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The Times (13/Apr/1961) - Unconvincing film satire

(c) The Times (13/Apr/1961)


Hollywood films rejoice in satirizing the social habits of the country of their origin, but too often it proves to be satire with its fangs drawn and its snarl fading out at the end into a drooling smile.

Big business and its ethics, or, rather the lack of them, constitute an obvious target, and there is promising material in the person of the advertiser-cum-public relations officer. Madison Avenue, produced and directed by Mr. Bruce Humberstone and to be seen at the Rialto Cinema, is based on a novel called the Build-Up Boys, and "build-up boy" is as good a description as any of the kind of man Clint Lorimer (Mr. Dana Andrews) is and of the profession, if that is the word, he follows.

It is Clint's job, to quote the synopsis, to build "men of straw into national figures" without worrying how it is done or what is the result The thought that posts of great responsibility in Washington may be filled by brainless nonentities who have received the Lorimer treatment is a terrifying one, and it is fortunate from this particular point of view that Madison Avenue should be so singularly unconvincing. The dialogue is ready-made, reach-me-down stuff which has served on a thousand occasions and will doubtless do duty on a thousand more, and never is the imagination kindled by the quality of the direction. Miss Jeanne Crain acts competently enough as the girl who is always left in the lurch when Clint sees a chance of self-advancement while Miss Eleanor Parker does all that is expected of her as a symbol of pleasant dowdiness conjured by Clint into one of repellent glamour. As Clint, Mr. Andrews ages visibly during the progress of the film, and no wonder.


At the Warner Cinema there is a reissue of Strangers On A Train, directed by Mr. Alfred Hitchcock. The film is untypical of Hitchcock in that ingenuity is displayed hands down on the table throughout and is not reserved for some startling climax, although, of course, there is a surprise or two up the master's sleeve. And ingenuity, the committing of murder by someone who on the surface has no conceivable motive, certainly abounds. Mr. Farley Grainger, Miss Ruth Roman, and Mr. Robert Walker head the cast