Lilla Slattery

Written by Lilla Slattery

Modified & Updated: 19 May 2024

Jessica Corbett

Reviewed by Jessica Corbett


Putney Swope is a groundbreaking and controversial movie that was released in 1969. Directed by Robert Downey Sr., the film is a satirical take on the advertising industry and tackles themes of race, power, and revolution. It has garnered a cult following over the years, thanks to its unique and daring approach. In this article, we will delve into 40 fascinating facts about Putney Swope, giving you an in-depth look at the making of this iconic film. From the audacious casting choices to the subversive social commentary it presents, each fact will shed light on the impact and legacy of Putney Swope in the world of cinema. So buckle up and prepare to explore the intriguing world of this remarkable movie!

Key Takeaways:

  • Putney Swope, released in 1969, is a groundbreaking film that challenges societal norms through sharp satire, diverse casting, and thought-provoking themes, leaving a lasting impact on American cinema.
  • With its unique premise, memorable quotes, and iconic poster, Putney Swope continues to be celebrated as a masterpiece, inspiring a new generation of filmmakers and captivating audiences with its timeless relevance.
Table of Contents

Putney Swope was released in 1969.

Putney Swope is a satirical comedy film released in It was written and directed by Robert Downey Sr.

The movie was a critical and commercial success.

Putney Swope received positive reviews from critics and was a box office hit, grossing over $6 million worldwide.

Putney Swope is known for its unique premise.

The movie centers around the story of Putney Swope, the only black executive in a predominantly white advertising agency. When the chairman unexpectedly dies, Putney is voted in as the new chairman and turns the agency upside down.

The film stars Arnold Johnson as Putney Swope.

Arnold Johnson delivers a standout performance as Putney Swope, bringing humor and charisma to the character.

The movie tackles themes of race and consumerism.

Putney Swope uses satire to explore issues of race and consumer culture. It cleverly critiques the advertising industry and its manipulation of the masses.

The film features a predominantly African-American cast.

Putney Swope stands out for its diverse cast, highlighting the talents of African-American actors and challenging traditional Hollywood norms.

Putney Swope paved the way for independent cinema.

With its unconventional style and bold social commentary, Putney Swope played a significant role in the development of independent filmmaking.

The movie was low-budget but high on creativity.

Despite its limited budget, Putney Swope successfully pushed boundaries in terms of storytelling and visual techniques.

Putney Swope won the Silver Bear at the Berlin International Film Festival.

The film received international recognition and was awarded the Silver Bear for the outstanding artistic contribution at the Berlin International Film Festival.

Robert Downey Sr. utilized improvisation during filming.

Downey allowed the actors to improvise in certain scenes, adding a realistic and spontaneous touch to the performances.

The movie features a memorable soundtrack.

Putney Swope includes a soundtrack composed by Charley Cuva, which adds to the film’s unique and eclectic atmosphere.

The movie’s title is a play on words.

The name “Putney Swope” is a combination of the fictional character’s name and a humorous twist on the phrase “putting a swoop” or making a sudden change.

Putney Swope has become a cult classic.

Over the years, the film has gained a dedicated following and is recognized as a cult classic in American cinema.

The film’s dialogue is sharp and witty.

Putney Swope is known for its clever dialogue, filled with social commentary and biting humor.

The movie challenges societal norms.

Through its satirical lens, Putney Swope questions and subverts societal norms, making powerful statements about racism and conformity.

The film uses humor to address serious issues.

Putney Swope employs comedy as a tool to shed light on serious issues, making it both entertaining and thought-provoking.

The movie’s style is visually striking.

With its vibrant colors, unconventional cinematography, and bold visual choices, Putney Swope stands out as a visually distinctive film.

Putney Swope broke new ground in cinema.

The film challenged the traditional Hollywood system by presenting a fresh and innovative approach to storytelling.

The movie has inspired other filmmakers.

Putney Swope has served as an inspiration for filmmakers who strive to push boundaries and explore unconventional themes in their work.

The film addresses the power dynamics within society.

Putney Swope delves into the complex dynamics of power, highlighting how it can be both abused and challenged.

The movie’s humor is often dark and satirical.

Putney Swope’s brand of comedy relies on satire and dark humor to provide social commentary and provoke thought.

The film incorporates elements of surrealism.

With its dreamlike sequences and fantastical moments, Putney Swope embraces elements of surrealism to enhance its storytelling.

The movie remains relevant today.

Despite being released over five decades ago, the themes explored in Putney Swope still resonate in today’s society, highlighting the film’s timeless relevance.

Putney Swope was a pioneer in diversifying representation in film.

The movie played a significant role in diversifying representation both in front of and behind the camera, paving the way for more inclusive storytelling.

The film’s success led to greater recognition for Robert Downey Sr.

