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Putney Swope
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Putney Swope (1969) More at IMDbPro »

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Putney Swope -- A hallmark of 1960s radicalism and one of the first major underground films, Robert Downey Sr.'s seminal Putney Swope remains a classic of social satire. After the CEO croaks during a boardroom meeting at a Madison Avenue ad agency, members trying to sabotage each other's chance of winning the top spot each vote for the token black guy, thereby electing Putney Swope. Swope swoops into action, firing them all and replacing them with armed radicals, soul brothers, and sexy red-hot mamas. Re-naming the agency "Truth and Soul," Putney sets about revolutionizing the corporate world of advertising, banning the marketing of products such as cigarettes, alcohol and violent toys. The agency produces raucous, kooky TV spots - offensive, humorous, and, at first, wildly successful.  But can "Truth and Soul" last, not only in advertising but within Putney himself?


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Robert Downey Sr. (written by)
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Release Date:
10 July 1969 (USA) See more »
The Truth and Soul Movie See more »
Dark satire in which the token black man on the executive board of an advertising firm is accidentally put in charge... See more » | Add synopsis »
Plot Keywords:
User Reviews:
smart, sharp, cutting edge, and a big middle finger to the establishment, now as then See more (38 total) »


  (in credits order)
Stan Gottlieb ... Nathan (as Stanley Gottlieb)

Allen Garfield ... Elias, Jr.
Archie Russell ... Joker
Ramon Gordon ... Bissinger
Bert Lawrence ... Hawker
Joe Madden ... Mr. Syllables (as Joe Engler)
Arnold Johnson ... Putney
David Kirk ... Elias, Sr.
Don George ... Mr. Cards
Buddy Butler ... Putney's Bodyguard
Vincent Hamill ... Man in White Suit
Tom Odachi ... Wing Soney
Ching Yeh ... Wing Soney, Jr.
Spunky-Funk Johnson ... Mr. Major
Joe Fields ... Pittsburgh Willie
Norman Schreiber ... Messenger
Robert Staats ... Mr. War Toys (as Bob Staats)
Alan Abel ... Mr. Lucky
Sol Brawerman ... Mr. Dinkleberry
Steven Ben Israel ... Mr. Pit Stop (as Ben Israel)
Mel Brooks ... Mr. Forget It

Luise Heath ... Secretary (as Louise Heath)
Barbara Clarke Chisolm ... Secretary (as Barbara Clarke)
Catherine Lojacono ... Lady Beaver
Johnjohn Robinson ... Wayne
Charles Carlton Buffum ... Director (as Charles Buffum)
Ron Palombo ... Assistant Director
Wendy Apple ... Script Girl (as Wendy Appel)

Antonio Fargas ... The Arab
Geegee Brown ... Secretary
Vance Amaker ... Wall Man

Al Green ... Cowboy #1
Chuck Ender ... Cowboy #2

Anthony Chisholm ... Cowboy #3
Walter Jones ... Jim Keranga
Khaula Bakr ... Mrs. Keranga
Melvia Marshall ... Little Keranga (as Melvia)
Annette Marshall ... Little Keranga (as Annette)
Andrea Marshall ... Little Keranga
Laura Greene ... Mrs. Swope
Laraaji ... Mr. Victrola Cola (as Ed Gordon)
Eric Krupnik ... Mark Focus
George Morgan ... Mr. Token
Abdul Hakeim ... Bouncer

Allan Arbus ... Mr. Bad News
Jesse McDonald ... Young Militant
C. Robert Scott ... Militant #1
Leopoldo Mandeville ... Militant #2
Vince Morgan Jr. ... West Indian
Al Browne ... Moderate
Marie Claire ... Eugenie Ferliger / Nun
Eileen Peterson ... Narrator
William H. Boesen ... Bert / Mr. Lunger
Carol Farber ... Secretary
Cerves McNeill ... Youngblood
Carolyn Cardwell ... Borman Six Girl
Chuck Green ... Myron X aka Rufus (as Charles Green)
Pepi Hermine ... President of the United States
Ruth Hermine ... First Lady
Paul Storob ... Secret Service Man
Lawrence Wolf ... Mr. Borman Six (as Larry Wolf)
Jeff Lord ... Mr. Bald
Tom Boya ... Mr. O'Dinga
Major Cole ... Idea Man #1
David Butts ... Idea Man #2
Franklin Scott ... Idea Man #3
Paul Alladice ... Idea Man #4
Exit ... Idea Man #5
Ronnie Dyson ... Face Off Boy (as Ronald Dyson)
Shelley Plimpton ... Face Off Girl
Elzbieta Czyzewska ... Putney's Maid
Paulette Marron ... Air Conditioner Girl
Delilah ... Stewardess #1
Carol Hobbs ... Stewardess #2
Birgitta ... Stewardess #3
Grania ... Interviewer
Marco Heiblim ... Lucky Passenger

Peter Maloney ... Putney's Chauffeur
Larry Greenfield ... Lead Reporter
Lloyd Kagin ... Billy Reilly
Perry Gewirtz ... Sonny Williams
Herbert Kerr ... Bodyguard #2
Hal Schochet ... President Mimeo's Chauffeur
Fred Hirschhorn ... Mr. Bourbon
George T. Marshall ... Mr. Executive (as George Marshall)
Donald Lev ... Poet
Donald Breitman ... Mr. Ethereal Cereal (as Donahl Breitman)
Peter Benson ... Mr. Jingle
rest of cast listed alphabetically:
Annette Larkins
Marlene Clark ... (uncredited)

