Face Down in the Pool

 Posted by on June 5, 2013 at 6:46 am  Film, Mad Men, Season 6
Jun 052013

Sunset Boulevard Pool Opening

Yes, this is Sunset Boulevard, Los Angeles, California. It’s about five o’clock in the morning. That’s the Homicide Squad, complete with detectives and newspapermen. A murder has been reported from one of those great big houses in the ten thousand block. You’ll read about it in the late editions, I’m sure. You’ll get it over your radio and see it on television because an old-time star is involved; one of the biggest. But before you hear it all distorted and blown out of proportion, before those Hollywood columnists get their hands on it, maybe you’d like to hear the facts, the whole truth. If so, you’ve come to the right party. You see, the body of a young man was found floating in the pool of her mansion with two shots in his back and one in his stomach. Nobody important, really. Just a movie writer with a couple of ‘B’ pictures to his credit. The poor dope! He always wanted a pool. Well, in the end, he got himself a pool, only the price turned out to be a little high.

–Opening monologue from Sunset Boulevard


  36 Responses to “Face Down in the Pool”

  1. The universe keeps trying to beam Don these little wake-up signals– like seeing an empty shaft where an elevator should be, right after sending his career-changing wife home. PAY ATTENTION, it says. WATCH WHAT YOU’RE DOING. REIN YOURSELF IN, OR SOMEONE WILL SUFFER. Who? It doesn’t matter– that’s not pertinent to the message. Don’s smart enough to understand cause-and-effect; at least half of advertising is based on that in some way. But he has a blind spot about it when it comes to his own actions, and face-down in a swimming pool isn’t the most illogical place to land if you keep that up long enough.

  2. Is there any connection between Mad Men and Sunset Boulevard other than William Holden could be cast as Don Draper or Jon Hamm could be cast as hapless Joe Gillis? The question is not who but what kills Don Draper. Don is an unhappy man who is looking for something he hasn’t found. In 1960 we saw Don at the pinnacle of his career and it has been a slow steady decline in both business success and personal happiness. The creation of SCDP did not bring him happiness. SCDP killed Lane, Roger and Bert Cooper live in the past. Ted is trying to create a viable successful agency,Cutler is nothing more than a yes man. Don has had his PCP induced dream; does he come from the pool either insular Dick Whitman or a revitalized Don Draper ready to work with Ted to build a strong new agency. Ted will do it either with or without Don Draper. Ted will know soon enough about which came out of the pool. If Don does go to California in season 7; one of the first things he will do is have the agency office open at 7AM so that the agency can deal with clients on the East Coast. Don I think did take to heart the complaints that Carnation Milk did have with doing business with New York agencies.

    • Opening up the agency at 7am in NYC would do no good, as it would be 5am in California.

      Cutler is more cut-throat than you give him credit for.

      • Actually, there is always a 3 hour difference between Pacific Time in California and Eastern Time in NYC. So 7 A.M. on Mad Ave is 4 A.M. in Hollywood.

        I got my start with my studio in the NYC Main Business Office, which did open at 7 A.M. to better communicate with London, where it would be noon and Europe where it would be 1 P.M.

        In Southern California, most performers needed to report to the studio about 5 A.M. to start hair and makeup. So, the West Coast offices were about half-staffed then. Once I was transferred to the West Coast in 1950 for most of my career, I got up before 4 A.M. and was in my office before 5 A.M.

        So much for Show Business being LaLa Land!

        • I meant to say the office would open at 7 AM California time which would be 10 AM in New York. Sorry for the confusion. This remains a problem in business in 2013. Many people in the Eastern and Central time zones have to conduct business in California and work late to accomplish it. My wife worked many a late day waiting for California employees of the company she worked for to transmit data.Many in California still do not understand that when it is 3PM in LA it is 6PM in New York.

          • it goes both ways, people in NY leaving me voicemails at 6 am, then 6:30, then 7, wondering why they can’t get ahold of me. And try getting help from an East Coast vendor after 2 pm local time.

