Wednesday, July 14, 2010

MM@M: The Quiet Man, The Foreign Ones.

Yikes. Mad Men Season 4 begins in 12 days. and we're still on Season 2 of our series, charting the cinema references in television's best show. Let's get back to it.

Episode 2.5 "The New Girl"
Bobbie Barrett (Melinda McGraw) and Don Draper (Jon Hamm) are heading to a beach house for some extra marital rutting. Bobbie is feeling frisky and Don's feeling... nothing. They're both drunk.
Bobby: Lets do things you like. What else do you like?
[Don's ever stoic face lights up for a split second with the hint of a smile. He considers answering... and then]

Don: Movies.
Bobbie: YES. Spartacus?
[Don does not respond. Bobby is drunk and clearly loves the movie.]

Have you seen the foreign ones? So sexy.
Don: La Notte.
Bobbie: [Sighs with pleasure.] Yes.
Why is it so hard to just enjoy things? God, I feel so good.
While remembering Michelangelo Antonioni's La Notte makes many a cinephile feel so good, Bobbie and Don won't be smiling for long. They're about the get in a smash-up. Soon Bobbie is lying to her husband and holed up in Brooklyn nursing her wounds. But at least she's still got her sarcastic self-aware humor. She reads the trashy "Confidential" magazine.
Bobbie: Oh, Marilyn. The tragedy you live. I'm so glad I don't have problems.
ba dum dum. Funny. There's a brief conversation about Marilyn -- 'a lot of people would love to have Marilyn's problems' -- and then a mention that Marilyn might be showing up at the President's birthday celebration at Madison Square Garden that weekend. I have no idea if this was rumored among civilians before it happened in May '62 but Bobbie, as a showbiz insider, would know either way.

That weekend celebration is a piece of movie star history that even the most casual moviegoers know about.

I haven't watched that clip in years and I didn't remember that she was introduced as "The late Marilyn Monroe". Spooky. It was a reference to her lack of punctuality but tragically she was dead less than three months later.

Referencing famous historical episodes can often read as inorganic, like historical shorthand for dummies (see past discussions of Best Picture winners Cavalcade and Forrest Gump), but Mad Men generally doesn't lean too hard into these references and this Marilyn bit is thankfully just a decorative touch rather than a plot point.

There's another brief movie reference in this episode.

Trudy (Alison Brie) and Peter (
Vincent Kartheiser) are having troubles conceiving and Peter, clumsily attempting to smooth over the problem, suggests that maybe they're meant to be a childless couple.

Peter: You have a baby. You can't travel. You can't go to the movies.
Trudy: You're immature Peter, you know that? ... Express some concern and stop talking about how you're going to miss seeing Cape Fear for the third time!
Peter: [Angry] I know one thing. I sure as hell wouldn't want a kid here watching this Donnybrook!


At first, I assumed that this was also a movie reference since they were talking about going to the movies and Cape Fear (1962). That reference is funny because it seems like exactly the type of thing that Peter would obsess about. Assuming that "Donnybrook" was an arts reference too (that's how my brain works) I found that Donnybrook! was the name of a 1961 Broadway musical (this episode takes place in Spring 1962) which was based on the film The Quiet Man (1952). I know very little about either but it turns out, as Bill and Liz inform in the comments that donnybrook is a word with an Irish origin simply referring to strife and fighting. I had assumed the musical's title borrowed this phrase for a title because the wife character (who was played by Maureen O'Hara in the 50s film, pictured left) was a fiery Irish woman and that Peter was referencing it to make a point about Trudy being difficult. (That's amusingly hypocritical because Peter is the one who's always a handful). But I see cinema even when there isn't cinema.

But anyway... Marilyn and La Notte. Why don't Americans talk about "sexy foreign ones" anymore? Sigh.


Liz said...

I think "donnybrook" is just an old-school term for a fight or confrontation.

Along with "A Night to Remember," this is my favorite episode of season 2. That thing about "the late Marilyn Monroe" is spooky!


oh in that case the title of the musical is just named after a fight. right you must be.

makes sense.

Bill_the_Bear said...

See the entry:

Donnybrook is the sort of word which would have been used more back in the 60's than now. It wasn't a word we used in my family, but it would have been used enough in public that I knew what it meant. (In fact, when I watched the episode, I never looked for any sort of Broadway or theatrical or cinematic meaning.)


well... i just assumed the word had to come from somewhere and since they were already talking about movies ;)

it's a weird enough word that i figure the origin must be rooted in something very specific.


okay i see

"A brawl or fracas; a scene of chaos"

that makes sense. FUN WORD. I shall try to use it in a sentence this week.

cornelius said...

Donnybrook is actually a place in Ireland (Dublin 4- now very posh!) where there was a fair that was notorious for brawls.


thanks for clearing that up. I adjusted the post.

par3182 said...

that's far and away my favourite pete line (although i love your interpretation that he was somehow saving a little one from a broadway show)

i'm amazed at how fond i've become of that weasel pete over three seasons - surely it's trudy's excellent influence

Leehee said...

Oh, you should really give "The Quiet Man" a chance - it's one of my all time favorite movies! (And I have the clover tattoo to prove it.....) and I NEVER knew there was a musical based on it - how fascinating! I'll go look it up straight away. Thanks!