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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 »
He runs it down the flagpole and up the establishment 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:
"Putney Swope" Is A Passionate Piece of Cinema History 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 »
Mr. Victrola Cola:I got this great window cleaner. Cleans good and doesn't streak. Smells bad, though. Cleans good, but smells bad.
Putney Swope:As a window cleaner, forget it. Put soybeans in it and market it as a soft drink in the ghetto. We'll put a picture of a rhythm and blues singer on the front and call it Victrola Cola.
See more »
Movie Connections:


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5 out of 6 people found the following review useful.
"Putney Swope" Is A Passionate Piece of Cinema History, 29 June 2009
Author: D_Burke from United States

"Putney Swope" is a unique, low low low budget gem from the late 1960's which probably would have been forgotten in time if it hadn't been for two things: Paul Thomas Anderson (who named Don Cheadle's character in "Boogie Nights", Buck Swope, after the eponymous hero of this film) and the limited DVD release. Watching "Putney Swope" is like listening to hardcore punk rock: it may not make a lot of sense (at least to me it didn't upon watching it for the first time), but you have to respect the film for its passion and unabashedly rebellious message. I didn't understand a lot of things about "Putney Swope", but for the most part, I liked it. The more I think about the movie, the more it grows on me.

The film is advertised as a parody of New York's Madison Avenue, best known in the 1960's as the advertising capital of the world. Members of Generation X and Y may be lost on this concept, but fortunately "Mad Men" is on TV to provide us with this otherwise lost piece of U.S. History. What you need to know before watching this movie is that these ad agencies were largely male, and even more largely white establishments.

With this premise in mind, the movie opens up with an ad agency board meeting. The members are predominantly white except for Putney Swope (Arnold Johnson, who bears an uncanny resemblance to Dick Gregory in this film), the token African-American on the board. The board members are so self-absorbed and soulless that when their chairman falls dead in front of them, their only concern is who will become chairman next. Without even removing the body from the boardroom, they begin a paper ballot to elect the next chairman.

Putney Swope is elected by a landslide, but not because the other members think Swope is qualified. Voting for Swope was an ill-fated attempt for these board members to sabotage any other member's chance of being elected chairman. With their plans backfired, Swope takes charge and "sink(s) the boat", firing all but one of the original members and hiring all people of color in their place .

After this point, the film became (for me) very weird and hard to follow plot-wise. There may not have even been a plot, really. The whole idea of the film seems to be a "what if" scenario, with the result being that the new "Truth and Soul Inc." firm would be unconventional, but successful nonetheless. The firm ends up making so much money that the members build a huge glass case to keep the cash in for unexplained purposes. It could be because Swope doesn't trust banks, although that point is not touched upon or explained in the film. It could also be metaphoric in some way, but who knows.

Most of the movie takes place inside the ad agency, with occasional scenes in the White House with a president who, for some unknown reason, is a midget. My assumption is here that some political joke was being made, but I can't figure out what. Were the filmmakers saying that the president is a small, insignificant part of American life? Were they saying that the latest elected officials (Nixon at the time) were insignificant candidates? I don't know. I found it a bit eerie, however, that the man playing the president bore a striking resemblance to future president Ronald Reagan. It is funny to make that connection 40 years after the movie was made.

What this film may have benefited from is showing how consumers outside the ad agency reacted to the new ads. Of course, the ad footage possessed a strange, funny appeal for its unconventional creativity, but did these ads convince people to buy the product? If so, how? The movie hinted on the idea that the new ad campaign was successful through client interaction and the calls from the White House. However, it would have been revealing to see average people, since that demographic has always been most profitable for advertisers.

Although the parodies and political messages this film may have made probably didn't stand the test of time, this film still had a lot of unique qualities. Arnold Johnson had a magnetic X factor to him that benefited him greatly in this film. Swope's rough voice was actually director Robert Downey, Sr.'s voice dubbed in, sometimes poorly, but fit the character so well in being an authoritative outsider. He hires and fires workers at random, but earns the respect of all but one of the employees for revolutionizing the ad agency and seeking out new ideas.

The premise of the film was, and still is, incredibly risky, especially since the film was written and directed by a white man (Robert Downey, Sr.). However, this film declines to fall victim to negative black stereotypes which would lead to the rise and fall of the blaxploitation genre years later. Although some of the sex scenes may be a bit off-putting for some viewers, the main message is that a black owned and operated business can thrive through innovation and risk taking. Many people may not take a positive message away from this movie, but I just did.

"Putney Swope" remains an overlooked movie from a strange era, and Downey, Sr. (even despite his son's recent comeback) never quite got the recognition as a director he deserved. However, if you find a DVD of this movie, buy it and watch it. If it's on Netflix, ditto. It's a movie that can be confusing at times, but is worth watching for its gusto, ambition, and its non-conformist stature even by today's movie standards.

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