Tuesday, August 03, 2010

MM@M: Old Fashioned Sixties Sweethearts

Mad Men at the Movies. Now practically concurrent with episode airings!

Mad Men 4.2 "Christmas Comes But Once a Year"
In this episode SCDP scrambles to make their low budget Christmas party festive for their biggest client Lee Garner Jr.. Don Draper gets drunks and beds his secretary. Awkward! Meanwhile, Freddy Rumsen (Joel Murray) returns with a valuable client in hand. He and his former protege Peggy argue about the Ponds soap campaign. Freddy wants to enlist a celebrity as the spokesperson.

Freddy: Tallulah Bankhead? She's glamorous. She seems more uncompromising than a movie star. She's on Broadway.
Peggy: She never got off Broadway because she's not beautiful enough.
Freddy: Shame on you. C'mon.

[imagining commercial] A little backstage at the makeup mirror with Ponds. Opening night 'The choice of professionals.' It's good, right?
Peggy: All of their research says they're trying to get young women.
Freddy: Young women look up to older women.
Peggy: For beauty tips. Are you joking?

Joking indeed. Here's Tallulah Bankhead in 1930 and again in the 1960s (she died in 1968). She was one of the hardest living, wittiest and most quotable of stars. Glamorous? Yes. A good spokeswoman for clean beauty regimens? Um... No

Later in the episode...
Freddy: On the short list I got Tallulah, Jessica Tandy, Barbara Stanwyck, and Doris Day -- different types.
Peggy: I don't even understand your list. What's wrong with Elizabeth Taylor?
Freddy: Isn't about making old ladies look good?
Peggy: Nothing makes old ladies look good.
Freddy: The Ponds does.
Freddy's wish-list suggests that he goes to the theater a lot (Tandy & Tallulah both being stage rather than movie stars). An argument erupts between them about what young girls want and whether they'll get married or not and such. Peggy, who has just been called "old fashioned" by her boyfriend in a previous scene, deflects the insult Freddy's way.
Peggy: You know, Freddy, I've brought up your name a hundred times to come in and freelance for me. But everyone is right about you. You and your grand dames and your poor old typewriter and your desperate spinsters. You're so old fashioned, you know that?
Hey, if loving grande dames makes you old fashioned, I've been old fashioned since I was five years old! I've always loved theatrical women of a certain age.

In 1964 when this episode takes place, Liz Taylor was a mammoth star and at 32 still the screen's preeminent beauty (Peggy's suggestion makes sense) but it was actually Doris Day, ten years Liz's senior, who was the box office queen. Day was the top earner, male or female, from 1962 through 1964 according to the Motion Picture Almanac, so it's interesting that Day would be grouped in with Freddy's "old fashioned" taste. But I guess the romantic comedy queens, who always seem to be the top earning females no matter the decade, do appeal to the most conventional and traditional of moviegoers... and therefore all age ranges. (It's interesting that Mad Men is suddenly using Peggy and Freddy, two allies, to dramatize the widening generational gap of the tumultous 1960s.)

Liz and Doris are the constants but the sweetheart crown shifts from Debbie Reynolds to Sandra Dee and then, in the mid to late 60s, a real shakeup begins with the musical stars exerting their power be it Ann-Margret, Shirley Maclaine or the tsunami sized arrivals of both Julie Andrews and Barbra Streisand (just a few short years away). Natalie Wood is a constant during the early 60s (the peak of her popularity) but one assumes she just missed these lists since the bulk of each top ten is made up of male stars.

Since we're now writing about the episodes shortly after they air, I thought I'd add three new elements to each write up.

Best Line

Peggy to her horny boyfriend: "You're never going to get me to do anything Swedish people do."

Best Intangible Something
I absolutely love that everyone is going to have to blow Lee Garner Jr. (metaphorically speaking) to keep his business. Consider it Sal's phantom revenge. (For those just joining the series, Sal --who used to be the defacto star of "Mad Men at the Movies" -- lost his job basically because he refused Lee Garner's sexual advances behind the scenes.)

Best Single Moment

Joanie leads a conga line.

This moment was a major hit with fans everywhere if Twitter is any indication. It prompted several amusing online responses including a conga from GIF PARTY and a campaign for an entire episode composed solely of Joanie leading a conga line. Hell, I'd watch!

Other references: (Music) The Beatles | (Myths/Characters) Potemkinville, Rasputin, Santa, Three Wise Men, Hitler, The Tin Man | (Literature) Article "The Swedish Way of Love"... this episode takes place in December 1964 so we're still a couple of years away from the famous I Am Curious (Yellow) film but the "Sexual Revolution" is approaching in America and Sweden was an early influential leader in this regard.


Jason Adams said...

I don't watch Mad Men but my boyfriend does and the conga scene stopped me in my tracks as I passed by the living room. Who ever thought up having Christina Hendricks lead a conga line in a fire-engine red dress was a goddamn genius.

Michael said...

It wasn't a joke but I couldn't help but smile at the horror on Freddie's face when he realizes his associate had lunch with Roger.

I picture a siren with flashing lights going off at AA headquarters every time a member gets within 100 yards of Roger Sterling.

Bia said...

2 (maybe false) stories I love about Talullah:

1.) She was the inspiration for Cruella De Vil

2.) She supposedly bragged about sleeping with 1,000 men and getting gonorrhea.


Bia -- how can you even narrow it down to two? I loved watching the Broadway play LOOPED just to hear all the famous Tallulah stories.

i wish they'd make that play into a movie.

ShoNuff Lives said...

lee garner jr making roger dress as santa and have the office boys sit on his lap was terrifying hilarious. considering his assualt of sal last season, i'm not surprised, and roger's look of horror was priceless.

oh, and to echo JA, putting christina hendricks in bold colors is always the right choice.

i *love* that peggy looks up to elizabeth taylor. so apropos.

i would have added a few other rising dames: shirley maclaine, shirley jones, & natalie wood. those are women whose beauty tips would be valuable to younger women in the early 60's.


michael c -- god so true. Both Roger and Don are like total anathema to recovering types surely.

shonuff -- good calls. there.

par3182 said...

what hit did doris day have in 1965 that managed to push julie andrews into second place in the year of the sound of music?

Kyle said...

It's interesting that the Beatles get such a passing reference, I was expecting something a bit bigger than that...perhaps history has painted them to be something bigger than they really were at the time.


par -- good question. i'm not really sure how that motion picture almanac made those lists. perhaps it's scary close to a "People's Choice" award and isn't totally about drawing power?