Don’s flirtation with suicidal imagery in his botched meeting with the Pink Palace brass, reminds one of the executives of “that movie with James Mason walking into the ocean…”
He’s referring to 1954’s A Star is Born: a movie about older man with a drinking problem who sees his alcoholism deepen as his younger wife begins to come into a certain amount of celebrity.
In the movie, Judy Garland plays a ingenue singer who is discovered by James Mason, an aging but talented actor. He puts her in a movie to help her out and basically immediately feels she owes her life to him from then on out. He begins drinking more heavily the more popular she gets, until he crashes her Oscars speech Kanye-style and accidentally hits her in the face.
Slapstick serves for emotional epiphany and Mason goes into rehab. When he comes out, Judy Garland promises to take care of him but he soon goes off the rails again and — famously — walks into the ocean. Has anyone read Not Waving But Drowning? (“I was much too far out all my life/And not waving but drowning.” So sad!)
The film itself is your pretty standard corny “you’re a star now kid!” movie. Even the death is pretty cheesy — walking into the ocean? What are you, Virginia Woolf? It’s a very feminine death, as well, if you’ll note. Most male suicide has an active component to it and most female suicide is passive (more here on the gender dimensions of suicide
). Water plays a huge role in a lot of female suicide, as well. Why did James Mason feel like submitting? And does Don Draper feel the same way?
He certainly did a lot of submitting in last Sunday night’s premiere: to Megan on the subject of her upcoming soap opera (remember when he refused point-blank last season to let her do theater in another city because of the commitment she’d have to make?); to those photographers on the subject of where his desk should be and what make-up to wear; to Pete and Ken after he threw up at Roger’s mom’s funeral and had to be escorted home; and, of course, to his old haunts in another woman’s arms.
And of course, water is very much on Don’s subconscious after Hawaii.But lo, look how he denies his thoughts of his untimely demise to the Pink Palace ad execs when they call him out on the movie morbidity!
Watch this space for more Don Faces His Mortality: Season 6.