9/24/09

Red Cadillac - Life magazine. 2/16/1962

Observe the red Cadillac. Man, I don't even like American cars and this one almost sells me.
I think this is what people in the ad biz call the "soft sell". The ad hardly says anything because at the time they didn't have to . In 1962, Cadillac was already The Shit. Back in the sixties, it was far more common to use a painting to sell a product... probably because a painting could be more easily idealized at that time.

This ad shows Mr and Mrs You in their perfect fantasy life, where gasoline falls from the sky like rain and all you need to do is open the filler door and all the happy little raindrops jump into the tank to help you make your day better and better. The fact that this was a fantasy living on borrowed time only makes the image sweeter: just enough gate and hedge to imply an arrival at a glamorous cotillion or ritual beheading (judging by the blood red color scheme).

There's a tricky dichotomy going on here. The improbably happy couple is painted sort of dreamily: their legs start to fade away toward the ground. The car is rendered laser sharp and orgasmically shinily. One would expect the humans to be dreaming of the car, but it kind of looks like the car is daydreaming about what kind of waspy, wonder-bread couple it would love to have as it's owners. Maybe this is where the reader is expected to fill in the blank by shouting "Me! Me! I'll be your fashionably square owner, red caddy!"

Nothing could be more slablike or straight than this car. The delirious age of ridiculous swoopy fins and byzantine chrome bumpers that looked more congealed than designed was over. Irrational bulbous excess had given way to a (comparatively) sleek and minimalist design aesthetic that makes me go "Ooo!" and not "Eew!".

Even though cars were less crazy than they had been in the fifties, this car is still longer than my house. This was a car you could plausibly live in without it being a sad social commentary. Sleep on the rear seat. Dinner on the dash, with room for four guests. Mow the roof on weekends. "Oh, honey, I wore the wrong color suit to the Fordenbergenwallace's seance. I need to change! I'll just step into the trunk and choose a different tweed." Wife makes that "That's my husband." face and fixes herself a few martinis and has a nap in the glove box atrium. Actually, my car could nearly fit in the trunk of this car. The rear overhang is about equal to the wheelbase of my VW. Emphasizing the length of the car is the fact that there is no B pillar. The roof is supported at all four corners and that's all. The roof line is uninterrupted from the windshield to the backlight. That makes it harder to reinforce the passenger compartment against rollovers, but a car wide enough to seat six people abreast isn't likely to flip over is it? Actually, maybe! A 4400 pound car on a suspension made of pudding will wallow like a pig around the gentlest of corners. That's good, because it makes the car seem faster than it is. The 325 HP V8only got this oaf to 60 miles per hour in ten seconds, so to feel as though you got your money's worth it helped if you thought your life is in danger when going round corners. Made it seem exciting and stuff. Strangely, at the same time, Lincoln Continentals were doing the same no-b-pillar thing, but they went one better by putting suicide doors on the car. This is where the rear doors open backwards, so that the whole side of the car opened like french patio doors. The car in The Matrix that Trinity and company use to pick up Neo is one of these. It's slightly cooler than a caddy because of the suicide doors. Ask anyone.

I don't think I want to own one of these cars, but I love this picture. It makes me a little sad that photographs have taken so much work from so many good artists.

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