Putney Swope

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Putney Swope
Putney Swope poster.jpg
American theatrical poster
Directed byRobert Downey Sr.
Produced byFred C. Caruso
Richard A. Roth
Written byRobert Downey Sr.
StarringArnold Johnson
Joe Madden
Antonio Fargas
Allen Garfield
Music byCharley Cuva
CinematographyGerald Cotts
Edited byBud S. Smith
Herald Productions
Distributed byCinema V
Release date
  • July 10, 1969 (1969-07-10)
Running time
84 minutes
CountryUnited States

Putney Swope is a 1969 satirical comedy film written and directed by Robert Downey Sr. and starring Arnold Johnson as the title character, a black advertising executive. The film satirizes the advertising world, the portrayal of race in Hollywood films, the white power structure, and the nature of corporate corruption.

In 2016, the film was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant".


Putney Swope, the only black man on the executive board of an advertising firm, is accidentally put in charge after the sudden death of the chairman of the board: prevented by the company by-laws to vote for themselves, in a secret ballot, most board members voted for the one person they thought could not win: Putney Swope.

Renaming the business "Truth and Soul, Inc.", Swope replaces all but one of the white employees with blacks and insists they no longer accept business from companies that produce alcohol, tobacco or toy guns. 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 was not concerned because he had developed a plan to dub in his own voice to replace Johnson's.

Though the movie is in black-and-white, Truth and Soul's commercials are shown in color.


The character Buck Swope (Don Cheadle), from Paul Thomas Anderson's Boogie Nights, was named as an homage to this film.[citation needed] Robert Downey Sr. also made a small cameo in Boogie Nights as the owner of a recording studio.[1] The character Wing Soney, a Chinese businessman, was the inspiration for Cosmo, the Chinese character throwing firecrackers during the drug deal scene.[2]

Paul Thomas Anderson and Jim Jarmusch have cited the film as an inspiration for their approach to filmmaking.[3][4]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ jeremykirk13 (September 13, 2012). "37 Things We Learned From the 'Boogie Nights' Commentary". Film School Rejects. Retrieved March 13, 2017.
  2. ^ "Putney Swope - (Movie Clip) Wing Soney". Tcm.com. Retrieved 2012-12-10.
  3. ^ "Louis C.K. on WTF with Marc Maron". 2010-10-04. Retrieved 2014-12-15.
  4. ^ "Paul Thomas Anderson on WTF with Marc Maron". 2014-01-05. Retrieved 2014-12-15.

External links[edit]