American theatrical poster
|Directed by||Robert Downey, Sr.|
|Produced by||Fred C. Caruso
Richard A. Roth
|Screenplay by||Robert Downey, Sr.|
|Music by||Charley Cuva|
|Edited by||Bud S. Smith|
|Distributed by||Cinema V|
Putney Swope, a 1969 film written and directed by Robert Downey, Sr. and starring Arnold Johnson as Swope, is a comedy satirizing the advertising world, the portrayal of race in Hollywood films, the white power structure, and the nature of corporate corruption.
Putney Swope, the only black man on the executive board of an advertising firm, is accidentally put in charge after the unexpected death of the chairman of the board: each board member actually believed that he, himself, should be elected chairman, but the bylaws of the corporation prohibit voting for oneself, so each individual member voted his secret ballot for the person that no one else would vote for: Putney Swope.
Renaming the business "Truth and Soul, Inc.", Swope replaces all but one of the white employees and insists they no longer accept business from companies that produce alcohol, 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."
In an interview on the DVD version of the film, Downey states that Arnold Johnson had great difficulty memorizing and saying his lines during the film shoot. Downey says he didn't worry about it because he had developed a plan to dub in his own voice to replace Johnson's line readings.
Though the movie is in black and white, the commercials shown in the movie from Truth and Soul are in color.
The character Buck Swope (Don Cheadle), from Paul Thomas Anderson's Boogie Nights, was named as an homage to this film. Robert Downey, Sr. also made a small cameo in Boogie Nights as the owner of a recording studio. The character Wing Soney, a Chinese businessman, was the inspiration for Cosmo, the Chinese character throwing firecrackers during the drug deal scene.
Its confusing plot helped Matt Sloan and Craig Johnson coin the term Putney Swope panic officially defined as "The brief, desperate vertigo one feels when watching an incoherent, obtuse, or overly complicated film, trying to piece together its various plot points, dangling storylines, and strange subtexts, while realizing that this is probably impossible. Followed immediately by the Putney Swope Surrender and the Putney Swope Acceptance."