Hi all, this is Deborah filling in for Nathaniel for our mutual favorite TV show. It figures that while I'm filling in there are no explicit movie references. However, I think I can keep you engaged with some juicy Broadway and implicit movie references.
Episode 6.03, The Collaborators, is directed by Jon Hamm to dirty perfection. Make no mistake, this is a very dirty episode, concerned with adultery, broken promises, and things not being what they seem.
We open with a party at the Campbell home; Pete is offering tickets to "Hair" to two neighbors. It’s a flirtatious conversation, Pete tells the ladies that hair is full of drugs, foul language, and “simulated sex acts.” Flirting is not the subtle art of yore in 1968, we say “sex acts” right out in public! (Spoilers ahead.)
Hair opened on Broadway at the Biltmore Theater in April of 1968 and ran for four years. The Collaborators takes place on and around January 30, 1968 (we know this because of the Tet Offensive in the news), so Pete has tickets to an Off-Broadway production. I was surprised that Pete didn’t mention nudity among the shows offenses, but Wikipedia helpfully tells us that the Off-Broadway productions had none. Pete also disdainfully says the show has a few songs, so it’s helpful to learn that the Broadway production is much more musical than the version he’s talking about.
Hair is a perfect reference to encapsulate the way this episode (and perhaps this entire season) is full of anxiety about the encroaching world.
Arnie Rosen: You know, we’re losing the war.
Don Draper: You wouldn’t know it from looking around here.
People look around, and things seem normal, they seem fine, but they’re not. A scarier, dirtier world is moving in, and people Don’s age are feeling lost and left behind. Hair baffled an older generation.
I promised an implicit movie reference, one you have to look closely to find. Don is having an affair with his neighbor, Sylvia (wife of the above-quoted Arnie). The affair is of a piece with the themes of dirtiness and of appearances being deceiving; these two “happily” married couples sneaking around the service entrances in the most sordid way.
Sylvia Rosen: We can’t fall in love, it wouldn’t be so French anymore.
When Sylvia says their affair is “French,” I wondered if that was a movie reference, especially given Don’s love of foreign films (mentioned way back in Episode 2.05). Since this is January of 1968, I looked to French films of 1967, and found, of course, Belle de Jour.
Belle de Jour stars the magnetic Catherine Deneuve who Don has already salivated over in a past episode. She plays a bored housewife who becomes a prostitute during the day, while her husband is at work. She works at a high-end brothel, submitting to any bizarre fantasy a client might have, thereby fulfilling her own unmet erotic needs. Although never named, quoted, or directly referenced, Belle de Jour’s footprints are all over this episode, right up to the very end, when Don can’t meet with Sylvia in the evening, so she suggests the following morning (Belle de Jour translates to “Daylight Beauty”).
In The Collaborators, ostensibly happy couples have secret erotic lives. This is also the first episode in which we see that Don really did grow up in a whorehouse (as he said in Episode 5.05), and young Dick Whitman spies on the goings-on there. We also see the return of Herb Rennet, the vile head of the Jaguar dealership association who got SCDP the Jaguar account in exchange for a night with Joan. Now that Joan has experienced the real thing, she has no prostitution fantasies; she is no Severine and will not be sweet to Herb by daylight.