The Hudsucker Proxy (1994)


The Hudsucker Proxy is a 1994 screwball comedy film written, produced, and directed by Joel and Ethan Coen. Sam Raimi co-wrote the script and served as second unit director. The film stars Tim Robbins as a naïve business-school graduate who is installed as president of a manufacturing company, Jennifer Jason Leigh as a newspaper reporter, and Paul Newman as a company director who hires the young man as part of a stock scam. The Coen brothers and Raimi finished the script in 1985, but production did not start until 1991, when Joel Silver acquired the script for Silver Pictures. Warner Bros. subsequently agreed to distribute the film, with further financing coming from PolyGram Filmed Entertainment and Working Title Films. Filming at Carolco Studios in Wilmington, North Carolina lasted from November 1992 to March 1993. The New York City scale model set was designed by Micheal J. McAlister and Mark Stetson, with further effects provided by The Computer Film Company. Upon its release in March 1994, The Hudsucker Proxy received mixed reviews from critics, and it was a box office bomb.


In December 1958, Norville Barnes, a business college graduate from Muncie, Indiana, arrives in New York City looking for a job. Due to lack of experience, all he can find is work as a mailroom clerk at Hudsucker Industries. The company's founder and president, Waring Hudsucker, unexpectedly commits suicide by self-defenestration. Sidney J. Mussburger, a member of the board of directors, learns that Hudsucker's stock shares will be sold to the public soon, so he mounts a scheme to buy the controlling interest in the company. His plan is to temporarily depress the stock price by hiring an incompetent president to replace Hudsucker. Shortly before his last meeting, Hudsucker sent Mussburger a top-secret communication called a "Blue Letter" which Norville is assigned to deliver. One encounter with the inept, inarticulate Norville is all Mussburger needs to choose him as Hudsucker's proxy. As president, Norville decides to fast-track an invention he has been working on which appears to be a simple circle. "You know ... for kids," he keeps trying to explain. Mussburger takes him for an idiot. Amy Archer, a brassy Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter for the Manhattan Argus, is assigned to write a story about Norville and find out what kind of man he really is. She gets a job at Hudsucker Industries as his personal secretary, pretending to be yet another desperate graduate from Muncie. One night, Amy searches the building to find clues and meets Moses, a man who operates the tower's giant clock and knows "just about anything if it concerns Hudsucker." He tells her Mussburger's plot and she takes the story back to her Chief, but he does not believe a word of it. At the Hudsucker ball, Norville accidentally insults some stockholders and continues to appear to be in way over his head. Mussburger and the other executives mockingly decide to accept Norville's invention for the "kids," giving him the go-ahead to manufacture it with the certainty that it will further depress the company's stock. However, his invention, the hula hoop, is a smash success with kids. It brings the company greater success and profit than ever before and makes Norville the hottest new executive in the business. Amy is infuriated over Norville's new arrogance and leaves him. Buzz, the eager elevator operator, pitches a new invention: the flexi-straw. Norville does not like it and fires Buzz. It remains to be seen what Norville can come up with for the company next. Meanwhile, the Hudsucker janitor, Aloysius, discovers Amy's true identity and informs Mussburger, who reveals it to Norville and tells him that he will be dismissed as president after the new year. Mussburger also convinces the board that Norville is insane and must be sent to the local psychiatric hospital. On New Year's Eve, Amy finds Norville drunk at a beatnik bar. She apologizes, but he storms out and is chased by an angry mob led by Buzz, who was led by Mussburger to believe that Norville stole the hula hoop idea. Norville escapes to the top floor of the Hudsucker skyscraper and changes back into his mailroom uniform. He climbs out on the ledge, where Aloysius locks out Norville and watches as he slips and falls off the building at the stroke of midnight. All of a sudden, Moses stops the clock and time freezes. Waring Hudsucker appears to Norville as an angel and tells him that the Blue Letter that was supposed to be delivered to Mussburger contains a legal document indicating that Hudsucker's shares would go to his immediate successor, which is now Norville. Moses fights and defeats Aloysius inside the tower, allowing Norville to fall safely to the ground. Norville and Amy reconcile. As 1959 progresses, it is Mussburger who is sent to the asylum while Norville develops a new invention "for kids," a flying disc of some kind that will ultimately turn out to be a frisbee.