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If not for CinemaScope and the encroaching middle age of the stars, it would be easy to believe this one had been sitting in a drawer at Fox since 1947 (and some of the rear-screen projection plates actually appear to date from the WWII era, among other evidence of a cheeseparing budget.) A series of underpopulated dialogue scenes in dingy interiors, nearly everything about MADISON AVENUE is off, including the fact that the bulk of it is set in Washington, D.C. Even the women's costumes are ugly and out-of-date; poor Jeanne Crain spends only one scene dressed as a loveseat from a Florida retirement home, but her lovely face is upstaged by a grim hairstyle pasted to her cheeks throughout, while Eleanor Parker's "glamour" get-up is the sort of thing Ann Sheridan might have worn 20 years earlier -- in a comedy, for satiric effect.
A plot this stale and simple shouldn't be this hard to follow, and pseudo-"smart" dialogue can't mask the makers' utter indifference to the workings of the advertising and public relations world, a milieu evoked with more brains and bite in THE HUCKSTERS, A LETTER TO THREE WIVES and myriad other popular films from the late '40s and straight through the '50s. It's nice to see Dana Andrews apparently sober after a years-long, multi-picture binge but neither he nor his highly competent colleagues can make much sense of these opaque characters, their dubious motivations or their arbitrary reversals. Eddie Albert is particularly ill-served by a role that seems to have been written first in crayon, then with a blunt pencil stub by someone who hadn't read his earlier scenes.
20th Century Fox was in dire straits in 1962, the flops outnumbering the hits and the runaway CLEOPATRA bleeding their coffers dry. MADISON AVENUE is yet another example of the unimaginative, cash-strapped mediocrities that kept audiences home in front of their television sets while the legendary Fox backlot was sold off for commercial development. As the plot creaks its way to a hasty but lifeless conclusion, you can almost hear the wrecking ball warming up just outside the soundstage.
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