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Victor Norman is just out of the service and looking for a job in advertising. By playing hard to get, he figures that he can get a good job and a large salary. The first thing he has to do is get a war widow to endorse Beautee Soap - a client of the Kimberly Agency. He meets with Kay Dorrance and gets the endorsement and Mr. Evans, the head of Beautee Soap is temporarily happy. Victors job is now to work with Mr. Evans, a man who is a strict and demanding client. Everything should be rosy, but Victor, a bachelor, finds himself more attracted to Kay, a widow, than young single Jean Ogilvie. Written by
Tony Fontana <firstname.lastname@example.org>
MGM had paid close to $200,000 for the motion picture rights to Frederic Wakeman's national bestselling novel, of which the film is based on. See more »
At the Kimberly's apartment, Kay sits at the opposite end of a couch from Mrs. Kimberly. In the next shot they are sitting side by side. See more »
Victor Albee Norman:
Miss Hammer, take a memorandum. To Mr. Kimberly: Dear Kim, For four years I haven't been listening to the radio much. Paragraph. Kim, in that time, it's gotten worse, if possible. More irritating, more commercials per minute, more spelling out of words, as if no one in the audience had gotten past the first grade. Paragraph. I know how tough Evans is, and some of the other sponsors, but I think we make a great mistake in letting them have their own way. We're paid to advise them. Why can't we ...
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"The Hucksters" is an unusual combination of film genres, each with its own subplot woven expertly into the film. Based on a novel of the same name by Frederic Wakeman, this film is a biting critique of the advertising world. It is also a story about a returning war veteran who has a new sense of ethics since his war experience. It's a story about a young English war widow of an American officer who settles in New York with her two young children. It's not a romance, but a deep love story between the two. It's a story about fresh starts for people after the war. It's about big business, workaholics, tyranny and fear. And, it's about discerning values in life. It's a drama, love story and comedy of unequal proportions that mesh perfectly.
All of these things come together in a brilliant story and screenplay. The direction, editing and technical production are superb. And, I can't imagine a cast that would be any better, or even as excellent overall. The main supporting cast are all lead actors in their own right.
The story takes place mostly in New York, with a short stint in California. The time is early 1946 several months after the end of World War II. Clark Gable is Victor Norman who has just returned to civilian life after the war. He had served four years in the Army, the last several months in the occupation forces in Germany following the May 8 end of the war in Europe. We know he was a captain by his uniform that the hotel valet mistakenly had pressed along with his civilian suit. The time is further verified by a letter that is read later in the film.
Adolph Menjou is Mr. Kimberly, the head of the ad agency Vic hopes will hire him, "so long as it pays $25,000 a year to begin, with a promise of more much more." Kimberly, his number two man, Cooke (played by Richard Gaines) and the whole agency staff are nervous, worried, on edge and upset most of the time. They live in fear of the company's largest client, Evan Llewellyn Evans played masterfully by Sydney Greenstreet. I have to say that of all the roles Greenstreet played, I enjoyed and liked his characters for who and what they were. But his Evan Evans is such an unlikeable and disgusting character. What a performance he gives.
Deborah Kerr made her American film debut in "The Hucksters," and she too was superb as the widow, Kay Dorrance. Kerr already had an impressive list of roles behind her in British films, so she wasn't unknown to American moviegoers. The rest of the cast are superb in their supporting roles. Edward Arnold is Dave Lash, Ava Gardner is Jean Ogilvie, Keenan Wynn is Buddy Hare, and Gloria Holden is Mrs. Kimberly. Several other players have fine small parts.
This all sets the stage for the story. It all comes out clearly in the first few minutes of the film, along with some good humor. But to tell how the story plays out from there would take away from its enjoyment for those who haven't seen it the first time. Suffice to say that this is a superb movie with an interesting combination of plots; and with a cast that is sure to entertain and please any audience.
The year 1947 was a very good year for movies, and a number of social issue films were up for Academy Awards, along with a range of other good movies. "Gentleman's Agreement," was an excellent film starring Gregory Peck and it won best picture. I can't understand how "The Hucksters" didn't even receive a single nomination. The novel was a best seller, and the movie was a blockbuster at the box office. I think the story, screenplay, directing and supporting role of Greenstreet were especially worthy and equal to the quality of the films that received nominations in those fields. There is also one other thing that sets this film apart as satire. Most such films are filled with humor, and often have good doses of sarcasm, ridicule and parody. The satire in "The Hucksters" is much more subtle. While the film has humor, its drama, love scenes and other aspects tend to level it off so that the satire doesn't overpower the film.
One note about the advertising business and the media. A reviewer whose comments I always enjoy surmised that this film was dated because radio was on the verge of being displaced by TV. Well, even when TV became the dominant media a few years later, it too thrived on advertising. While the mediums differed, the "huckstering" still went on. Radio "huckstering" today is much more by local markets; but it still gets a shot of national ads too. No, the world of huckstering has probably never been stronger, more obvious, and, I add, more tedious than it is today. I wonder if there still are tyrants like Evan Evans who think they know advertising better than the working professionals.
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