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Robert Z. Leonard
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>
Clark Gable made several comedies in his career, some of them quite funny (such as TEACHER'S PET). THE HUCKSTERS was one of the funny ones that still retains it's edge. It is considered dated by some because advertising is taken for granted in the modern day world, but if you consider that mass advertising actually goes back to the newspaper and magazine explosion of the late 19th Century THE HUCKSTERS was only bringing the story up to date in post World War II America.
What sets this film above other attacks is the acting of Gable, Adolphe Menjou, Ava Gardner, Keenan Wynn, Edward Arnold, and (best of the group) Sidney Greenstreet as the evil Evan LLewellyn Evans, the soap king. The film does look closely at the running of the advertising world inside an ad firm - quite a different look from the normal in any Hollywood film up to that time.
Basically the film shows how everyone jumps to the tune of the rich client (here the manipulative and sadistic Greenstreet). Gable has some values, and he slowly is corrupted sufficiently by dealing with Evans and Menjou to drop them. The key scene is when he blackmails Edward Arnold to do something unethical. Subsequently we realize that this never sits well with Gable, as Arnold's character in this film (for a change) is a rather decent guy. It does lead to his final act of independence - one of the best moments in Gable's and Greenstreet's film careers.
Keenan Wynn has always been underrated. He was a very good dramatic actor (witness his performance in THE GREAT MAN) and very amusing as a comedian (as in MY DEAR SECRETARY and DR. STRANGELOVE - two different approaches to comedy by the way). His father was Ed Wynn, one of the great Broadway clowns of all time. It is easy to see how he got his sense of timing. But what makes his role here as Buddy Hare, the second rate comic that Mr. Evans thinks is the funniest man in the world, is he is dealing with a man who has weak material to begin with, and delivers it with gusto that we can't stand hearing. Witness the joke about a man painting the front door of Buddy's home with black paint, and Gable's Vic Norman drops the obvious punchline on him. Eddie smiles weakly acknowledging that it is bad material. This is done so well, we end up liking Eddie (even if we wish he'd take his material and go away).
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