Putney Swope

Watch Putney Swope

"Don't Rock the boat… Sink it."
  • R
  • 1969
  • 1 hr 24 min
  • 6.8  (4,271)

Putney Swope is a satirical comedy film written and directed by Robert Downey Sr. that was released in 1969. Set in the advertising industry, the film follows Putney Swope, a black man who unexpectedly becomes the head of a Madison Avenue ad agency after the sudden death of its chairman during a board meeting. Putney, played by Arnold Johnson, is the only board member who abstains from the vote to elect a new chairman, but due to a misunderstanding, he is elected by a majority vote.

The film is considered a landmark in American independent cinema for its irreverent and subversive take on race relations, capitalism, and power structures. Putney Swope satirizes the advertising industry's obsession with consumerism, white society's exploitation of black culture, and the tokenism and racism prevalent in corporate structures. The film's script was based on a series of improvisational sessions with the cast and crew.

As the new chairman of the agency, Putney implements radical changes by firing all of the white executives and replacing them with black staff members who all have the surname Swope. Under Putney's leadership, the agency becomes successful by rebranding their clients’ products with provocative and satirical slogans that reflect the social and political upheavals of the time.

The film's main themes include critiques of institutional racism and capitalist exploitation, and it also explores the idea of black solidarity in the face of oppression. Putney refuses to bow down to mainstream society and its expectations of black men, and instead embraces his identity as a black man in America. The film's characters share Putney's desire to take control of their own narratives and reject cultural norms that limit their potential.

Despite its biting satire and controversial themes, the film is incredibly funny and engaging. The dialogue is sharply written, and the performances by the cast are lively and energetic. In addition to Arnold Johnson's exceptional performance as Putney, the film features hilarious supporting characters such as a man who communicates only through bird calls, a white hippie who appropriates black culture, and a gay Jewish executive who embraces black culture with gusto.

Putney Swope is described by film scholars as a prime example of independent cinema of the late 1960s, often compared to other counterculture classics such as Easy Rider and The Graduate. The film's attempts to break down racial barriers and its satire of corporate structures were particularly ahead of their time, making it a groundbreaking work. Its influence is still felt in contemporary satire and social commentary in film and television.

In conclusion, Putney Swope is a thought-provoking satire that critiques not just the advertising industry, but also the wider societal ills of its time. It is a film that is both hilarious and deeply insightful, and its themes of liberation and self-determination continue to resonate today. It remains a must-watch for anyone interested in independent cinema, comedy, or social commentary.

Putney Swope is a 1969 comedy with a runtime of 1 hour and 24 minutes. It has received mostly positive reviews from critics and viewers, who have given it an IMDb score of 6.8.

Putney Swope
Where to Watch Putney Swope
Putney Swope is available to watch free on Peacock, Plex, Pluto TV, Tubi TV, Vudu Free and Kanopy. It's also available to stream, download and buy on demand at Amazon Prime, FuboTV, Amazon, Google Play and Vudu. Some platforms allow you to rent Putney Swope for a limited time or purchase the movie and download it to your device.
  • Release Date
  • MPAA Rating
  • Runtime
    1 hr 24 min
  • Language
  • IMDB Rating
    6.8  (4,271)