Friday, February 20, 2015

The new hucksters

Another movie that's back on the FXM Retro schedule after a long absence is Madison Avenue. It's going to be on again early tomorrow morning at 3:00 AM if you haven't seen it before.

Dana Andrews plays Clint Lorimer, who at the beginning of the movie is working for the Jocelyn ad agency, run by JD Jocelyn (Howard St. John). The agency has as its biggest account the Associated Dairy Company, a conglomerate of dairies from across the country. Brock, the head of the company, suggests that Lorimer is a real up-and-comer. But unfortunately, Lorimer is going to be away from the agency for a few months, while he works on a special campaign for the Defense Department, learning about America's missile bases for a public relations campaign that's going to do... something or other.

It turns out that PR campaign is a macguffin. After the opening scene among Lorimer, Jocelyn, and Brock, the action switches to Wsahington DC, which we figure is going to be Lorimer starting that work with the Pentagon. But when he comes to the Filibuster Bar (yeah, what a dumb name for a bar, but it is Washington DC), we can tell from the cinematography that there's somebody else at the bar who's going to be important. That person is a lady reporter named Peggy Shannon (Jeanne Crain). She reminds Clint that he stood her up three months ago, which is our first indication that this action is at the end of Clint's time in Washington, not the beginning. The next clue is that when Lorimer complains that Jocelyn shafted him on his ideas for the PR campaign. In fact, that's precisely what Jocelyn did, since he was worried that Lorimer was going to take the Associated Dairies contract out from under him. He's firing Lorimer, to boot.

So Lorimer does get the idea to try to take the Associated contract, although that's going to be difficult since he hasn't even got a job. But he just happens to see a milk truck from the Cloverleaf Dairy, on which it's printed that Cloverleaf is a subsidiary of Associated. Lorimer finds out who has the ad campaign for Cloverleaf, and discovers it's the Tremaine agency, so he goes there with his ideas. Sadly for him, he learns that the founder of the agency has died, and it's now being run by the founder's daughter Anne (Eleanor Parker), and has been going to the dogs since Dad died. Lorimer sets out to make over the business, and make over Anne.

The Cloverleaf contract involves two people. Stipe is the guy who's really managing the company, mostly because the man who has the title of preisdent, Ames (Eddie Albert) is flaky. Ames dives a milk route himself and flies remot controlled helicopters. Interestingly, he gets one interesting line when he suggests that in the future, milk will be delivered by larger versions of such helicopters. In real life, drone technology has advanced to the point where companies like Amazon are thinking about delivering things by drone. But this nutcase is the man Lorimer has to build up.

Lorimer sets out to work, and eventually things start going right for him, when Ames becomes an unexpected hit giving a speech at the business. This sets Ames on his rise, eventually to take over Brock's job at Associated when Brock is kicked upstairs. This is just what Lorimer wanted, because it means that now he's sure to get the Associated contract. Or maybe not. Along the way, everybody has started stabbing everybody else in the back, once once Ames leaves for the head office, the plot really gets complicated.

Unfortunately, Madison Avenue fizzles out at the end, giving an ending that just doesn't fit. Everybody tries their best, though, and you can't really fault the acting. But Dana Andrews is already looking a bit haggard, and Jeanne Crain is given some horrendous outfits and hairstyles to wear. Combined with the writing, the result is a movie that's sadly less than the sum of its parts. Still, you should probably give it a watch, if only to judge for yourself. And the good thing is that it only runs 90 minutes. If it were made nowadays, it'd probably be bloated to over two hours.

I'm not certain if Madison Avenue is available on DVD, so you're going to have to catch the FXM showings.

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