Putney Swope


Putney Swope

Critics Consensus

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Total Count: 11


Audience Score

User Ratings: 1,427
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Putney Swope Photos

Movie Info

After several years working along the margins of the underground film scene in New York, director Robert Downey broke through to wider recognition with the arthouse hit Putney Swope, a wildly irreverent satire of race and advertising in America. Putney Swope (Arnold Johnson) is the token African-American executive at an otherwise all-white advertising agency when the chairman of the board unexpectedly drops dead. Through a fluke in the chain of command, Swope becomes the new head of the firm, and decides its time to do things his way. He fires nearly all the staff (except for his one token white employee), renames the agency Truth and Soul, Inc., and announces they'll no longer accept accounts advertising tobacco, alcohol, or war toys. The ads they do produce -- for acne remedies and breakfast cereal, among other things -- are wildly successful, and the iconoclastic ad agency (which only accepts payment in cash) is targeted by government operatives as a threat to the national security. Antonio Fargas and Allen Garfield lead the supporting cast; Mel Brooks makes a cameo appearance. ~ Mark Deming, Rovi

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Eric Krupnik
as Mark Focus
Laura Greene
as Mrs. Swope
Allen Garfield
as Elias Jr.
Ramon Gordon
as Bissinger
Joe Engler
as Mr. Syllables
David Kirk
as Elias Sr.
Don George
as Mr. Cards
Buddy Butler
as Putney's Bodyguard
Vincent Hamill
as Man in White Suit
Tom Odachi
as Wing Soney
Ching Yeh
as Wing Soney Jr.
Joe Fields
as Pittsburgh Willie
Robert Staats
as Mr. War Toys
Alan Abel
as Mr. Lucky
Sol Brawerman
as Mr. Dinkleberry
Ben Israel
as Mr. Pit Stop
Mel Brooks
as Mr. Forget It
Louise Heath
as Secretary
Barbara Clarke
as Secretary
Catherine Lojacono
as Lady Beaver
George Marshall
as Mr. Executive
Ron Palombo
as Assistant Director
Wendy Appel
as Script Girl
Geegee Brown
as Secretary
Vance Amaker
as Wall Man
Al Green
as Cowboy
Walter Jones
as Jim Keranga
Khaula Bakr
as Mrs. Keranga
Melvia Marshall
as Little Keranga
Annette Marshall
as Little Keranga
Andrea Marshall
as Little Keranga
Eddie Gordon
as Mr. Victrola Cola
George Morgan
as Mr. Token
Abdul Hakeim
as Bouncer
Allan Arbus
as Mr. Bad News
Jesse McDonald
as Young Militant
Vince Morgan Jr.
as West Indian
Al Browne
as Moderate
Marie Claire
as Eugenie Ferlinger/Nun
William H. Boesen
as Bert/Mr. Lunger
Carol Farber
as Secretary
Cerves McNeil
as Youngblood
Carolyn Cardwell
as Borman Six Girl
Chuck Green
as Myron X
Pepi Hermine
as President of the United States
Ruth Hermine
as First Lady
Paul Storob
as Secret Service Man
Lawrence Wolf
as Mr. Borman Six
Jeff Lord
as Mr. Bald
Tom Boya
as Mr. O'Dinga
Major Cole
as Idea Man
David Butts
as Idea Man
Paul Alladice
as Idea Man
as Idea Man
Ronnie Dyson
as Face-Off Boy
Shelley Plimpton
as Face-Off Girl
Elzbieta Czyzewska
as Putney's Maid
Paulette Marron
as Air Conditioner Girl
Carol Hobbs
as 2nd Stewardess
Marco Heiblim
as Lucky Passenger
as Interviewer
Peter Maloney
as Putney's Chauffeur
Larry Greenfield
as Lead Reporter
Lloyd Kagin
as Billy Reilly
Perry Gerwitz
as Sonny Williams
Herbert Kerr
as Bodyguard No. 2
Hal Schochet
as President Mimeo's Chauffeur
George T. Marshall
as Mr. Executive
Fred Hirshhorn
as Mr. Bourbon
Donahl Breitman
as Mr. Ethereal Cereal
Peter Benson
as Mr. Jingle
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Critic Reviews for Putney Swope

All Critics (11) | Top Critics (3) | Fresh (7) | Rotten (4)

Audience Reviews for Putney Swope

  • Aug 17, 2016
    Pretty damn good satire, if I do say so myself. I didn't live anywhere near the 60's, but I can safely say that Iron Man's dad pushed quite a few buttons back in the day. As dastardly satires go, this knocked quite a few humorous conventions out of the way. Fake (so screwed up they should be real) advertisements interspersed throughout the narrative? Complete racial and gender role reversals to demonstrate double standards? It is farce at it's furthest extent, and well worth a watch. And many modern comedies could take a few cues from this film and ditch the hackneyed pop-culture references.
    K Nife C Super Reviewer
  • Jan 26, 2013
    Putney Swope is the most acclaimed Downey Sr. film, and it's because it was one of the riskiest films I've seen. Hardcore satire here, the whole story is of a black man taking over an advertising company as a fluke. He then fires the white crews, hires stereotypical African Americans, and the film goes full pledged racism. The crew demanding watermelon breaks, instead of smoking breaks, and that's just average. I was laughing for the majority of the film, and the hilarious advertisements. I think some of the techniques were questionable, such as dubbing Putneys voice, but it paid off. It felt a bit like a publicity stunt, but stuck to the roots. Even has a Chafed Ellbows Easter egg in there. I think I'll probably re watch this with in the month
    Daniel D Super Reviewer
  • Jan 24, 2013
    With the death of a CEO of an advertising firm, the board members now vote for his successor. Holding up matters temporarily is the fact that they are not allowed to vote for themselves. Soon, that is rectified when Putney Swope(Arnold Johnson), the music director and the only African American board member, is elected by a wide margin, as nobody thought anybody else would vote for him.(Coincidentally this is how "Titanic" won the Best Picture Oscar in 1997.) Putney quickly and efficiently makes a clean sweep, renaming the firm "Truth and Soul" while only retaining Nathan(Stanley Gottlieb), liking his corruption, and vowing not to work for any accounts that include alcohol, cigarettes or war toys. As satire, "Putney Swope" proves the old adage that what was once provocative and risky in its take on race relations is now safe and dated as the movie eventually runs out of steam. That's not to mention an odd subplot concerning the diminutive President(Pepi Hermine) which is offset by the movie's startling production design. As far as advertising goes, that will always provide a huge target which to the film is a racket like any other which is illustrated by mock advertisements and fictional products, the only exception being the Long Island Rail Road which is only fictional during rush hours.
    Walter M Super Reviewer
  • Jul 14, 2012
    When the chairman of an ad agency dies, the board all secretly vote Putney Swope, the token black executive, as the company's new leader, assuming that no one else would vote for him. He immediately fires the cracker staff, hires brothers and changes the company name to "Truth and Soul Advertising." Wicked, politically incorrect and completely absurdist satire packed with nonsense and wordplay; the president is a pot-smoking dwarf and director Robert Downey Sr. dubbed all Putney's lines, so the black hero sounds like a Brooklyn Jew.
    Greg S Super Reviewer

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