Don Draper and ‘Mad Men’ archive land at Univer­sity of Texas

The Reporter (Lansdale, PA) - - FEATURES - By Jim Vertuno Fol­low Jim Vertuno on Twit­ter: www.twit­ JimVer­tuno

The last Amer­ica saw of Don Draper, he was med­i­tat­ing on a Pa­cific hill­side, imag­in­ing one of the most iconic ads in tele­vi­sion his­tory.

What’s left of the flawed pro­tag­o­nist of “Mad Men” has now gone to Texas.

Show creator Matthew Weiner and pro­duc­tion com­pany Lion­s­gate have do­nated the “Mad Men” archive — in­clud­ing scripts, drafts, notes, props, cos­tumes, dig­i­tal video and reams of re­search ma­te­ri­als that went into cre­at­ing the show’s richly de­tailed pre­sen­ta­tion of the Amer­i­can 1960s — to the Univer­sity of Texas’ Harry Ransom Cen­ter hu­man­i­ties li­brary.

Weiner, who also wrote and di­rected many episodes, said he do­nated the archive to the Ransom Cen­ter be­cause he couldn’t stand the thought of the ma­te­rial being dis­persed at auc­tion or lost for­ever.

“There is a record here of mid-cen­tury Amer­ica that digs so deep,” Weiner said. “It would have been sad to let that go.”

The do­na­tion was sched­uled to be an­nounced Thurs­day.

Weiner chose the Ransom Cen­ter as the rest­ing place for a show about Madi­son Av­enue ad­ver­tis­ing pro­fes­sion­als al­most by chance. He was in Austin to at­tend a film fes­ti­val when a visit to the Ransom Cen­ter’s “Gone With the Wind” ex­hibit in­spired him to do­nate the “Mad Men” archive for preser­va­tion and re­search.

The “Mad Men” col­lec­tion from its 2007-2015 run star­ring Jon Hamm and Elis­a­beth Moss in­cludes a se­lec­tion of cos­tumes and props. They in­clude Draper’s terms of re-em­ploy­ment let­ter (metic­u­lously typed in a size of font typ­i­cal of the time), Betty Draper’s med­i­cal file, ad­ver­tis­ing poster boards, rolodexes full of phone num­bers, and even a fic­ti­tious “Star Trek” episode that one of the show’s char­ac­ters had hoped to get pro­duced.

Boxes of re­search ma­te­ri­als show how deeply show writ­ers dug to pre­serve an au­then­tic feel, even be­fore the first episode was aired. “Look books” of pe­riod fash­ion and style were laid out for each char­ac­ter, home and of­fice de­sign, with de­tails from the av­er­age kitchen toaster to recre­at­ing a check­book or men’s suits. Mag­a­zines of the times were scoured to re­search the news and lan­guage of the era, such as when the word “groovy” would first be used

“We would take things from the Sears cat­a­log, not just the cover of Vogue,” Weiner said.

Kevin Beggs, Lion­s­gate tele­vi­sion group chair­man, said “Mad Men” is more than a great show. “It is part of Amer­i­can tele­vi­sion his­tory, a ground-break­ing clas­sic wor­thy of the schol­arly re­search the Ransom Cen­ter sup­ports.”

If the col­lec­tion holds any se­crets about the char­ac­ters or sto­ries, Weiner said they re­side in the rough drafts, rewrites, screen tests and Weiner’s own notes that show how episodes or sea­sons evolved be­fore they aired.

“It of­ten didn’t start the way it came out. You will get to see the ori­gin of ev­ery­thing, from what a char­ac­ter was sup­posed to be like, to how a story was orig­i­nally sup­posed to work. It’s all there,” Weiner said.

Weiner’s per­sonal notes also re­veal pro­duc­tion bat­tles, such as his years­long ef­forts to be al­lowed to use Bea­tles mu­sic in the show, or archive news footage of CBS news an­chor Wal­ter Cronkite cov­er­ing the 1969 moon land­ing.

“My ar­gu­ment was, my show is fake un­til I get a Bea­tles song in there,” Weiner said.

Steve Wilson, the Ransom Cen­ter’s film cu­ra­tor, said it will take about a year to cat­a­log the en­tire col­lec­tion. Some pieces will be put on dis­play and the col­lec­tion will be avail­able to re­searchers and the univer­sity’s ra­dio, tele­vi­sion and film stu­dents.

Weiner wants the stu­dents and re­searchers to see all the work be­hind the show, in­clud­ing the burps and mis­steps that went into craft­ing the fi­nal prod­uct.

“Artists have tra­di­tion­ally hid­den the long road of mis­takes,” Weiner said. “When you see a fin­ished work, it can be in­tim­i­dat­ing. Show­ing all the brush strokes hope­fully is very en­cour­ag­ing to peo­ple.”


In this Mon­day photo, do­nated props from the show “Mad Men” are seen on dis­play at the Univer­sity of Texas’ Harry Ransom Cen­ter hu­man­i­ties li­brary in Austin, Texas. In­cluded in the do­na­tion are boxes of scripts, drafts and notes, props, cos­tumes, dig­i­tal video and reams of re­search ma­te­ri­als that went into cre­at­ing the show’s richly-de­tailed pre­sen­ta­tion of the Amer­i­can 1960s.

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