          • Like a lot of large businesses, my studio had dealings in nearly every time zone. Perhaps there was one in the Pacific Ocean we missed. Therefore our main business office in NYC and the West Coast Business Office were staffed 24/7, with extra staff on holidays. Our primary communication was TWIX before modern FAX and later e-mail. The written form of TWIX made translation easier. An attendant would hear the bell on a TWIX machine and be waiting for the message to end before tearing it off.

            But between most of Europe and California there was a 9 hour difference, and 8 hours from London. Voice communication therefore was seldom practical. Our work around was to meet in person several times a year so our written communication was more subtle and effective. Just as these days e-mail works better with people you know well enough you can more accurately factor in emotion.

            Still, it made days very long. I am sure that was why West Coast clients encouraged creative West Coast ad shop. Even circa 1940 when Lord & Thomas was becoming Foote, Cone, Belding, it was the San Francisco office headed by Don Belding that was the fastest growing.

            When I started in the movie business in 1948 the key financial decisions at all the studios were made in their NYC offices, which were the primary contact with the ad agencies. Movie advertising was a throw-back to the 1800s. In those days each client did their own creative and generally arranged physical production of the ads. The original ad agencies were what today we call media buying services. That changed over time, but even in the mid 1990s the studios provided virtually all the photos and artwork as well as the majority of copy.

          • I used to work in the NY office of a London company. We had a 3 hour window. But I’ve also worked for Israeli companies, and, being in software, have spent a lot of time working with offshore teams in India and Belarus.

            A three hour time difference is barely significant in a global economy.

        • Issues and people are now and shall remain global. Instant communication and 24/7 expectations have shrunk the world and irrevocably blurred work/life boundaries.

          I do not know any executives with a work day that allows: naps, alcohol, extra marital affairs, unexplained multi-week absences, movies, data free decisions, customer solutions revealed for the first time at business critical meetings, late arrivals and early departures.

          Our 2013 reality may explain my appetite for the simpler world of Mad Men.

          • I think that is why many of us love the first 3 seasons better than this last one.

    • I don’t think there’s a direct relationship. I think a man seeing himself face down dead in a glamorous Hollywood pool is a reference to Sunset Boulevard, just as we have previously found references to Hitchcock. It’s atmospheric and foreboding rather than a narrative component.

      • You are probably correct – the image of Don looking at himself facedown in a pool is a motif of foreboding and nothing more…

  3. I still keep coming back to the S5 finale and the tune “You Only Live Twice”

    You only live twice:
    Once when you are born
    And once when you look death in the face
    —Ian Fleming, You Only Live Twice, Chapter 11

    Of course we have all the other death/birth motif’s littered throughout this season, but is this when Don actually looks death in the face (well back of the head?)

    Is there any other “You Only Live Twice” relevance here – particularly the novel?

    Quick Overview:

    This book came late in the Ian Fleming canon, and was the final book of the Blofeld trilogy where Bond is an emotionally stricken man at the death of his wife (on their wedding day, no less) at the hands of Blofeld. He is drinking heavily, gambling, and his work suffers so much so M is about to sack him.He is offered a diplomatic mission to Japan to negotiate with Tiger Tanaka intercepted radio transmissions from the Soviets. Bond’s bargaining chip is worthless to Tanaka (intimated to be a British source) as Japan have penetrated British intelligence. Tanaka asks Bond to kill Dr Guntrum Shatterhand who operates a ‘garden of death’ – Japanese flock to his castle to commit suicide. Upon examination of some photographs Bond realises Shatterhand is Blofeld. Bond takes upon the mission to exact revenge and is made up and trained by Tanaka as a mute Japanese coal miner aided by operative Kissy Suzuki

    To fast track (spoiler alert) — Bond kills Blofeld, suffers a severe head injury as he blows up the castle, and is rescued by Suzuki. However, MI6 believe he has died. His obituary appears in the British press. He survives yet suffers from amnesia and he and Suzuki live as Japanese fisherman and wife. Suzuki is deeply in love with Bond and falls pregnant to him (as Megan may have done?) also keeping from him his true identity (well we know Megan is aware of Dick/Don)

    Bond remains confused and shows signs of uncertainty of his ‘identity’ (as we know Don has referred to himself as Dick to Doris the waitress and Cindy at the party whilst in various states of mind). He is fixated on Vladivostock and Russia and leaves Suzuki (with unborn child) to ‘discover’ the missing pieces of his memory.

