In the movie Howl, Jon Hamm brings all of Don Draper’s cunning and charisma in defense of Allen Ginsberg’s epic masterpiece and free speech itself
What if Don Draper used his powers for good? Even if we don’t find out between now and Mad Men’s final episode, we get a taste of that fantasy in the movie Howl, starring James Franco as poet Allen Ginsberg and Jon Hamm as Jake Ehrlich, the attorney who defended Ginsberg’s epic poem against obscenity charges in 1957. The story is true, and while the dialogue in this scene—Ehrlich’s closing argument—sounds like Matthew Weiner’s best scripting, it was actually lifted from the original court transcripts. What we’re left with is Jon Hamm embodying Don Draper from an alternate universe: a serious and seductive pitchman for America’s First Amendment instead of its last dollar.
If you’re not familiar with Howl, an incalculably important and influential piece of modern American literature, you can hear Ginsberg read it here. By the poem’s end, you’ll understand why the 50th anniversary of Howl was just celebrated with a tribute show that saw everyone from Amy Poehler and Will Forte to Courtney Love and Nick Cave coming together to honor Ginsberg’s work in suitably surreal and sublime ways.