Feb. 18, 1919-May 24, 2013
Portola Valley, California
Maxwell Arnold, a 50-year resident of Portola Valley and an award-winning writer and producer of political, social cause, and commercial advertising, died May 24 at Stanford Hospital after a brief illness. He was 94.
One of the original Mad Men, ?Bud? Arnold began his half-century-long career in the early 1950s, joining San Francisco?s Guild, Bascom and Bonfigli as a copywriter and eventually becoming a vice president and creative director. The West Coast agency helped lead the move away from traditional ads solemnly praising the product, and Arnold?s work was especially noted for its irreverent wit, clever story lines, and striking visuals. Arnold also became known as an expert in the growing field of political advertising and headed the creative team that produced GB&B?s groundbreaking ads for John F. Kennedy?s 1960 presidential campaign. The enormous impact these had on future political commercials was perhaps the most singular achievement of his long career. His papers on the campaign can be accessed at the Stanford University library.
In 1965, GB&B merged with Madison Avenue?s Dancer Fitzgerald Sample, and Mr. Arnold became vice president and creative director in charge of DFS?s West Coast operations. In 1970 he left DFS to open the Maxwell Arnold Agency, with a mission statement dedicating 20 percent of the agency?s time, talent, and resources to fighting war, racism, waste, and poverty. His new agency?s pro bono productions included two of the most famous anti?Vietnam War ads, ?Our President was Angry, So the Bach Mai Hospital in Hanoi was Destroyed? (print) and ?Mother Bombs? (television). He helped beat Big Oil with his ads for California?s Proposition 20, the Coastal Zone Preservation Act, and did pro bono work for Ralph Nader?s consumer action movement and Cesar Chavez?s United Farm Workers, among many others. His efforts for social justice earned him a lifetime achievement award from the NAACP.
He also ran campaigns for progressive candidates for national and California state offices, notably U.S. Representative Pete McCloskey, in McCloskey?s original bid for Congress in 1967?he beat Shirley Temple Black in an upset?and his presidential primary challenge of Richard Nixon in 1972. In search of a voice-over appropriate to the gritty antiwar, liberal Republican, he decided to skip the professional actors and use his own. His gravelly, Midwestern-inflected tones proved so compelling that soon he was signed up for other agencies? ads, becoming the voice for Bank of the West and Saturn, among others. For several years Macy?s broadcast his reading of ?The Night Before Christmas? at their animal adoption displays.
His commercial clients included many local stars: Domaine Chandon, the Clift Hotel, the Embarcadero Center, Golden Gate Transit, and his beloved San Francisco Giants.
His life was as multifaceted as his career. He was born in San Francisco in 1919 but grew up in Minneapolis, back when Minnesota was still the Winnemac of Sinclair Lewis. When he was 15 the family moved to Boston, where he and his brother Richard fell hard for New England, the Red Sox, oysters, and jazz?beginning a lifetime?s collection of classic recordings long before jazz was in mainstream stores by knocking on the doors of private homes, asking startled residents if they had any discs they?d be willing to sell: Jelly Roll, Willie the Lion, Fats.
He matriculated at Stanford University in 1936 but returned to Boston in ?37 to help his father run the family business. In July 1942 he enlisted in the Navy and served in North Africa and the Atlantic. In 1946, he returned to Stanford on the GI Bill and became the student and friend of Wallace Stegner, who invited him and Richard to join the university?s new Creative Writing Center. He graduated in 1948 and the same year was a Bread Loaf Fellow, publishing stories in the Sewanee Review and Harpers that were later reprinted in the annual Stanford Short Stories.
He met his wife, Patricia Maxine Schulman, a gifted artist, on a blind date. They were married for nearly 60 years, until her death in 2007 at 81, and raised three children, Jane A. Halsey of New York, an editor and poet; Caroline Lela Arnold of New York, an author and managing director at Goldman Sachs; and Oliver Maxwell Arnold, a professor of English literature at UC Berkeley. He is survived by his three children and their families; two adoring grandchildren, Helen Sullivan of New York and Daisy Maslan of Berkeley; and his loving nephew, William Arnold of Portola Valley, and William?s wife, Lisa Hall.