Following the success of Putney Swope, Robert Downey Sr. gained increased recognition as a filmmaker and continued to explore unconventional storytelling techniques.

The movie’s screenplay was highly praised.

Putney Swope’s screenplay, written by Robert Downey Sr., received acclaim for its sharp writing and compelling narrative.

The film’s use of satire can be seen as a form of social commentary.

Putney Swope cleverly uses satire to comment on the advertising industry, racism, and consumer culture, offering a critical examination of society.

The movie was groundbreaking in its representation of a black protagonist.

Putney Swope broke barriers by featuring a black protagonist in a position of power, challenging traditional Hollywood narratives.

The film’s runtime is approximately 84 minutes.

Putney Swope’s concise runtime keeps the storytelling focused and ensures that every scene counts.

The movie received an X rating upon its initial release.

Due to its controversial content and explicit language, Putney Swope initially received an X rating from the Motion Picture Association of America.

The film’s cinematography is visually engaging.

Putney Swope’s cinematography, led by cinematographer Gerald Cotts, captures the essence of the film’s unique style and adds to its cinematic appeal.

The movie explores the concept of identity.

Putney Swope raises questions about identity and the challenges individuals face in a society that tries to mold them into a specific image.

The film’s release coincided with a period of social change.

Putney Swope hit theaters during a time of political and social upheaval, adding to its impact and resonance.

The movie’s dialogue is known for its quotable lines.

Putney Swope is filled with memorable quotes that encapsulate its sharp wit and provocative nature.

The film’s success opened doors for independent filmmakers.

Putney Swope’s critical and commercial success paved the way for other independent filmmakers to have their voices heard in an industry dominated by major studios.

The movie’s poster artwork is iconic.

The poster for Putney Swope, featuring a striking design and bold typography, has become an iconic representation of the film.

The film’s editing is dynamic and unconventional.

Putney Swope’s editing, done by Fred von Bernewitz, adds to the film’s energetic and fast-paced style.

The movie received renewed attention in recent years.

Putney Swope has experienced a resurgence in popularity, with a new generation discovering and appreciating its unique approach to storytelling.

The film’s influence can be seen in subsequent satirical comedies.

Putney Swope’s impact can be observed in later satirical comedies that draw inspiration from its bold and biting social commentary.

Putney Swope continues to be celebrated as a masterpiece of American cinema.

Decades after its release, Putney Swope remains highly regarded by critics and audiences, solidifying its status as a cinematic masterpiece.


In conclusion, Putney Swope is a groundbreaking and thought-provoking film that defies traditional conventions and challenges societal norms. Through its satirical portrayal of the advertising industry and its exploration of race and power dynamics, the movie remains relevant and impactful even decades after its release. With its witty and sharp writing, remarkable performances, and unique directorial style, Putney Swope continues to be celebrated as a cult classic and a testament to the power of independent cinema. Whether you’re a film buff or simply looking to expand your cinematic horizons, Putney Swope is a must-watch that will undoubtedly leave a lasting impression.


1. What is the plot of Putney Swope?

The movie follows the unexpected rise of Putney Swope, the only black executive in a predominantly white advertising agency. After the sudden death of the company’s chairman, Putney is voted in as the new chairman, leading to a series of surreal and satirical events as he revolutionizes the industry.

2. Who directed Putney Swope?

Putney Swope was directed by Robert Downey Sr., an American filmmaker known for his avant-garde and subversive style. He is also the father of renowned actor Robert Downey Jr.

3. When was Putney Swope released?

The film was released in 1969, during a time of significant social and political change in the United States. Its release sparked controversy due to its provocative subject matter and bold depiction of racial issues.

4. Is Putney Swope based on a true story?

No, Putney Swope is a fictional film. However, it draws inspiration from the real-life experiences and observations of filmmaker Robert Downey Sr. regarding the advertising industry and racial dynamics in America.

5. What impact did Putney Swope have on the film industry?

Putney Swope challenged the traditional Hollywood studio system and paved the way for independent filmmakers. Its irreverent and satirical approach to storytelling influenced a generation of filmmakers who sought to push the boundaries of filmmaking and tackle controversial social themes.

6. Can I stream Putney Swope online?

Putney Swope may be available for streaming on various platforms, including popular streaming services or movie rental websites. Check with your preferred streaming provider to see if it is currently available.

7. Is Putney Swope suitable for all audiences?

Putney Swope tackles sensitive subject matters and contains strong language and mature themes. It is recommended for mature audiences and viewer discretion is advised.

8. Has Putney Swope won any awards?

Putney Swope received critical acclaim upon its release and was nominated for the Palme d’Or at the 1969 Cannes Film Festival. While it did not win the top prize, it remains an influential and highly regarded film in the independent cinema landscape.

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