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Category Archives: Classic Films

I Married a Witch

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I Married a Witch

Image credit: I Married a Witch, 1942

It’s October so you know what that means- scary movie time!! Except…. not so fast. While I understand that horror films are really entertaining to a lot of people, I’m just not one of those people. I prefer my supernatural/spooky with a side of comedy, maybe some romance. Therefore all month long I’ll be highlighting some wonderful witch movies that bring the laughs, charm, and plenty of love spells.

I first discovered this week’s film I Married a Witch (DVD/Download) while listening to my favorite podcast You Must Remember This. Karina Longworth’s Dead Blondes series included an episode on Veronica Lake, someone I’m ashamed to admit I’d never actually watched. Starting with this 1940’s gem about a witch who comes back to life to torment the ancestors of her Puritan oppressors was the perfect way to remedy that oversight. Veronica Lake is luminous and funny as the glamorous witch Jennifer, who makes the mistake of falling in love with her enemy Wallace Wooley. There’s a touch of Bewitched here, as Wooley grapples with his new wife’s powers, but in the end they realize that love is stronger than witchcraft.

Though Veronica Lake is the vessel for a witch’s soul, that soul also spends a good amount of time as a plume of smoke. Sometimes hanging out in liquor bottles, she and her dad plot their revenge on the Puritans mainly through voiceover. Maybe the smoke is supposed to give the viewers the chills- I’m not sure. But it did inspire this week’s cocktail. While watching I Married a Witch, I recommend drinking a Smoke & Mirrors.

Smoke & Mirrors

1.5 oz blanco tequila

1 oz Del Maguey Vida Mezcal

.5 oz ginger syrup

.5 oz lime juice

Shake all ingredients together over ice, then pour into a rocks glass with one large ice cube.

Smoke and Mirrors

This film may not be scary, but what it lacks in blood and gore it makes up for in supernatural spirit and beguiling magic. Who needs Freddie and Jason and all those other guys when you’ve got cocktails and Veronica Lake? Cheers!

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Auntie Mame

auntie mame

Image credit: Auntie Mame, 1958

For those ladies out there lucky enough to be an aunt, have I got a movie for you. In this 1958 Technicolor dream starring Rosalind Russell, Auntie Mame (DVD/Download) is a shining example of how fabulous life can be when you’ve got cocktails, a man servant named Ito, and an impressionable young relative looking to you for example. Do I strive to be the Auntie Mame in my own nieces’ lives? Showing them that “life is a banquet and most poor suckers are starving to death”? You betcha.

I immediately knew I would love this movie as soon as I saw Rosalind Russell float across an art deco set in a sequined pantsuit, cigarette holder in hand. Her apartment is everything I’ve ever wanted in life, and what makes it even better are all the eccentric artists and intellectuals coming over to visit.  When Mame is forced to take in her orphaned nephew Patrick, you’d think that would put the kibosh on her wacky, wonderful lifestyle, but instead she manages to bring him along for the ride. In no time at all, he’s mixing a perfect martini and posits the question only the best bartenders know to ask- dry or extra dry?

When it comes to cocktail pairings, there is literally SO MUCH ALCOHOL in this movie. Faced with the impossible task of picking just one thing to drink, I decided to take a page from Mame’s book and step right up to the banquet. Therefore, if you’re watching Auntie Mame, you could drink Champagne, you could drink Spiced Rum and Dr. Pepper like poor Agnes Gooch, or one of Mame’s Martini‘s (recipe below). But for heavens sake, stay away from the honey-sweetened Upson Downs Daiquiri.

Mame’s Martini

3 oz Gin

1 oz Vodka

Dash Cocchi Americano

Lemon twist

Stir gin, vodka and Cocchi Americano over ice until chilled, then strain into a chilled martini glass. Garnish with a lemon twist. (note: never use olives- it takes up too much room in the glass!)

Martini

As I cruise through the age of “so when are you going to have kids?”, I’m happy to throw up my Aunt status as proof that while I don’t want kids of my own, I don’t hate kids. My nieces are great! They’re fun, they play Barbies, they like purses, and at the end of the night their parents do all the heavy lifting. And when they get a little older, I’ll be waiting right there to show them how to navigate a bar cart and wear costume jewelry with confidence. Cheers!

Harvey

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harvey

Image credit: Harvey, 1950

The devastating hurricane that pummeled my state over the weekend may have inspired this week’s  film choice, but rest assured, Harvey (DVD/Download) is the cheer-up film we all need right now.  I’m a fan of pretty much every Jimmy Stewart movie, and this is certainly one of the greats. Sure it’s based on a play, but let’s not hold that against it, shall we?

As Elwood P. Dowd, Jimmy Stewart is at the peak of his nice-guy charm as he drinks the day away, talks to his imaginary rabbit friend Harvey, and perplexes his relatives. Is he crazy? Is he drunk? Who cares?? He’s just so darn pleasant that you want to take his calling card and stop by for happy hour with him and Harvey. What is Harvey exactly? A 6’ 3 ½” “pooka” who’s a great friend to all, even if you can’t see him. Personally, I love the idea of an imaginary friend. For one thing, you never have to drink alone!

