This is Part 1 of what may become an epic write-up. Stick with Basket of Kisses for continued coverage of all things Matthew Weiner, and more Lincoln Center goodness.
On Saturday, March 21, 2015, the Film Society of Lincoln Center hosted a Mad Men: The End of an Era panel discussion with Matthew Weiner, Jon Hamm, January Jones, Christina Hendricks, and John Slattery, moderated by Chuck Klosterman. Who else was there? The Lipp sisters (accompanied by Deborah’s Professor Spouse)!
The packed house (the beautiful Alice Tully Hall seats over a thousand people) was enthusiastic, applauding wildly, laughing, cheering. The format was simple. Each panelist had a chance to select clips, which were played and then discussed. Klosterman didn’t always make it clear whose clips were whose choices, but it didn’t matter. The format really opened up discussion.
First clip was Matt’s choice: Roger and Peggy negotiating over surreptitious work in Mystery Date (Episode 5.04). When asked to explain the choice, he said simply that he wanted to see it play in front of an audience, because he enjoys hearing the laughter. He added that he loves comedy, which was where he started, and that, between seasons 4 and 5, he became “fascinated” by negotiation (this insight got quite a laugh), although this was the only place in Mad Men the fascination appeared.
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Somehow this segued into a long discussion of the blackface scene in My Old Kentucky Home (Episode 3.03). Seeing the script was one of several occasions when John Slattery turned to Matt and said, “Well, there goes my career.” It was difficult to film; Slattery was incredibly embarrassed to be standing around in makeup waiting to shoot (“Can’t I put it on when they call me?”), and the first take, reaction shots were nothing but dropped jaws. (Matt noted that it was in fact shoe polish; it couldn’t just look like makeup). He explains they tried very hard to let the audience know that their point of view was AGAINST blackface, using the person of Don to embody that. Pete also objected strongly, and Klosterman asked about that. Matt responded that New York City has a long history of liberalism among its very privileged, both Democrats and Republicans, and “Pete is a New York liberal.” Matt then turned to the audience and said, “What, no applause for ‘liberal’?” and we obliged him. (Roberta thinks the hesitance wasn’t for “liberal” so much as the Peter Campbell version of it.)
Matthew Weiner also said that My Old Kentucky Home was structured like A Midsummer’s Night Dream to reflect the different classes of beings (fairy, gentles, ordinary folk). (Our own Anne B. is maybe the only writer on the Internet who saw that connection at the time.) The episode is about class, he told us. And it’s about what white people are like when they’re alone.