars Jean-Louis Coullo'ch and Marina Hands (The Diving Bell and the Butterfly), who is very good indeed, as the sexually explosive lovers. Have you seen it? It's quite a successful film version, really, understanding the sensuality, the earthiness, the emotional baggage and the politics of the affair.

Other references in this episode
Cinema & Television: none. Magazines and literature: Batman, Ladies Home Journal, Playboy Theater: Marriage of Figaro as well as an off-off Broadway show with naked clowns. I'd assume that conversation was made up but Mad Men is so meticulous with its cultural touchstones. Maybe there was a naked clown stage show in the early 60s.
Anyone know?


Anonymous said...

Nathaniel, do u think Joseph Gordon-Levitt has a chance at an Oscar Nom for "500 days"? I have been surprised at how little this and other Oscar sites have talked about this movie and him.

I think Deschanel isn't really spunky enough to get in, but Levitt is incredible in the movie and has gotten a lot of buzz in recent years. I know men don't often get nods for romantic comedies and its an early release in a busy year, but he is really good in my opinion. Just wondering.

Mason Mahoney said...

So...Mad Men.

I might have a possible answer for the mysterious off-off broadway naked clown show. In 1966, Megan Terry (of Viet Rock fame) directed and adapted (or manipulated??) a Brecht script and the product was called Three Clowns. It was performed by the Open Theatre at the La Mama Experimental Theatre Club (which is still open today). Open Theatre, La Mama, and Megan Terry are known for being part of the experimental off-off broadway theater movement of the 60's. So, I think enough of the pieces fit together here to at least pretend that the Mad Men team didn't just make this up :)

Enjoy the episode tonight! I can't wait.

Unknown said...

Office Girl #1: Good to the last drop, right?

"Good to the last drop" was the slogan for Maxwell House.
Remember the scene from Radio Days when there's a slogan contest and the mother suggests that.
- "Good to the last drop"?
- That's Maxwell House.
- I knew I'd heard it.