Robert Downey Sr. ... Putney Swope (voice) (uncredited)

David Downing ... (uncredited)
Bob Larkin ... (uncredited)

Directed by
Robert Downey Sr.  (as Robert Downey [a prince])
Writing credits
Robert Downey Sr. (written by) (as Robert Downey [a prince])

Produced by
Robert Downey Sr. .... producer
Henri Pachard .... associate producer (as Ronald Sullivan)
Original Music by
Charley Cuva 
Cinematography by
Gerald Cotts (director of photography)
Film Editing by
Bud S. Smith  (as Bud Smith)
Casting by
Grania Gurievitch 
Art Direction by
Gary Weist 
Production Management
Henri Pachard .... production supervisor (as Ronald Sullivan)
Sound Department
Tom Dillinger .... sound mixer
Bruce Perlman .... assistant sound
Michael Scott .... sound
Special Effects by
Bill Daley .... special effects
Tom Daniel .... special effects
Dan List .... special effects
Josh Zander .... special effects
Camera and Electrical Department
Norris Eisenbrey .... assistant cameraman
Paul Goldsmith .... lighting
Mark Hitchcock .... head grip
Arthur Marks .... lighting
Don Walters .... head grip
Costume and Wardrobe Department
Joanne Schielke .... costume coordinator
Editorial Department
Pat Dobie .... assistant editor
Other crew
Wendy Apple .... production assistant (as Wendy Appel)
Eric Krupnik .... production assistant
Sharon Sachs .... script supervisor
Barbara Wise .... production coordinator
John Simon .... special thanks

Production CompaniesDistributorsOther Companies

Additional Details

84 min
Black and White | Color (Eastmancolor)
Sound Mix:

Did You Know?

In the scene where Putney and his wife are watching TV in the living room, they are watching one of Downey's previous films, Chafed Elbows (1966).See more »
Putney Swope:Rockin' the boat's a drag. You gotta sink the boat!See more »
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12 out of 13 people found the following review useful.
smart, sharp, cutting edge, and a big middle finger to the establishment, now as then, 11 February 2009
Author: MisterWhiplash from United States

When someone refers to the independent cinema realm in the United States it's often inferred that it means the filmmaker or people behind the project had much more creative freedom and did what they wanted. This, today, is not really always the case unless someone is a solid "auteur" and creative freedom still comes with the caveat that one has to find distribution with one of the independent divisions of major studios or by getting picked up somehow for some kind of low-level deal at a worthwhile film festival. But Putney Swope, Robert Downey Sr's film about a tough-as-nails African-American accidentally promoted to head advertising guru at a production company, *is* independent cinema, the kind of work that went right along with the likes or Romero's Night of the Living Dead and Cassavetes Faces at the same time of getting no real typical studio distribution but causing waves, kicking ass and taking names in the cinema world. For all its moments that are rough and crude, it's unforgettable.

It's also a film that is funny, very and excruciatingly funny. Sometimes the sense of humor is just so ridiculous it's nearly impossible not to laugh, from the mere appearance of the President Mimeo with his wife to lines of dialog from the advertisements Swope's team puts together like "I can't eat an air conditioner" in a real "soul" voice. It is as smart as the audience it is aiming at, which is anyone with two brain cells to put together who can see that this work isn't offensive or *too* shocking because it's meant to rattle the cage, and it does this pretty well in the first five minutes. Once that's past Downey Sr goes on his blitz of sorts as far as being a filmmaker with nothing to lose: his protagonist is part Fidel Castro, part Isaac Hayes circa 1972 (and yes it's 1969 in the film) and part hard-assed ad exec with a firing streak to make Mr. Spacely on the Jetsons look kind. And don't forget those side characters, dear God.

There's so many memorable lines and moments that it's hard to keep track. From maybe the most hilarious botched assassination attempt in any movie to the one ad for "Face-Off" skin cream that includes lines that would give South Park a run for its dirty-mouth money, to just little asides with the one guy from Jack Hill's movies playing the Muslim who keeps giving lip to Swope and that one boy with the the nun who curses up a storm and impresses Swope in a swift stroke. It's a pretty direct message about media and advertising, but there's also a lot of powerful moments where it just hits the nail on the head about racism in America, sometimes without having to do more than a gesture and sometimes with doing something HUGE like having black panther types going this way and that around Swope's advertising regime. And for a low-budget production (I mean super low, hence the comparison to Night of the Living Dead and Faces) Downey got some really good actors, all non-union, and it's hard to imagine that some of them might have had their first time on camera here.

It should be mentioned that Downey's style doesn't make it perfect: it is crude and sometimes too crazy and dated for its own good, and I'm sure I didn't get some of the underlying humor of a couple of the ads since I'm from a full generation after these ads were aired (albeit the "Miss Redneck Jersey" was definitely not lost on me). In general though this is one of the finest of its time period, a satire that stings and a feature with a predominantly black cast that is all too knowing of what comes from an excess of power, regardless of skin color. It is, as someone might say, "good s***."

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