Cohort Classic: 1974 Mercury Marquis Brougham – The Costume Makes The Character

A thousand thanks go to Dean Edwards for posting this Mercury Marquis to the Cohort.  Having had a literal seven year itch to find a 1974 Mercury Marquis, seeing this was pretty exciting and the next best thing to an actual discovery.

After finding Dean’s pictures, the question of “what now?” immediately sprang to mind.  As CC’s appointed Chief Mercury Fanboy and Apologist™, I’ve written up every full-sized Mercury that has crossed my path, with three dives into the 1963 models alone.  There are only so many ways to write about a Mercury.  To be transparent, I had written a fictitious tongue-in-cheek chain of correspondence essay but I’m not running that one.

Been there, done that, not doing it again.  At least for a while.

Soon thereafter I watched some old movies and a realization of sorts occurred to me regarding my weird (and satirical?) infatuation with Mercury….

It all started with silent film star Buster Keaton.  Having watched several Keaton films the last few months (The General is a particularly good one, filmed in Cottage Grove, Oregon, near Eugene), Keaton often played a variation of the same basic love-sick, caught in weird predicaments, character.  He also performed phenomenal physical stunts.  It was Keaton’s appearance on a 1950s television show that created my realization – or it at least drew a parallel.

That was when Keaton appeared on Ed Wynn’s television show.  Wynn, known earlier in his career for his “Perfect Fool” character, was known only for comedy at that time, having started in vaudeville in the early 20th Century.  While Wynn had realized respectable success in movies and the very early days of television, by the early to mid-1950s his career was pretty one-noted and in obvious decline.

At the urging of various persons, including his dramatic actor son Keenan, in 1956 Wynn portrayed Army in the Rod Serling penned production of Requiem for a Heavyweight on CBS’s Playhouse 90.  This production was aired live, so any error was witnessed by millions.  The senior Wynn, who had been a comedian for over fifty years, struggled during rehearsals by delivering lines in a grossly inappropriate fashion and was nearly terminated from the production.  This was Wynn’s first dramatic role.

The night of the broadcast, Wynn’s performance was excellent.  Nuanced, emotional, and raw, Wynn amazed everyone with his ability to so successfully perform a dramatic part.  The tumult involved in that production was later captured and recreated in The Man In The Funny Hat which aired on CBS in 1961.  Wynn played himself, chronicling the torment he had in changing his acting technique and the process he undertook to successfully mold himself into the role.

Both Requiem for a Heavyweight and The Man In The Funny Hat can be found on YouTube.

Incidentally, Wynn would also play in the 1959 cinematic adaptation of The Diary of Anne Frank with his performance being nominated for an Academy Award.  By the time Wynn died in 1966 he had compiled a generous number of dramatic roles in addition to his ongoing comedic roles.  He discovered his profound adaptability late in life.

Believe it or not, this adaptability ties into our featured Marquis.

In one of my prior Mercury pieces I expressed my epiphany of Mercury being mercury, that ever so malleable metal that contorts itself to fulfill the role it is being called upon to perform.  If Mercury had been anymore mercury-like, it would have had a model called Hg….perhaps if Mercury were sold in Australia there would have been.

Of course Mercury was simply a dressed up Ford for much of its tortured existence and such was the case in 1974.  The side profiles are highly similar and the greenhouse along with many interior bits are identical.  The wheelbase was longer on the Mercury and it came with larger displacement V8s as standard fare, with the legendary 460 being the standard engine in the Marquis Brougham.  But how these are made up truly tells the story.

Our featured car is painted a color I’m speculating to be “saddle bronze”.  Maybe it’s “ginger” as it has likely faded somewhat over the last forty-six years.  Either way, the 1974 Marquis is a car in which its personality changes a lot depending upon color – think of it as the actor’s costume.

Naturally all of these Mercurys have the same physical attributes.  The appearance of the front end, particularly the quasi-columns in the grille, put me in mind of the Parthenon.  Strong, stout, and uncompromisingly durable, did the Parthenon not inspire Mercury’s designers to some degree?

Let’s not dwell on the Greek Parthenon inspiring a car named after a Roman god.

In this particular color, our featured Mercury comes across as what a socially upstanding and financially prudent southern gentleman might be driving in the late 1970s or early 1980s.  It was in 1980 one such gentleman left his home in Hahira, Georgia and attended the forty-third annual convention of the Grand Mystic Royal Order of the Nobles of the Ali Baba Temple of the Shrine.

