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The Mating Game

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Image credit MGM, The Mating Game, 1959

Image credit MGM, The Mating Game, 1959

I’m reaching back into the vault this week to highlight a little movie I happened to catch on Turner Classic Movies a few years ago, which has since become one of my favorites. It’s a tradition in my house to watch this during tax season, preferably after completing one’s taxes, with a strong cocktail (because nothing makes me want to drink more than itemizing deductions). This week’s Cinema Sips movie is The Mating Game (DVD), a 1959 comedy starring the adorable Debbie Reynolds and Tony Randall at his geeky, persnickety best. You may be thinking, “How is a movie about taxes funny?” Well, trust me, this one is.

The Mating Game tells the story of the Larkins, a family of rural Maryland farmers. Pop Larkin makes his living as a trader/barterer (physical money rarely exchanges hands). Whatever object he needs, he just trades another one for it. Now, it isn’t expressly stated how this family pays for ordinary things like the electric or phone bill, but as for the rest of their belongings, it’s a pretty great way to operate. Of course since they make no actual money, they don’t file an income tax return, and eventually the government comes calling. The IRS sends Tony Randall to investigate, he falls for the eldest daughter played by Debbie Reynolds, and the rest is history. The Mating Game was actually the final film featuring Paul Douglas, who plays the lead role of Sidney “Pop” Larkin, and who sadly died of a heart attack the same year the film premiered. He is absolutely terrific in the role, and it’s unfortunate to think of the parts we never got to see him play.

My drink this week is inspired by the nauseating cocktail creation the Larkin family plies Tony Randall with in an effort to keep him on the farm and helpless against their daughter’s charms. Their beverage had a hefty dose of moonshine, and I promise mine is a lot more drinkable. Still, it’s big, it’s boozy, and it’s the perfect way to unwind after doing your income taxes. While watching The Mating Game, I recommend drinking a Smirking Hyena.

Smirking Hyena

1 3/4 oz Bourbon

3/4 oz Sweet Vermouth

3/4 oz Cointreau

2 dashes Angostura Bitters

1/2 oz fresh lime juice

1 sprig of mint

Combine the liquid ingredients in a shaker filled with ice. Shake until chilled, then strain into a rocks glass with fresh ice. Garnish with mint.

Smirking Hyena


Let it be known that I’m madly in love with the Larkin family’s greek key-trimmed living room bar, and the vintage glassware makes me swoon. It’s easy to see how Tony Randall got suckered into drinking such a mess of a cocktail in the film- how to say no to the genial, larger-than-life Paul Douglas? Hopefully, you’ll be a little more sensible with your imbibing and your family won’t find you passed out on a pool table come morning. But, if your taxes are as labor-intensive as mine, who could blame you? So tally up your figures, sign your forms, and end the day on a high note with The Mating Game and a strong drink. Cheers!


4 responses »

  1. Timely. Love the glass in the grass. And, the name of that drink is perfect.


    I love this movie. But I can’t figure out what it is Tony Randall calls Debbie Reynolds when they’re in the back room of the barn. “You know what’s wrong with you? You’re…” you’re what??? I can’t make out the word


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