The consuming of liquor has been a catalyst in Classic Hollywood since they were known as the “flickers.” The liquid has brought about the downfall of many a film character both on screen and off. I am writing this post in the TCM Club lounge during the 2015 Classic film festival with a proper glass of amber liquid before me, pondering how the act of drink has been portrayed.
There are clips running on large screen of W. C. Fields stealing a nip from a flask. You have Henry Fonda pouring a shot for Victor Mature, Tyrone Power slamming down gin from NIGHTMARE ALLEY, and James Dean drinking from a bottle of milk from REBEL WITHOUT A CAUSE because both he and his character did not touch alcohol.
Booze has been the great trigger for stories of the gangster from silent film to today. Without drink you would not have the “hood” that rises to the top during prohibition. No Cagney, no Raft, no Muni, no Eddie G. laying on the pavement clutching his chest exclaiming, “Is this the end of Rico?” in LITTLE CAESAR.
Where would Rick’s Place in CASABLANCA (1942) be without drink. Ray Milland would not have had been on THE LOST WEEKEND (1945).
Jack Lemon and Lee Remick would not have experienced THE DAYS OF WINE AND ROSES (1962). Lee Marvin’s character Kid Shellen in CAT BALLOU (1965) would not have been as interesting. Miriam would not have lost her mountain bar in the fire during the drinking contest in RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK (1981). Where would James Bond be without his knowledge of wines and Scotch whiskey? Where would Nick, Nora and Asta (their dog) of the THIN MAN series be without potent potables? The list goes on and on with the same conclusion of not being as fun to watch. Society is against drinking to excess yet we do enjoy watching the train wreck of alcohol and people.
Actors on screen- whether we like it or not- have taught us how to drink. Some watch the elegance of David Niven, Franchot Tone, William Powell, Clifton, Webb . Women get their due with Joan Crawford in RAIN (1932) , Susan Hayward in SMASH UP THE STORY OF A WOMAN (1947) plus Anne Dvorak in THREE ON A MATCH (1932).
Women have been portrayed as fallen or evil when booze is involved which is a double standard; witness Dvorak’s portrayal of the doomed Vivian Revere. Women who drink and are not “good mothers” will suffer consequences from the Law or by God.
You see people at the TCM FILM FESTIVAL dressing the part of Hollywood Glamour which adds a nice touch to things.
Yes, the materials to do this have changed, fabrics have changed, and knowledge to do this has changed. Some has been lost or adapted to today’s audience. Why try and recapture something as elusive as Hollywood Glamour when it means different things to different people? You can see it in different looks at the Academy Awards red carpet. We should move forward towards our own images of glamour be it in nightlife, eatery or stepping out in clothes. The classic clothes or look, the drinks, the manners, are sometimes neglected by people of both sexes as it’s not a thing to do. The audiences, the public is different now and so is society.
The Legendary watering holes of old Hollywood are gone replaced by newer places that seem slightly disposable or cookie cutter in approach. A club or an Eatery is just bricks, or in some cases prefab bits of wood it is the atmosphere and more importantly the people that make it different or unique. This not a lament for the old days more a “Things have changed” and that’s ok as well.
Fun the remember that there was grand nightlife in the town of Hollywood then.