Winter Spring Film Series 2012:  Mad About Mad Men


You may or may not be a fan of the television show, Mad Men, an addictive look back at the Manhattan advertising world of the early 1960s. Sexism was rampant, but women were beginning to seek a place at a table other than the one in their kitchen. Film censorship was beginning to break down, a process speeded by the foreign-language films that influenced Hollywood and even changed the language (the pesky tabloid photographer in La Dolce Vita is named Paparazzo). Films took on questions like “What is a ‘real’ man or a ‘real’ woman?” “How are our lives influenced by big corporations and advertising?” “Is living in New York City a dream or a nightmare?  We’ll visit New York, Rome, Paris and Marienbad. We’ll enjoy the film version of a hit Broadway musical introduced by Nick Meglin, former editor of Mad Magazine, and a series of educational and industrial films from the era hosted by AV Geeks’ Skip Elsheimer. We’ll pause in the middle of the series to showcase films setting the stage for mid-century cultural evolution. In our annual silent film with live music by NCMA favorite David Drazin, a wimp is forced to man up. A series of Vitaphone shorts evoking the New York theater (there would have been no television without it) follow, and then a pre-Code gem about an amoral business tycoon who uses fraudulent adverting to create an empire. We’ll salute Elizabeth Taylor’s Oscar winning role as an ambitious “party girl” in a form fitting slip and visit NYC career gals and Cold War spies then and now. Finally, downtrodden office workers extract a little payback from the boss!  Any way you look at it, we’re mad about Mad Men in 2012.


All films introduced by Film Curator Laura Boyes unless otherwise noted.


January 6:

The Apartment (1960) Written and Directed by Billy Wilder.  Jack Lemmon, Shirley MacLaine, Fred MacMurray (125 min).

Office peon CC Baxter attempts to scale the corporate ladder by lending out his apartment for executive hanky panky. Oscar’s Best Picture of 1960 is one of Wilder’s sardonic farces, delicately poised between comedy and melancholy. “It’s an early premonition of our modern cubicle politics, and it stings like hell” (Entertainment Weekly). Film Notes.

January 13:

Last Year at Marienbad (1961) Directed by Alain Resnais. Delphine Seyrig, Giorgio Albertazzi, Sacha Pitoeff (94 min).

Did A really rendezvous with X in a sumptuous rococo chateau?  Penned by existentialist Alain Robbe-Grillet, the film unfolds and refolds, as Seyrig, in Chanel chic, glides to an ominous organ score. “Hopelessly retro, eternally avant garde, and one of the most influential movies ever made” (J Hoberman, Village Voice). New 35mm print. Film Notes.

January 20:

The Best of Everything (1959) Directed by Jean Negulesco . Hope Lange, Diane Baker, Stephen Boyd, Suzy Parker, Joan Crawford (121 min).

A publishing house typing pool seethes with the aspirations of a cadre of working girls, marking time until they marry Mr. Right.  Caroline (Lange) battles career yearnings, fearful she will morph into scary spinster editor Joan Crawford.  The urban answer to Peyton Place, it’s the original Sex in the City. Fox Archive Print. Film Notes.

January 27:

La Dolce Vita (1960) Written and directed by Federico Fellini.  Marcello Mastroianni, Anita Ekberg, Anouk Aimeé (174 min) New 35mm print.

An intellectual slumming as a tabloid gossip wallows in the moral uncertainty of post war Rome’s “sweet life” in 13 scandalous tableaux. “Has not lost the power to fascinate, stimulate and provoke, and it remains a work of moral force and a visual delight” (Phillip French The Guardian). New 35 mm print. Film notes for La Dolce Vita.

February 3:
How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying (1967) Directed by David Swift.  Robert Morse, Michelle Lee, Rudy Vallee (121 min).

Conniving J. Pierpont Finch rises from lowly window washer to the executive suite in this musical satire of corporate America.  Devilish Morse (Mad Men’s Bertram Cooper) recreated his Tony Award winning stage role in Frank Loesser’s 1962 Tony winning Best Musical; which also won a Pulitzer Prize. Introduced by Nick Meglin, author and former editor of Mad Magazine.

February 10:

La Peau Douce (The Soft Skin) (1964) Written and directed by François Truffaut. Jean Desailly, Françoise Dorléac, Nelly Benedetti (119 min).

A married literary critic falls for a gorgeous airline hostess and their affair triggers a Hitchcockian maelstrom of jealousy and revenge.  Dorléac, Catherine Deneuve’s sister, shimmers in this jewel of her too short career.  “A masterwork of erotic frenzy” (Richard Brody The New Yorker.) Introduced by NCSU Film Studies professor Devin Orgeron.  New 35mm print.

February 17:

Celluloid Salesman from the AV Geeks Archive.

Skip Elsheimer, visionary collector of 24,000 16mm educational and industrial movies brings a typically inspired kaleidoscope of edutainment focusing on the post-war Madison Ave advertising world.  Watch sly marketers use the classroom to mold a generation of consumers. NCSU Film Studies professors Marsha and Devin Orgeron join him with their new book, Learning with the Lights Off.

February 24:

Masculin Feminin (1966) Written and directed by Jean Luc Godard. Jean Pierre Léaud, Chantal Goya, Marlène Jobert (110 min).

