The 1960s were an interesting time for the subject of sex workers in cinema. The words ‘party girl’, ‘call girl’, and sometimes even ‘model wink-wink’, got thrown around, leaving modern audiences to decipher what was really going on when Holly Golightly received $50 for the powder room, or when Liz Taylor had that mysterious answering service in this week’s film BUtterfield 8 (Disc/Download). Was there a grey area when it came to sex work vs. relationships? According to the tragically wild Gloria Wandrous, the answer is yes.
Earning Elizabeth Taylor her first academy award, BUtterfield 8 is the story of a promiscuous Manhattan “party girl” who falls in love with a feckless married man. The story opens with Gloria waking in his apartment to find $250 on the nightstand, but instead of taking the money, she scrawls “no sale” on his mirror in pink lipstick, steals his wife’s mink coat, and walks out with a bottle of scotch. I love her instantly. Taylor brings such depth to the role, forcing the audience to empathize with this woman who seems strong and confident on the outside, but inside is struggling with the trauma of childhood sexual abuse and the fear that she’ll never be loved. She has some chaste scenes with real life husband-of-the-moment Eddie Fisher, but ultimately can’t move on from rich lover Weston (played by Ewan McGregor look-a-like Laurence Harvey). There are moments where you think maybe, just maybe, this will turn into a Pretty Woman situation, where he’ll rescue Gloria and she’ll rescue him right back, but fair warning: BUtterfield 8 is no fairy tale.
There’s a lot of booze in this movie, but one of my favorite lines is when Elizabeth Taylor claims she was “soaked through with gin.” Been there, doll. While watching BUtterfield 8, pour yourself this gin-based Honey Trap cocktail.
2 oz Gin
1 oz Lime Juice
¾ oz Honey syrup (3tbsp honey + 1 tbsp water)
In a saucepan over medium heat, combine honey and water. Once it’s just barely boiling, remove from heat and let cool. In a shaker with ice, combine gin, lime juice, and honey syrup. Shake until chilled, then strain into a coupe glass. Garnish with a twist of lime.
In a weird way, this film feels almost Hitchcockian. Like Gloria is a mystery we’re trying to unravel within this world of dim lighting, stylish sets, and lush orchestral scores. Is she a prostitute, or just a girl who got her heart broken one too many times? And does it even matter? You be the judge. Cheers!