BOURBON AND FILM


Humphrey Bogart once said that the problem with the world is that it is always “a  few drinks behind”.

Vice has been an admirable subject of film.   We all pay to see a downfall or a redemption of some style.   Today that has changed for obvious shadowy reasons for the better. There are many destructive cases as we all know from Rosco “Fatty” Arbuckle trials of which he was acquitted yet the ‘taint” destroyed his career.

 

 

It is odd that a feeling can destroy a  film actors career yet certain politicians can have their ‘indiscretions’  even when  publicly stated be glossed  over.   One would think emphasis should be  on the  person in a responsible position not something as perhaps inconsequential as a  film actor.

The studios has  their ‘Fixers’ in the person of  Eddie Mannix and company perhaps there are others in motion today?  Countless  events  covered  up from Stars to contract players going to hospitals or  ‘away” due to exhaustion.

 

Actor Lionel Atwill known as ‘Pinky’ to his friends took the blame as a  ‘gentleman” for an event at one of his parties so a  ‘Well known’ persons would not be implicated.  The result was  a destroyed career very likely the admiration of the  film Colony.

I do enjoy the ‘amber liquid’ in a proper glass often when viewing film at home.  It sets the tone often as  I slip into the world of Film Noir or other picture.  The consuming of liquor has been a catalyst in Classic Hollywood since they were known as the “flickers.”  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.  The  ‘color’ booze  gives Bogart’s character of  Charlie Alnutt  in  THE AFRICAN QUEEN

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.  Clark Gable’s legendary appetite  for whiskey  took away  some of  the inner pain

 

 

Actors on screen- whether we like it or not- have taught us how to drink. Some watch the elegance of John Barrymore,  Errol Flynn, 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.

 

Just pick a year if you are lucky enough to  attend and 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 okay.

Order your poison well if you care to.

 

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