Can’t you just picture this delightful Mercury blasting south on I-75 from Hahira toward sunny Florida?  The gentleman was no doubt quite happy and joyful to have all 460 cubic inches of Mercury V8 pulling him in tomb-quiet, ice cube dribbling air-conditioned comfort, with the interior air stream gently blowing the tassel of his fez, the swirl of smoke from his unfiltered Camel cigarette wafting throughout the interior.

A Mercury is how one goes to such a convention.  Not too plain, not too fancy.  A little bit of Lincoln and a little bit of Ford mixed into something ultra tasty and as satisfying as sweet tea.

But a mere change in paint pigments can totally change the persona of this Mercury, not unlike the costume can completely change an actor.  This Mercury has so many wonderful facets.

As an aside, I included this on purpose as Ray Stevens could be considered the Ed Wynn of country / novelty music, able to easily shift between irreverent and serious.  More to the point, I stumbled across this song about the time I found Dean’s Mercury.  A connection between the song’s character and this Mercury simply happened and I cannot unsee it.

A red Marquis is nearly unmatched in being photogenic, as were all Marquis.  There isn’t a bad angle on this girl, particularly with the 1974 models having unique front and rear treatments, with 1974 also being the last year for a four-door hardtop.

In this particular commercial a nice looking female model is applying eye makeup while riding in the rear of a Marquis undergoing a torture test.  Ford missed the opportunity of her applying red lipstick to match the Mercury.  I suppose the possibility of her shoving an eye-liner pencil into her cornea was more suspenseful.

Mercury’s commercials had evolved over time.  For 1971 and 1972 they were using the backseat for cutting diamonds and shaving people.  For 1973 it seems 122 out of 150 people preferred the ride of a Mercury over that of a Mercedes limousine.

Saturday Night Live performed a circumcision in the back of a Mercury, but they goofed and used a mid-size Montego, killing all credibility.

While the ’73 model was similar in the rear, it was more vertical while the ’74 was angled.  Somewhere I read the tail lights, while similar, are not the same; perhaps somebody reading will know.  The outboard segment has a slight curve from the interior segments whereas the ’73 tail light appears flat all the way across.  The 1974 really demonstrated its inescapable photogenic talents when on film.

Now imagine this Mercury painted in black.  It would present a completely no-nonsense, almost law-and-order vibe, would it not?

Just think about it….picture it in some exotic locale, with lots of ocean and palm trees, a place with a distinct international flavor, the Mercury being used to track down and capture all manner of nefarious criminals.

There is nothing like the beautiful cocktail of sand, surf, and Mercury.

Not just anybody could successfully manage the badassedness that is a black 1974 Mercury Marquis.  It has to be the right person, the square-jawed all business type with good hair.  The kind of guy who would revel in the thrill of pursuit, who would ultimately corner or outwit his foe, then having his flunkies book ’em.  Roll all this together with a killer theme song and it would make for a fantastic television show.

Seeing a black Mercury being the major tool in all this swashbuckling action would be breathtakingly awesome.

Much like Mercury itself.

It’s no secret the full-sized Mercury (the smaller sedans seem sarcastic) has been a perpetual subject of my adoration.  While I have concluded Mercury itself was molded in the form of liquid mercury, all this talk of actors, conventions, make-up, and tropical islands have prompted a lot of self-reflection.

Yes, I’ll admit it…these Marquis had a lot of gingerbread on them.  While I’m not a devotee to such things, they are what they are.  But it all comes down to Mercury, to me at least, never coming across as being pretentious.  Other brands did; Mercury did not.  That’s their true appeal to me.

I’m a fairly unpretentious person; I enjoy drinking from Mason jars, I’ve used a chainsaw inside my house, and I periodically wash my hair in the kitchen sink.  Yet I can also clean up well and conduct myself appropriately in social gatherings.  So, in a sense, that is like a Mercury – it’s not bothered with plainer behavior and it isn’t a stranger to upscale events.  Like Ed Wynn, a full-size Mercury can easily tackle some very diverse situations.  That takes true talent.

I have no qualms in broadcasting my affinity for Mercury in the full quadrasonic sound of stereo.  That’s no hot air.  I cannot put the brakes on my Mercury passion, something I cannot clock out from having.  While some may tune me out, those who mirror my passion know who they are.  A big Mercury simply lights our fire.

Yet I also realize Mercury is now long gone.  That’s too bad.  But like old movies and television shows, Mercurys are still around and we would be negligent to not enjoy them.


More from the Mercury well of goodness:

1940 Mercury Eight convertible

1957 Mercury Montclair

1963 Mercury Marauder

1963 Mercury Marauder S-55 convertible

1963 Mercury Colony Park

1968 Mercury police car

1969 Mercury Monterey Drive Report

1971 Mercury Monterey

1972 Mercury Marquis

1976 Mercury Marquis