Putney Swope

USA, 1969 (Robert Downey Sr.; 1h 24m)

The board of directors at a Madison Avenue ad agency must elect a new chairman. In the manoeuvring to make sure that enemies don’t get votes, all the members accidentally cast their ballot for the board’s token black man, Putney Swope.

Putney Swope is a brazen and entertaining film even though the script is erratic and scattershot. Much of it is tame by today’s standards but the film pushed the envelope back in 1969. (I don’t believe it was ever formally given a rating but it was considered to be “Adults Only” fare by most theaters.)  Much of the credit for the movie’s unique look must go to cinematographer Gerald Cotts, who had never shot a feature film before. He gets some striking shots and, to emphasize the impact of Putney’s offensive TV commercials, these are the only scenes that are shown in color. The performances are uniformly amusing and Arnold Johnson makes for a compelling protagonist even though Downey ended up dubbing his voice with his own, ostensibly because he said Johnson couldn’t remember his lines.

Lee Pfeiffer
Date: June 23rd, 2020
Time: 9:00pm
Finishes at: 10:30pm