Monday, August 16, 2010

MM@M: Jean "Peggy" Seberg

Mad Men at the Movies In this series we discuss the film references on Mad Men. And now for Season 4 we're also discussing the show in general. Previously: Live From Times Square, 60s Box Office Queens, Catherine Deneuve and...Gamera?

Episode 4.4 "The Rejected"
In this episode Pete Campbell (Vincent Kartheiser) faces both personal joy and career drama and combines them in cunning fashion. He sure is a 'high WASP'. Don's secretary Alison gets a smashingly played exit scene (goodbye Alexa Alemanni. We hardly knew ye. But we liked what we knew. Pssst Mad Men will work wonders on your reel. You were great.) And Peggy attends an underground party winning both male and female attention. Plus, Ken Cosgrove returns (yay!).

Right before Ken's name surfaces, Pete and Harry are arguing about the printing of a newspaper ad.
Pete: I don't care if she looks like a Puerto Rican. Puerto Rican girls buy brassieres.
Not that they need to. I saw this one on the subway in one of those striped Jean Seberg shirts, red rag in her hair. Nipples.
Pete: I'm not in the mood.
Jean Seberg wore that famous striped shirt in Breathless (pictured above) which hit US screens in 1961, four years before this episode takes place. The Jean Luc Godard film became one of the most iconic films in the French New Wave, a film movement which had already peaked by 65 but had definitely affected New York culture.

Though Seberg is most remembered for the French Breathless today and made other foreign films, she was an American actress (born in Iowa) and made many movies at home, too. She was not only a fashion icon but a political activist of some notoreity (hence an interesting if tossed off reference name ... since we know much political turmoil is coming as this show explores the 1960s). She died at only 40 in Paris from an overdose.

In early 1965, concurrent with this episode, Seberg was a Golden Globe nominee for Lilith (1964), a film about a woman in a mental institution. (Maybe both Jean Seberg and Lilith would've related to Mad Men's frustrated women?) The AMPAS voters passed Seberg over for a nomination but she wasn't the only snub. The Oscar lineup (as follows) was actually composed mostly of the Globe comedy nominees (that doesn't happen anymore) with only the Drama winner making the cut.
  • Julie Andrews, Mary Poppins (Globe winner, Comedy)
  • Anne Bancroft, The Pumpkin Eater (Globe winner, Drama)
  • Sophia Loren, Marriage Italian-Style (Globe nominee, Comedy)
  • Debbie Reynolds, The Unsinkable Molly Brown (Globe nominee, Comedy)
  • Kim Stanley, Seance on a Wet Afternoon
Enough 1965 history. Back to 1965 fiction.

Favorite Moment
Revisiting Kenny & Pete's rivalry. Pete apologizes for gossiping and then tells Kenny he's going to be a father. After Pete's weak olive branch, Ken offers a delicious stealth-bitchy compliment: "Another Campbell. That's just what the world needs."

Best Intangible Something
Every single thing about the centerpiece sequence worked superbly. A group of women are corralled by Joan (not invited due to being "old and married") to be focused tested about beauty regimens while Don & Peggy watch from behind glass. The repercussions ends up rippling through the office, violently. The multi-scene sequence is all composed of people looking at each other from a glassed off protected distance whether comical (Peggy spying on Don) or dramatic (Don wincing at Allison's tears) or through doorways. It's full of entrances and exits (almost like bedroom farce) with everyone carrying their painfully open baggage into each room and when they exit, they've left articles behind. Amazing.

Best (Shouted) Exchange
Peggy (Elisabeth Moss) rejecting a lesbian advance from Joyce (Zosia Mamet) at a party.
Please note that Peggy is wearing a not un-Seberg like striped shirt for this sequence. Mad Men is nothing if not self reflective.

Best (Silent) Exchange
Peggy and Pete, former lovers, saying their goodbyes (through glass again). For a show that's so often about inchoate feelings it sure is emotionally acute.

Further reading?
I like to read a wide range of reaction to movies and tv, don't you?

  • Lylee's Blog "I can't fix anything else" on last week's episode but I think it's insightful.
  • Parabasis great piece on Peggy rising and Don descending in the mid 60s.
  • GIF Party & GIF Party. Two funny Elisabeth Moss bits. For all her personal troubles (Peggy's not Moss's) one sometimes senses that Peggy is the one character that's going to be all right. Don Draper on the other hand...
  • HitFix has a thorough recap with detailed end notes.
  • Atlantic Peggy's brush with the mid sixties and the episode's comic tone
  • The New Republic on the "effortless" feel of the episode, and lessons for series television in general
  • Cinema Talk on Jean Seberg and Lilith
  • Film Quarterly Seberg and notes on women and depression
  • Vulture John Slattery on directing his first episode.
  • The Bastard Machine on all the rejection in this episode. Aptly titled.
  • Antenna Mad Men's female fashion and the mise-en-scène in this episode.


Jude said...

I'm two episodes behind, but I can't help but read these write-ups!

Daryn G said...

There were so many good lines from this episode, "Trudy is with child," "Did you get the pears?," "Oh my God there's some kind of fire!" Snappy direction by John Slattery, who plays Roger Sterling. It was like a screwball comedy, except the last slow-mo shot of Pete & Peggy was very poignant.

Kyle said...

I continue to do my "no Betty Draper" happy dance :-) sadly, next episode doesn't look like it's going to work with me :-P

Heading to NYC for the first time in a couple of days...very stoked to visit Mad Men-ville.


Kyle -- i actually miss crazy Betty. But as much as I miss various people I'm so happy the series has enough guts to go without characters from time to time. Really life fluctuates its cast of characters. TV series rarely do.

Daryn G -- "the pears" omg. that was just so brilliant. great finale.

Mirko said...

I'm actually intrigued by Golden Globe Drama Actress line-up that year:


Gardner is great in Huston's picture...and what a nice that sultry Hayworth (wasn't she supporting in Hathaway's film?) and ever charming Seberg could have had a shot to the Oscar...fortunately you could become screen legend, even without a nomination, no matter how much academy members could have been blind ;-)

Damien said...

I was totally lost on that Jean Seberg reference Sunday night, so thanks for the tip! I figured it would be discussed here.


Damien -- glad to be of service. Though I'll admit that I don't know much about Jean Seberg. What little I do know now having done a bit of research... well, she sounds super intriguing.

I must rent LILITH.

lylee2 said...

Last night's episode was great. I, too, noticed Peggy's Jean Seberg-ian shirt (though I probably wouldn't have without Harry's pervy tipoff).

The Pete-Peggy dynamic continues to fascinate. Where will they be in ten years? Will they be the new Don and Roger? That would be a very different firm from the current Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce...but I think it could be a successful one.

I'd love to sit in on one of those "tone" meetings Slattery describes, though the more I read about Matt Weiner the more control-freaky he seems.

lylee2 said...

And thanks for the link, Nathaniel!