Putney Swope

Downey, Sr., always the incisive provocateur, here fabricates a kind of fable in which the chairman of the board of a Madison Avenue advertising firm—seen in an entirely different light in the TV drama Mad Men—dies and Putney Swope (Arnold Johnson in his debut role), the token black man on the board, is installed as the new chairman. In a key twist, Swope whittles down the firm’s client list, banning any work for the tobacco, alcohol, or military industries, meanwhile firing every white employee (save one), repopulating the staff with his radical friends, and renaming the company “Truth and Soul, Inc.” Through this setup, at every turn the film goes into totally unexpected territory, adding up to one of the most remarkable and subtly hilarious works of the new American cinema.

Genres: Comedy, Political