April 13, 2010
 

"The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit" Different Film Promo Posters

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By Kurt Brokaw, Culture Editor

1956: Hollywood has a continuing fascination with returning war veterans who can't adapt to a changed workplace and home life. Robert Ryan, for example, spent years following World War II playing unhinged psychopaths in a variety of failed occupations.

Here, Gregory Peck played the first corporate type – a supposedly heroic captain who becomes a public relations middle manager at the United Broadcasting Company (UBC), a media conglomerate with exteriors shot in Rockefeller Center.

Greg has a pesky, ambitious wife (the hot-blooded Jennifer Jones) who wants more steaks in the freezer. At work Greg learns how to maneuver corporate channels under CEO Fredric March (a humorless titan of a boss), but he keeps flashing back to his tour of duty and what turned into cowardice under fire, as well as some nighttime trysts with a comely Italian girl (Marisa Pavan). Trauma, trauma.

Greg's stress disorders in the 50s, sensitively scripted (by writer/director Nunnally Johnson) and painfully well acted, were an early warning signal for what would come down the pike once television lost its ability to captivate audiences with almost anything it aired.

And a word from the peanut gallery....

The copywriters who wrote the film's tagline: "The Motion Picture That May Very Well Be THE VERY GREATEST!" obviously had their tongue, placed firmly in cheek when they penned this oh-so-not-terribly-subtle promise.

It's doubtful that the average Jane or Joe would have gotten the full irony of the joke, though for people in the communications business, they surely would have smirked. Using simply over the top PR-shtick to promote a film in part about the business of PR-shtick, indicates someone on the film was undaunted by the equally heart-breaking themes.

If the birth humor in all of us comes from the breeding ground of quiet desperation, then the cold, cynical and unfeeling nature of PR, or in this case the movie business, begs the question whether art imitate life, or does life imitate art.

The Editors


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