Black Film Classics | Putney Swope

6 02 2008

“Rockin’ the boat’s a drag. You gotta sink the boat! So begins this twisted, outrageous look at advertising in the late 1960s in director Robert Downey, Sr.’s scathing satire, “Putney Swope.” A worthy precursor to films such as “This is Spinal Tap” and “Fear of a Black Hat,” “Swope” shows once again that the road to hell is paved with good intentions – but they can only take you so far!

Putney Swope (1969)

Stars: Arnold Johnson, Joe Madden, Antonio Fargas and Allen Garfield

Plot: When the chairman of an advertising firm drops dead, the only black man on the board is accidentally put in charge. He renames the company “Truth and Soul, Inc.” Swope replaces all but one of the white employees and insists they no longer accept business from companies that produce, war toys, or tobacco. The success of the business draws unwanted attention from the United States Government, which considers it “a threat to the national security.”

Social Significance: Made during the post-civil rights movement, the film satirizes not only advertising agencies but Black militants, as well. While Sidney Poitier was still making “safe” mainstream films, this film with it’s outlandish racial dynamics paved the way for more riskier content.

Why It’s On the List: Though a bit less cutting edge than when it was released, the film’s weirdness puts it over the top. How can you hate on a film that features mock television spots where a psychedelic montage of topless girls jumping on a trampoline before deciding to have an orgy with a random passerby (to sell Lucky Airline travel, of course), a redneck beauty queen getting pied in the face with chicken pot pies, and a double amputee hocking life insurance by proclaiming “they charge an arm and a leg?

Film’s Best Line: “I got this great window cleaner. Cleans good and doesn’t streak. Smells bad, though. Cleans good, but smells bad.” Swope: “As a window cleaner, forget it. Put soybeans in it and market it as a soft drink in the ghetto. We’ll put a picture of a rhythm and blues singer on the front and call it Victrola Cola.”




2 responses

7 02 2008
UriShare - Black film classics - putney swope

[…] Black film classics – putney swope Rockinâ the boatâs a drag. You gotta sink the boat! So begins this twisted, outrageous look at advertising in the late 1960s in director Robert Downey, Sr.âs scathing satire, âPutney Swope.â Submitted: 3 minutes ago Category: Entertainment Submitter: RssFeed Website: Report this link: Click here to report Comments: 0 […]

24 02 2009 » Blog Archive » March 3 — Remind yourself what race relations were like 40 years ago with the film “Putney Swope”

[…] of the Indiana Film society’s “Time Capsule: 1968-1969″ spring film series. A review places “Putney Swope” among the classics of black […]

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