True confession: I’m a sucker for any movie with Sandra Dee in an A-line dress. I’m also a sucker for melodramatic movies of the 1950’s, the type that would have been playing at a drive-in movie theater. This week’s Cinema Sips pick, A Summer Place (DVD) fulfills both criteria. I must have caught this movie on AMC back in high school (when they actually showed classic films) and from the moment I laid eyes on Sandra Dee and Troy Donahue as two star-crossed teenage lovers, I was hooked. Throw in cardigan sweaters and preppy boat shoes, and well, we may as well just call this a perfect movie.
A Summer Place is about two teens who find themselves together on an exclusive New England resort called Pine Island for the summer. Troy Donahue plays the son of the innkeeper, and Sandra Dee is the daughter of a family that comes to stay. As it turns out, Sandra Dee’s father (played by Richard Egan) used to be involved with Troy Donahue’s mother (played by Dorothy McGuire) when he was the lifeguard there as a teenager, and even though each married other people, they never forgot each other. As you can guess, romance rekindles between the parents as it blossoms among their children. The writers of this film’s script make the ensuing adultery pretty convenient, since she’s married to an alcoholic and he’s married to a racist. OF COURSE they’d have affairs. Admittedly, it’s a soap opera, complete with wonderfully melodramatic music, kooky supporting characters, and hysterical overacting. But the scenes of ocean waves crashing against craggily rocks, afternoon sailing, and a cocktail hour where everyone dresses up make me swoon. It’s what summer should be.
This film was an easy choice for Cinema Sips because it features some great drunk scene-stealing by actor Arthur Kennedy. He tells it like it is, even when “it” happens to be that his wife is sleeping with her former lover again. He’s an alcoholic for sure, but a dignified alcoholic. None of those bar fights or crying meltdowns that movie alcoholics are traditionally known for. So in his honor, I’m mixing up a great standby WASPy summer drink- a Pine Island Gin & Tonic.
Pine Island Gin & Tonic
1.5 oz Bombay Sapphire Gin
3 oz Fever Tree tonic water
Sprig of Rosemary for garnish
Build ingredients in a tumbler full of ice. Squeeze a bit of the lime juice into the glass, stir, and garnish with rosemary and lime wedge.
I’m adding a sprig of rosemary to this because it mirrors the pine trees surrounding the inn. And it fancies up a drink that, admittedly, is pretty simple. But in summertime, when it’s hot out, this is the drink that I make more often than anything else. It’s easy, delicious, and really hits the spot. Be sure to use quality ingredients though, because when you’ve got a simple drink, it’s abundantly clear when you’ve skimped on alcohol quality. In that vein, I urge you to never EVER use diet tonic water because it tastes absolutely terrible. Gin is a diuretic anyway, so really, you’re not doing yourself that many favors with the diet tonic. I like to fix one of these and imagine I’m sitting at Richard Egan’s Frank Lloyd Wright-designed home bar, as I listen to the ocean waves crashing and watch Troy Donahue stroll down the beach in his short shorts and cardigan sweater. Très jolie, as the French would say. Très, très jolie. Cheers!