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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 <email@example.com>
Madison Avenue gets a dusting up by Hollywood in this mainstream star driven vehicle featuring Clark Gable and Deborah Kerr. Usually the topic of provocateurs and malcontents outside the big tent The Hucksters does not shy away from the surly, high pressure of selling beauty soap or any other product for that matter to the masses by incessant drilling, usually by way of a jingle, to the public.
Victor Norman has just been discharged after the war. He seeks a high paying job working for soap titan Evan Evans and quickly impresses him by signing war widow Kay Dorrance (Kerr) to endorse his product. Victor falls for Kay in the process but she is hesitant in committing leaving the door wide open for torch singer Jane Oglivie (Ava Gardner) to walk through. Meanwhile the job is peeling away Norman's self respect working for the humiliating Evans and playing some ugly hardball with former friends and associates. Dangling a huge salary before him Norman is faced with the decision to sell out or walk out.
Any intention by The Hucksters to soft soap the advertising business is immediately extinguished by the ogre like appearance of Greenstreet's Evan's who enters the boardroom and spits on his polished table while lackeys quake about him. Gable may have been able to handle the China sea and darkest Africa but Greenstreet in the boardroom poses a different threat to his dignity and self worth.
Gable brings a war weary look and background to Norman that allows his incredulity to resonate in a business that calls for him to create fantasies for day dreaming housewives. At the same time he is seeking normalcy and knows if you are going to get along you have to go along.
As love interests Kerr as the tentative, responsible, vulnerable widow and Gardner as the vivacious good time girl are much better fits than Garson in Gable's first picture after the war Adventure. In spite of their disparate character personalities Gable shares a convincing chemistry with each causing me to wonder if Ms. Kerr might have been a better fit in Mogambo. In addition to the ladies fine performances veterans Adolph Menjou and Edward Arnold convey the pressures of the work while Keenan Wynn as a corny comic steals his scenes from everybody in the room.
While it may be a little dated and not be a full frontal assault or satire on the advertising business in total The Hucksters for its day lands more than a few subversive punches to get its point across. Not exactly Putney Swope but in its own tempered way still gets its digs in.
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