Throughout the film, Elwood likes to frequent the local bar, yet he never gets sloppy drunk. He’s just hanging out, having a good time, making new friends. We should all aspire to drink like Elwood. Although martinis seem to be his drink of choice, I’m making something special for his rabbit friend this week. While watching Harvey, I recommend drinking a Carrotini.

Carrotini

1 ½ oz gin

¾ oz Cointreau

1 oz carrot juice

½ oz lemon juice

½ oz simple syrup

Combine all ingredients in a shaker filled with ice, and shake until chilled. Strain into a coupe glass and garnish with a lemon twist.

Carrotini

The lesson that I think we can all learn from both Elwood P. Dowd and Harvey is one of kindness. A little charm, and a little understanding can go a long way toward disarming any situation. Plus, if you’re a nice guy, they might not immediately send you to the sanitarium. Cheers!

Peyton Place

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Peyton Place

Image credit: Peyton Place, 1957

I’m a sucker for vintage New England, so naturally this week’s film Peyton Place (DVD/Download) is right up my Episcopalian-and-lobster-roll-alley. Though it would later be turned into a hit TV soap opera, the film adaptation of the Grace Metalious novel is pretty soapy on its own. Teenage sex; adultery; abortion; murder in front of the Christmas tree- pretty scandalous stuff even now, let alone in the 1950s. But what I love about this film (in addition to Lana Turner’s wardrobe) is that it doesn’t feel dated.  Rather, it succeeds in shining a light on social issues we’re still dealing with today.

Set in the sleepy New England town of Peyton Place just before World War II breaks out, the film follows teenage characters as they struggle with the prudish views of their parents. Lana Turner rants about how sex ed shouldn’t be taught in schools, yet she refuses to talk to her own daughter about it at home, thus pushing her away. Cute little Russ Tamblyn plays a Norman Bates-type henpecked boy whose own mother is even worse. Did Hitchcock use Tamblyn’s Norman as inspiration? I have to wonder. The film leaves it to the town doctor and the high school principal to educate the rest of the community on their backwards thinking, and I just want to stand up and cheer anytime these men are onscreen. Finally, someone in this film is using common sense and science to make a compelling argument, societal backlash be damned.

Lana Turner does a brilliant job in her role as a supreme ice queen, causing the men in the town to shy away for fear of “frostbite”. She’s buttoned up, beautiful, and sardonic- a classic film icon if I’ve ever seen one. While watching Peyton Place, celebrate Ms. Turner with an Ice Queen cocktail.

Ice Queen

Cucumber slice

1 1/2 oz light rum

¾ oz lime juice

½ oz simple syrup

1 tsp crème de menthe

2 oz prosecco

Lime twist

Muddle cucumber at the bottom of a cocktail shaker with the rum, lime juice, and simple syrup. Add ice and crème de menthe. Shake until chilled, then strain into a coupe glass. Top with prosecco, and garnish with a lime twist.

Ice Queen

By the end of the film, I’m still marveling to myself that the battles being waged onscreen are still the same ones we’re fighting today. Should sex ed be taught in schools? Should abortion be legal in cases of rape and incest (and any other damn time it’s a bad situation)? Are churches doing a disservice by preaching abstinence-only? The film comes down pretty hard on the left (as do I) but I find it depressing to realize that after 70 years we’re STILL fighting about these things. All I can say is, pass the rum. Cheers!

Blue Hawaii

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Blue Hawaii

Image credit: Blue Hawaii, 1961

I’ve watched a lot of Hawaiian films this month, so I’m confident in my opinion that I saved the best for last. If there’s any cinematic Hawaii I wish I could transport myself to, it’s the version seen in the classic Elvis Presley picture Blue Hawaii (DVD/Download). Some might call the film dated, but to me it’s a celluloid paradise.

I’ve never considered myself an Elvis fan, and despite my obsession with this movie, I’m still not one. Honestly, Elvis is the least interesting thing about Blue Hawaii. As the heir to a pineapple fortune, he’s somewhat of a jerk to his parents and his long-suffering girlfriend. He gets bonus points for bringing her a cute bikini from Paris, but it doesn’t make up for the time he kissed a flight attendant right in front her. Not cool. If you can stand to look past Elvis Presley The Phenomenon, you’ll see that Blue Hawaii is filled with picture-postcard-perfect Oahu scenery, vintage sundresses designed by Edith Head, and stylish classic cars. And inexplicably, a corgi frolicking in the surf. It’s bizarre, it’s gorgeous, and I can’t look away.

Adding to my love of this movie is a southern accented-Angela Lansbury, who spends most of her time ordering mai tais from her man servant Ping Pong. I’ll be taking my cue from Ms. Lansbury with this “tummy-warmer”. While watching Blue Hawaii, I recommend drinking a classic Mai Tai.