    Does Don still have something to confront of his identity from the past. We have seen the adolescent ‘whore child’ this season, will we get a glimpse of the young adult Dick Whitman?

    I guess a lot of the themes of this novel are definately in place for this season. We also know that suicide has loomed large in Don’s psyche as well. The book itself has been described as a ‘travelogue’ and Fleming was unwell and not at the top of his game when he wrote this. Maybe I’m drawing a ‘long bow’ on a few items here, but provides food for thought.

  4. PPJJ — Thank you for your post — very interesting connections here.

    While Megan is watching the TV coverage of the riots in Chicago at the DNC, she is talking to Don and makes a comment about how a blow to the head could change a person’s life.

    Perhaps the possibilities of a heart attack or lung cancer are nothing more than examples of the provocative mis-directions that Matt Weiner is famous for?

    • We never actually do see how he ended up in the pool in the first place, do we? He’s on what appears to be the first floor of the party house, so he couldn’t have fallen out of a window (and even if he had i would be onto very dry and very hard land).

      • This is another piece of lost time when PFC Dinkins is around.

      • We know that Megan told him to go for a swim because it relaxes him. And then he sees a vision of Megan who starts leading to him to the outside. Right before that he mentioned he was thirsty and the blonde woman told him there is a poolful of water.

    • Polly – Good catch!

      I keep thinking that with the flashbacks caused by either ailments (coughing) or self induced (alcohol, drugs) that Don is delving into his memory and ‘looking’ for that missing piece??

  5. One of the great movie openings, and great movie images: The ultimate smashup of success and death. Isn’t that what Don’s all about now?

  6. I forgot what season this was (forgive me!) but I think it was season 3. Sally was grounded (?) or something and she went upstairs to cry on her bed holding that friendship braid Glenn had given her. Shes laying on her bed faced down like a ‘sky diver’. I remember everyone was posting about it because it had been so significant because Don was laying in that position in the same episode.

  7. Remember, too, that Joe Gillis was being kept by Norma Desmond. He was writing a script with Nancy Olsen’s character but, in essence, he was a gigolo.

    Every time we get a car, this place turns into a whorehouse.

    • Another plot point in Sunset Boulevard is that someone at Paramount keeps phoning Norma Desmond. She think it’s about her triumphant return to the silver screen, but they’re only interested using in her vintage car in a film.

      In Mad Men lately, Don is only interested in working with Ted and Ted is only interested in working with Don because of interest in a car – the Chevy Vega.

  8. Luhrmann has Gatsby floating face down in the pool at the end and having just seen the film, that’s what this immediately reminded me of.

  9. I wonder if Don Draper (ver. 1.0) built that pool before reporting for duty in Korea.

    On a lighter note (pun intended), is there any symbolism when Don Draper (ver. 2.0) nearly drowns in a Southern California pool right after accepting a light of his smoke from Pvt. Dinkins (w/ Don Draper’s ver. 1.0) lighter? Oy, I’m starting to feel like Pinto.

  10. I was half expecting them to play a Rolling Stones song since their guitarist, Brian Jones, had drowned in a swimming pool.

  11. Has anyone here commented on the Dr. Rosen’s tie yet? I think it’s pretty obvious the shot that opens season 6 is not the same as the shot of the doc performing CPR on Jonesy. Take a look at the two paying special attention to his tie(s)

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