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Calamity Jane

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Image credit: Calamity Jane, 1953

Historians may want to take a pass this week as we watch the rollicking Technicolor musical Calamity Jane (Disc/Download), which bears little resemblance to the actual life of Wild West legend Martha Jane Cannary. Nevertheless, what the movie lacks in accuracy, it makes up for in pure Doris Day charm. I don’t usually love Westerns, but when it’s Doris in a fringed suede jacket and a cute ponytail, how can I resist?

Starring Doris as Calamity Jane and baritone-voiced dreamboat Howard Keel as her friend-to-lover Wild Bill Hickok, this movie is one of the more unusual musicals I’ve seen. Somehow, it manages to be progressive and offensive at the same time, and I don’t know whether to sigh over the tired Native American stereotypes, or cheer over the delightful scene where Calamity moves in with her gal pal Katie and they fix up a cottage together. Then there’s the unexpectedly brilliant drag performance by Dick Wesson (the rural booking agent thought Francis Fryer was a woman’s name, and well, the show must go on…), plus Doris in pants, and damned if this movie doesn’t flip those gender stereotypes in the best way. As with most Doris Day movies, the thing I love is that she plays a confident, capable woman who doesn’t need a man to complete her life. She’d be fine without one, but it sure is nice when Wild Bill realizes what’s been right in front of him the whole time.

In crafting a cocktail for this film, I took inspiration from both the movie, and my local liquor store. Calamity Gin is a Texas spirit just begging to be sipped during this film, but one can’t discount the way Calamity rolls up to the bar to order a “Sarsaparill-ie”. It’s adorable. Let’s combine the two with this Calamity Collins.

Calamity Collins

1 ½ oz Calamity Gin

¾ oz Lemon Juice

¾ oz Sarsaparilla Syrup (simmer Sarsaparilla soda over heat until reduced by half)

6 oz Indian Tonic Water

Combine gin, lemon juice, and sarsaparilla syrup in a shaker with ice. Shake until chilled, then strain into a Collins glass filled with ice. Top with tonic water, and stir gently to combine.

One Life to Live fans will probably scream, as I did, over the appearance of a young Phil Carey (Asa Buchanan) as the Army lieutenant Calamity is crushing on at the start of the movie. He’s great, but he can’t hold a candle to Wild Bill. Eventually, Calamity realizes this, and the two trigger-happy legends ride off into the sunset together. Still, I can’t help but wish her “secret love” had been… someone else. Calam and Katie shacked up in their cute little cottage with their plaid shirts and wood pile? Now that’s the happy ending I want to see. Cheers!

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