Last year, Nathaniel of The Film Experience ran an outstanding series called Mad Men at the Movies. We are honored to re-run that series here (with his permission of course). You might find some out-of-date comments here because these were written a year ago.
1.10 “The Long Weekend”
Sterling (John Slattery) proposes a public date with Joanie (Christina Hendricks) since his wife Mona will be out of town for Labor Day weekend. Sterling proposes dinner, naked. Joanie isn’t playing this particular conversational foreplay game. Her frustration with their affair is starting to show.
Joanie: How about a movie? Have you seen The Apartment?
Sterling: I went last week with Mona and Margaret.
Joanie: I hear Shirley Maclaine is good.
Sterling: Oh please, a white elevator operator? And a girl at that? I want to work at that place!
Joanie: [turning on him] Oh, I bet you do. The way those men treated that poor girl, handing her around like a tray of canapes. She tried to commit suicide.
Sterling: So you saw it, huh?
At this point he realizes the conversation isn’t strictly about the movie. Sterling tries to smooth things over.
Sterling: Oh, Red, that’s not how it is. Look, It was crude. That’s the way pictures are now. Did you see that ridiculous Psycho? Hollywood isn’t happy unless things are extreme.
Joanie: It didn’t seem that extreme to me.
Sterling: Are we actually going to get into a fight over a movie? You know Mona had a dream once where I hit the dog with the car. She was mad at me all day. And I never hit the dog. We don’t even have a dog.
Later in the same episode we see that Joanie, who never intended to spend the weekend with her boss/lover, has also completely soured on seeing a movie. She makes plans with her best friend Carol (Kate Norby) instead.
Carol: All I want to do is sit in the movies and cry.
Joanie: No movies. Let’s look for some actual bachelors, empty their wallets.
Since Shirley Maclaine has already been name-checked, you should know that we’ve moved on from the emotional volatility of The Apartment and we’re now entering the subdued internal terror of The Children’s Hour (1961). Carol is not so interested in the bachelors if you know what I mean.
Both Psycho and The Apartment, two “extreme” movies, premiered in the same week in NYC in June of 1960. They both became sensations, ending the year comfortably in the box office top ten. It makes total sense that people would still be talking about them in early September. Once upon a time movies were not “over” after opening weekend. They played for months and there was no such thing as DVDs. Opening weekend was the beginning of the discussion, not the end. [*wipes nostalgic tear for bygone eras away]. Months later both films were in play at the Oscars too, with The Apartment the night’s big winner, taking home Picture, Director, Screenplay, Art Direction (it beat Psycho in this category, what???) and Editing. It’s also worth noting that Shirley Maclaine, so suicidal on screen in the early 6os, also had reason to cry offscreen. She lost the Oscar many initially thought she’d win to “the slut of all time” Elizabeth Taylor in BUtterfield 8, when Taylor was suddenly hospitalized.
Ever had an argument about Psycho or The Apartment?
Ever had an argument about a movie that wasn’t really an argument about the movie?
Arguments in disguise. I can tell you that I have dreamed about a movie when I hadn’t seen the movie. The picture was The Silence of the Lambs which starred in three (!) of my dreams before I ever saw it. How mental is that? I guess my subconscious isn’t happy unless things are… extreme.