Mai Tai

1 oz white rum

½ oz Orgeat syrup

½ oz Cointreau

2 oz pineapple juice

1 oz orange juice

Dark Rum float (such as Koloa dark rum)

Pineapple spear and lime (for garnish)

Mix white rum, Orgeat, Cointreau, pineapple and orange juices in a shaker filled with ice. Pour drink into a glass with the ice, and float the dark rum on top. Top with pineapple spear and lime wedge.

 

This film gave us two great Elvis songs, “Can’t Help Falling in Love” and “Blue Hawaii”. The iconic singer is certainly charming enough, but even Elvis Presley can’t compete with the beauty that is Hawaii. I may not be able to transport myself back to 1961, but the great thing about cocktails is that they taste the same now as they did then. All I need is that Edith Head sundress and my fantasy will be complete. Cheers!

Rebel Without a Cause

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rebel-without-a-cause

Image credit: Rebel Without a Cause, 1955

Every five years or so, I pull out Rebel Without a Cause and take a deep breath. I know what’s coming- a film with so much tension that I feel wrecked afterward. Why do I watch? Because I like to be reminded of the power of cinema, and the actor’s ability to make emotions resonate with a viewer. James Dean was one such prolific actor, and Rebel Without a Cause (DVD/Download) is his enduring masterpiece.

Before the teen films of John Hughes or Amy Heckerling, even before Splendor in the Grass, there was Rebel. This film is important to our cinematic history because it’s one of the first widely viewed films that gives an honest portrayal of teen angst. That restless feeling of being scared even when you’re not sure what you’re scared of, like you’re crawling out of your own skin (what Holly Golightly categorized as “the mean reds”)- that’s the emotion that this film captures so perfectly. By watching a day in the life of these Los Angeles teens, we start to empathize with the hopeless feelings of being misunderstood and judged for reasons beyond one’s control. Rebel may have been made in 1955, but it will never feel dated because those emotions will never stop being real.

The film opens with a scene of James Dean rolling around drunk on the sidewalk. Eventually his public display of disorderly behavior lands him in a jail cell where he meets fellow delinquents played by Natalie Wood and Sal Mineo. I’m not saying you should drink enough to find yourself in the same boat, but if there was ever a movie that needed to be chased with a cocktail, it’s this one. While watching Rebel Without a Cause, I recommend drinking a Toreador.

Toreador

1 part Spanish red wine (such as Tempranillo)

1 part lemon-lime soda

Slice of lemon

Build drink in a glass over ice, stirring gently to combine. Garnish with the lemon slice.

toreador

This cocktail reminds me of that iconic jacket James Dean wears- a fire-engine red number that’s slightly geeky by today’s standards, but on him, with that popped collar, looks effortlessly cool.  The color symbolizes the fire and passion churning under his skin, and as bullies and thugs taunt him, he actually becomes that toreador, wielding his switchblade like a spear.  Rebel Without a Cause gained notoriety due to Dean’s untimely death just before the picture’s release, but even without the backstory, the film itself is Shakespearean in its tragedy.  You might need that full bottle of wine tonight.  Cheers!

Tammy and the Bachelor

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tammyandthebachelor

Image credit: Tammy and the Bachelor, 1957

The world lost one of its brightest stars last month when Debbie Reynolds passed away, following the tragic death of daughter Carrie Fisher. Although best known for Singin’ in the Rain, I’ll always have a fondness for her 1950’s rom-coms. One of my favorites is this week’s film Tammy and the Bachelor (DVD), a film equally famous for Reynolds’ rendition of the theme song. Sweet, dreamy, Tammy’s in love. And so am I.

When country cutie Tammy rescues wealthy farmer Peter Brent from the wreckage of a plane crash, I couldn’t help but be shocked when the lifeless face pulled out of the swamp is that of 80’s comedy star Leslie Nielsen. I’m of the generation who only knew him as the deadpan comedy star from Airplane! and the Naked Gun film series. Seeing him as a sexy leading man with brown (not stark white!) hair is certainly a trip. Add to that an aged Fay Wray as the wacky spinster aunt at his Antebellum mansion, and you’ve got a cast that has to be seen to be believed.

Tammy’s journey is set in motion when her grandfather gets arrested for making moonshine, forcing her to turn to Peter and his family for sanctuary. This makes me appreciate what a wonderful time we live in, where homebrew is as easy and legal as ordering the kit from a catalog. Back on a bayou river in the 1950’s, things were tougher. If you’re watching Tammy and the Bachelor and you care to wet your whistle, I recommend drinking Riverwater*.

Riverwater

1.5 oz white moonshine

4 oz sweet tea

1 oz lemon juice

Mix all ingredients together in a mason jar, and stir until combined. Fill jar with crushed ice, and garnish with a lemon twist.

riverwater

(*Good for your constitution!)

Reynolds’ star was formed in the golden age of the Hollywood studio system, and lucky for us it resulted in so many endearing performances. It’s hard to watch her and not smile. Her sweetness and joy were infectious, and Tammy was no exception. As she sings her signature song in the moonlight, we realize that nothing in that sky outside her window could ever shine as brightly as her. Cheers!