Ten ways to stay busy until Mad Men returns
Published: August 11, 2011
Face it: It’s the gin-soaked, smoke-filled atmosphere you miss the most; those sweaty nights full of intrigue, face-slapping and adultery cast a spell that AMC’s B-team of meth dealers and zombies just can’t quite match. Luckily, there’s a treasure trove of great films with just that vibe to enjoy from the comfort of your fainting couch. Curvy, stiletto-heeled Elizabeth Taylor stars as the lust object of married Manhattanite Laurence Harvey in BUtterfield 8 , a richly colored melodrama that won Taylor an Academy Award. If you prefer the existential despair of Don Draper over Joan and her silver-haired fox, check out Gregory Peck in The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit , in which he plays an impeccably dressed New York PR man haunted by war flashbacks and his lovechild’s mother. (By the way, Peck’s ball-busting wife is named “Betsy” and is played by Jennifer Jones. Hmm.) Of course, no ’60s New York marathon is complete without Billy Wilder’s The Apartment , in which Jack Lemmon plays an ambitious insurance man who sublets his apartment by the hour to his higher-ups and their mistresses in the hope that he’ll be promoted. The whole thing goes to hell when he falls for the elevator girl (Shirley MacLaine as the original Manic Pixie Dream Girl), who happens to be quite familiar with Lemmon’s apartment. From the talk of suicide to Lemmon’s boozy, last-call dance with a Marilyn Monroe wannabe to powerful men acting like monsters, The Apartment serves as a solid reminder of the familiar Mad Men shame spiral. And it’s a comedy! Finally, because you must, cue up 1963’s Bye Bye Birdie , starring Ann-Margret as the girl that Sterling Cooper just couldn’t quite copy for a failed Pepsi campaign. (YouTube bonus: Search for the cast and crew of Mad Men performing the film’s titular song against a blue screen.) All of these titles are available on DVD from Netflix or immediately to rent or buy from Amazon Instant.
3 Read books
Don smoking and poring over Frank O’Hara’s Meditations in an Emergency; Betty soaking in the tub with a paperback copy of Mary McCarthy’s The Group – books are essential to Mad Men’s allusion-rich ecosphere. Along with the movies mentioned above, they’re also key to understanding the 1960s mindset, and the lovely librarians at the New York Public Library’s Battery Park branch have created a continually updated and meticulously sourced Mad Men Reading List (nypl.org/blog/2010/09/13/mad-men-reading-list) for your pleasure. Every book mentioned in an episode, from the scholarly (Edward Gibbon’s History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire) to the deliciously trashy (Rona Jaffe’s The Best of Everything), from forgotten classics (Diane di Prima’s Memoirs of a Beatnik) to the kiddy stuff (Sally Draper’s Nancy Drew books), is included in this treasure trove of literary backup. To be avoided, however, are the numerous tie-in books cashing in on AMC’s hit like pilot fish feeding off the big shark’s scraps – especially “Roger Sterling’s Fools Gold.” The exception is Natasha Vargas-Cooper’s brilliant Mad Men Unbuttoned: A Romp Through 1960s America, compiled from her Footnotes of Mad Men blog (still live, though untouched since last October).