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Putney Swope

By Eric Allen Hatch | Posted

Putney Swope (Arnold Johnson) sits quietly as the token black employee at a stodgy all-white ad agency, until one fateful board meeting when the company's CEO falls dead on the spot. In choosing his successor, no one may vote for themselves; none of the white fat cat execs thinks anyone else will vote for Swope, so he gets elected in a landslide. Swope then transforms the company into Truth and Soul Inc., an all-black powerhouse that puts a Black Panther-chic imprint on every ad it produces. Immensely successful, the agency comes to the attention of the (little person) President of the United States Mimeo (Pepi Hermine). This uproarious 1969 satire comes courtesy of director Robert Downey Sr., the twisted talent also responsible for Greaser's Palace. The ads produced by Truth and Soul stand out as particularly hilarious, but the entire picture pulses with outrageous humor and still relevant political points, all filtered through Downey's unique sensibility. Countless reviews of this film refer to it as "dated." What does this mean, given that Putney Swope remains more progressive and more creative than 99 percent of all product occupying theaters today?

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