The Scene Behind the Scenes

In its enigmatic flashback to the tumultuous 1960s, Mad Men has sparked both a deep reflection on American social change and an emergent cult of modernist designer cool. As the AMC series launches its seventh and final season on April 13, TIME television critic James Poniewozik and photographer Alex Majoli visited the set with the show’s creators, stars and production crew. As the photos in this video show, the entertainers who embody the decade so completely are in fact thoroughly contemporary, checking their cellphones and cracking each other up, even as they recreate an era fraught with tension, social upheaval and the unsettling whorl of personal reinvention that is Don Draper. (Read the full story here.)

 

Pitch-Perfect Props

It’s not just the exquisitely crafted characters that make Mad Men such a convincing portrayal of the ’60s; it’s also the obsessively curated sets, wardrobes and period-perfect ephemera assembled by the show’s set dressers, art directors and costumers. Key figures in this off-screen collection of artisans told TIME about their favorite props, outfits and scenery—from Betty Draper’s wallet to Pete Campbell’s phone book —how they found or created them, and what they say about the show, the era and the characters associated with them.

 

The Mad, Mad, Mad World of TIME & LIFE

TIME played its own part in the development of the Mad Men aesthetic. The show’s designers paid a visit to the archives of TIME and LIFE to see how our offices at 1271 Avenue of the Americas, first occupied by the magazines in 1959, embodied the burgeoning era of sleek, space-age design. The fictional Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce, soon to be renamed Sterling Cooper & Partners, took over the 37th floor sometime in 1964. These images, first published on TIME.com before season 6, show a crisp, almost too-perfect vision of what a corporate headquarters could be. If you wish your offices looked this cool, so do we!

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