Thursday, May 14, 2009

Smoke Gets In Your Eyes

Viewing the MGM film, The Hucksters (1947) sent me wool gathering about mass market advertising and the ad agencies behind them for my Movie Morlocks Blog found here at TCM this week. If you'd like to read about a new report about the interconnection between movie stars, advertising and the studios back in the day, you may find it enlightening, and possibly entertaining. Here's a link to the opening scenes of The Hucksters (1947), directed by Jack Conway, produced by Arthur Hornblow, Jr. and based on a novel by Frederic Wakeman. It stars Clark Gable, Ava Gardner, Deborah Kerr and Adolphe Menjou. The movie was a mixed bag, but the background info fascinates me. Here's the beginning of my post on the Movie Morlocks Blog:
Acceptable risk vs. benefit ratios, the duality of human nature and the beautiful way that smoke photographs in black and white movies. These are some of the topics that an admittedly geeky but bright friend loved to discuss as we both studied for a professional insurance licensing exam a few years ago. At the time, I was overwhelmed trying to master enough arcane information just to squeak by on the exam for my then job, (though I’ve never used most of it again!).

While watching The Hucksters (1947) the other night on TCM, I thought about those philosophical conversations that my fellow student and I once had during breaks in our study sessions almost a decade ago. We were trying to avoid thinking too hard about actuarial tables, state regulatory laws, death and taxes. Fortunately for me, my pal had a love of classic movies, and a background in advertising that gave him some amusingly dark insights into the wizened, manipulative heart of modern methods of persuasion. The real life people who inspired this movie might be more interesting than the film.

The rather tepid and predictable drama in this movie seems to have been biting the hand that fed it by parodying the corporate culture and publicity machines that the major studios, including MGM, had helped to create during the studio era. Based on a roman a clef by Frederic Wakeman, a former advertising account manager at the Lord & Thomas ad agency, the once controversial novel was inspired by the author’s observations and a nonfiction four part series published in The Saturday Evening Post that critiqued the growing power of the Music Corporation of America (MCA)...the rest of the article.

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