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Story of Film - December 2013
Remind Me
,The Hudsucker Proxy

The Hudsucker Proxy

When the president of Hudsucker Industries commits suicide by taking a running jump through the forty-fourth floor boardroom window, his executive staff panics. But chairman of the board Sidney J. Mussburger (Paul Newman) finds a way to turn the situation to his advantage by concocting a devious stock manipulation that will devalue the Hudsucker holdings and allow him and his cronies to buy them up cheaply. All he has to do is hire a total moron to run the company and let nature take its course. Mussburger finds the perfect patsy in Norville Barnes (Tim Robbins), a bumbling mailroom employee. Due to a strange twist of fate, Norville's idea for a children's toy - the Hula Hoop - ultimately reverses the company's poor financial situation and sabotages Mussburger's master plan.

Easily the most ambitious film to date for the Coen Brothers, The Hudsucker Proxy (1994) was also their biggest commercial flop; it cost $25 million to make and only grossed $3 million at the box office. Part of the expense was due to the spectacular special effects and the elaborate set design (by Dennis Gassner) which should have won an Oscar®. The entire film is an affectionate throwback to another era of Hollywood filmmaking and is loaded with classic movie references: Jennifer Jason Leigh's performance as fast-talking reporter Amy Archer seems modeled on the Hildy Johnson character (played by Rosalind Russell) in His Girl Friday (1940); the massive, inner workings of the giant mechanical clock look like something out of Fritz Lang's Metropolis (1926); and the angel who saves Norville from a skyscraper high dive could have been inspired by the heavenly messenger in Frank Capra's It's a Wonderful Life (1946).

It was reported that Winona Ryder had auditioned for the Amy Archer role and was very disappointed when she didn't get it. It's doubtful her presence would have improved The Hudsucker Proxy's performance at the box office because the film was just too stylized and eccentric to appeal to mainstream audiences. Coen Brothers fans won't be disappointed, however, and there are plenty of hilarious bits sprinkled throughout the film from the fake hula hoop newsreel footage to Peter Gallagher's cameo as a flashy lounge singer in the Dean Martin mode.

The Hudsucker Proxy went on to receive a nomination for the prestigious Golden Palm award at the 1994 Cannes Film Festival and to win the Best Production Design award from the Los Angeles Film Critics Association.

Director: Joel Coen
Producer: Ethan Coen, Tim Bevan (executive), Eric Fellner (executive), Graham Place (co-producer)
Screenplay: Ethan Coen, Joel Coen, Sam Raimi
Cinematography: Roger Deakins
Music: Carter Burwell
Art Direction: Leslie McDonald
Cast: Tim Robbins (Norville Barnes), Jennifer Jason Leigh (Amy Archer), Paul Newman (Sidney J. Mussburger), Charles Durning (Waring Hudsucker), John Mahoney (Chief), Jim True (Clarence Gunderson), Bill Cobbs (Moses), Bruce Campbell (Smitty)

by Jeff Stafford



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