The children of Marx and Coca Cola, a serious young intellectual and an aspiring pop chanteuse tirelessly argue/flirt about revolution, sex and commodified culture.  “A masterpiece! Who wouldn’t want to live in the supercool, girl-pop world of Godard’s freshest comedy?” (Time Out New York)  Introduced by Independent Weekly Culture Editor David Fellerath. New 35mm print.

March 2:

The Mollycoddle (1920) Directed by Victor Fleming.  Douglas Fairbanks, Ruth Renick, Wallace Beery (86 min).
An expatriate dandy must reclaim his red blooded manhood to defeat a gang of diamond smugglers in the last of Doug’s modern adventures before becoming a full-time swashbuckler. “Fairbanks is a joy to watch…he is not only embodying the male hero but also laughing joyously at the very ridiculousness of it all” (film historian Janine Basinger) “A peach of a picture” (Variety) Silent film with live music by Maestro David Drazin. Film Notes for The Mollycoddle.

March 9:

Vitaphone Varieties (1927-1929)
In early talkie days, many vaudevillians stepped off stage to immortalize their acts on film.  Journey back in time as Jay C. Flippen, Dora Maughan, Dick Rich, Al Lyons, Jack White and the Montrealers, Billie “Swede” Hall and Jason Robards, Sr. each have their one reel of immortality.  Archive prints from UCLA. Film Notes for Vitaphone Shorts

March 16:

The Match King (1932) Directed by William Keighley and Howard Bretherton.  Warren William, Lili Damita, Glenda Farrell (78 min).

Wolfish Williams plays an industrialist who corners safety match production with epic financial shenanigans.  “Torn From Today’s Headlines ” it could easily be torn from ours, as well.  “Williams’ Paul Knoll is an amoral dynamo, crushing competition and human souls with equal gusto” ( Michael Mashon BFI London Film Festival Guide). Library of Congress archive print. Film Notes for The Match King.

March 23:

BUtterfield 8 (1960) Directed by Daniel Mann.  Elizabeth Taylor, Lawrence Harvey, Eddie Fisher (109 min).
A party girl wakes up in a strange bed and “borrows” a mink coat for the taxi ride home, jump starting this sizzling adaptation of John O’Hara’s novel. Liz won an Oscar for playing restless Gloria Wandrous.  “A sleek and libidinous lingerie meller” (Time Magazine). Film notes for BUtterfield 8

March 30:

Lover Come Back (1961) Directed by Delbert Mann.  Doris Day, Rock Hudson, Tony Randall (107 min).
A prissy virgin gets ready to sacrifice her virtue to land the advertising account for a mysterious product called VIP.  Day frantically woos the virile Jerry, played with great charm and not a little irony by Rock Hudson. “Mr. Hudson and Miss Day are delicious.” (Bosley Crowther New York Times) Universal Archive Print. Film Notes for LCB.

April 20:

Down With Love (2003) Directed by Peyton Reed.  Ewan McGregor, Renee Zellerger, David Hyde Pierce, Tony Randall (101 min).

Barbara Novak, an ambitious career gal in 1962 NYC seeks to prove that women can have carefree sex, just like roué Catcher Block. Raleigh’s Reed crafts a bubbly Technicolor love letter to comedies like Lover Come Back, and Sex and the Single Girl. “I love this film” (Richard Roeper Ebert and Roper) Fox Archive Print. Film notes for DWL.

April 27:

The Ipcress File (1965) Directed by Sidney J. Furie.  Michael Caine, Nigel Green, Sue Lloyd (109 min)
Michael Caine’s career shot into the stratosphere playing the anti-James Bond, a noiresque loner tracking kidnapped scientists in Swinging London. “Ipcress proves again that one of the primal pleasures of moviegoing is a tingling, no-nonsense suspense yarn enlivened by honest good humor (Time Magazine) 100% Fresh on Rotten Tomatoes. Universal Archive Print. Film Notes for Ipcress File.

May 4:

OSS 117: Cairo Nest of Spies (2006) Written and Directed by Michel Hazanavicius.  Jean Dujardin, Berenice Bejo (99 min).

Dujardin (Oscar's Best  Actor for The Artist)  is hilarious natty as Bond-ish OSS 117, a spy who doesn’t smoke, can’t hold his liquor, and doesn’t care much for the ladies, either.  Hazanavicius has a keen eye, and a point:  meddling colonialist agents contributed to today’s global mess.  “A deadpan, borderline brilliant satire of postwar spy movies” (Salon.com). Film Notes for OSS 117.

May 11:

Nine to Five (1980) Written and Directed by Colin Higgins.  Jane Fonda, Lily Tomlin, Dolly Parton, Dabney Colman (110 min).

“A Secretary is Not a Toy” opined How to Succeed … and finally, secretaries wreak revenge as feminism changes offices forever. Tomlin as a veteran, Fonda, the new “girl”, and Parton, the innocent accused of being the office tramp make a crack comic team.  “This picture is a lot of fun” (Variety). Fox Archive Print. Film notes for Nine to Five.

Thanks to Caitlin Robertson (Fox), Rob Stone (Library of Congress), Todd Weiner (UCLA) Tim Lanza (Douris Corp), Paul Ginsberg (Universal), Eric Di Bernardo (Rialto Pictures) Sara Finklea (Janus Films).