WhileThe Hudsucker Proxy is not one of the Coen brothers’ most lauded films, but I have always though of it as an amazing movie about the unlikely sources of innovation. It wasn’t until I read about Richard Knerr’s death that I realized the affiliation the movie has with Knerr’s real life, namely the invention of the Hula Hoop, Frisbee, and other circular toys of mass appeal. In fact, the Hula Hoop suffered similar ups faced in the Hudsucker Proxy:
In the first year, Wham-O sold as many as 40 million hoops; by 1960, 100 million, a mark no other toy had ever reached. After too many households had two or three of the hoops, the fad evaporated, leaving Wham-O marooned on a mountain of tubular plastic. Total profit: only $10,000, a result of business inexperience and millions of unsold hoops.
Richard Knerr was certainly an unlikely source of innovation, and I am positive that the world never saw the Frisbee or Hula Hoop coming. I think the Hula Hoop discovery scene is a great interpretation of the process of diffusion, and a fitting homage to Mr. Knerr’s amazing inventions: