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Category Archives: Classic Films

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!

From Russia With Love

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from-russia-with-love

Image credit: From Russia With Love, 1964

International intrigue! Fighting gypsy women! Venomous shoe daggers! Only in a Bond film, folks. While I appreciate the more recent James Bond films for their sincerity, I can’t help but love the original 60’s variety. The cheese-factor is just unparalleled. This week, I’ll be watching an absolute classic in the Bond oeuvre, From Russia With Love (DVD/Download).

Admittedly, I get a little lost with any Bond film. There are just too many sinister villains, subplots and gorgeous women to keep track of. I mainly watch for the charisma of Sean Connery, the Bond girl clothes, and the clever spy gadgets. And Miss Moneypenny, who is really the Girl Friday of these films, oozing smarts and unconventional sex appeal. As the opening titles appear, and we get to watch the producer’s names projected on the gyrating skin of a belly dancer, you pretty much know what you’re in for with this one. Sure there’s some Cold War-era intrigue that takes us from Istanbul to Venice on the Orient Express, but who are we kidding- we’re all here for the double entendres in James Bond’s bedroom.

Although the film is called From Russia With Love, we never really see Russia. We do however see Russian-accented Bond Girl Daniela Bianchi, who plays double agent Tatiana Romanova. She falls head over heels in love with Bond, because well, he’s Bond. While watching From Russia with Love, I recommend drinking a Moscow Mule.

Moscow Mule

1 ½ oz Russian Vodka

4 oz Ginger Beer

½ oz Lime Juice

Combine ingredients in a copper mug over ice and stir gently to combine. Garnish with a lime slice.

moscow-mule

Everyone has their favorite Bond, but for me it will always be Sean Connery. That furry chest, that light Scottish brogue, and the twinkle in his eye gets me every time. Even in a jaunty sailor cap, he still looks stylish, cool, and definitely a man of mystery. Cheers!

(*For anybody curious, I will absolutely be watching this movie and drinking this cocktail on January 20th, 2017).

The Poseidon Adventure

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poseidon-adventure-winters

Image credit: The Poseidon Adventure, 1972

I love a good disaster flick. The bad acting, women in impractical footwear, explosions, campy special effects- this is the stuff of some great cinematic cheese-fests. One of the best films in the disaster genre is this week’s The Poseidon Adventure (DVD/Download). Although it was remade about ten years ago, I’ll always have a fondness for the 1972 version. Shelley Winters and all those unfortunate 70’s hairstyles make this a classic of epic size.

Aboard the S.S. Poseidon, revelers are toasting the New Year in the ship’s ballroom. Suddenly the captain (Leslie Nielsen- who else?) hears of an underground earthquake that has created a giant wave heading straight for the luxury liner. Soon, the ship flips over, the tables are on the ceiling, bodies are crashing into the chandeliers, and a ragtag group of survivors begins hatching an escape plan through the ship’s hull. As the hip Reverend, Gene Hackman leads them through corridors full of twisted metal, rapidly flooding rooms, and way more fire than one would think possible with so much water around. Ernest Borgnine guides his saucy former prostitute/now wife Linda through the wreckage in her silver lame platform heels and men’s dress shirt, while Shelley Winters and Jack Albertson are the cute old couple you want to be someday. I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the hit song “Theme from Poseidon Adventure (The Morning After)” as sung by a band that’s quite a relic from the 70’s. All those sideburns and grooves- yikes.

My cruising experience is limited to one ill-fated trip to Bermuda during hurricane season, but from what I recall the drinks were sugary and bright-hued. In homage to the 70’s vibe and underwater footage in murky green water, while watching The Poseidon Adventure I recommend drinking a Rogue Wave.

Rogue Wave

1 oz Midori

2 oz Vodka

5 oz Fresca

Maraschino Cherry

Build drink in a glass over crushed ice, stirring gently to combine.  Drop Maraschino cherry in and let it sink to the bottom.

rogue-wave

Despite the over-the-top acting and questionable costuming, this movie still pulls me in with its never-ending suspense and peril around every corner. Plus it provides some valuable lessons. Such as, no matter how much weight you gain at the buffet, you’re still light in water.  Also, never leave your stateroom without a bra.  Cheers!

The Shop Around the Corner

shop-around-the-corner

Image credit: The Shop Around the Corner, 1940

(Dear Friend,)

Although I adore a black & white Jimmy Stewart film at Christmas time, I’ve already covered the classic It’s a Wonderful Life on Cinema Sips. So instead this week I’ll be featuring another holiday favorite, The Shop Around the Corner (DVD/Download). While not as overtly sentimental as the Capra film he’d later become known for, it still features a good dose of Stewart charm and some delightful send-ups of the holiday shopping season.

I first came across this wonderful picture after watching the remake, You’ve Got Mail. Nora Ephron did a fabulous job of updating this classic for modern audiences, and it’s truly one of my favorites. But the original is no slouch either. Directed by Ernst Lubitsch, the story of boy-meets-girl anonymously through mail is timeless. Think of it as Catfish pre-sexual predators and con artists. Jimmy Stewart and Margaret Sullavan trade barbs as they work side-by-side in a Budapest gift shop, never realizing that they’ve fallen in love with each other through their letters. Special mention goes to scene-stealer Pepi the delivery boy- I’m still trying to figure out how to get him as my outgoing voicemail message.

One of the famous scenes in this film (as well as in You’ve Got Mail) is the disastrous face-to-face meeting of the two lovers at a café. Identifying herself with a red flower in a book, Margaret Sullavan has no idea that her true love is standing across from her in the form of tall, lanky Jimmy Stewart. While watching The Shop Around the Corner, I recommend drinking a Red Carnation.

Red Carnation

1 ½ oz Vodka

2 oz Sparkling pomegranate juice

½ oz lime juice

½ oz Vanilla vodka

Dash of bitters

Topo Chico sparkling water

Sprig of mint for garnish

Combine ingredients in a cocktail shaker filled with ice, and stir to combine. Strain into a glass with crushed ice, top with Topo Chico, and garnish with mint.

red-carnation

This is a great movie to watch while you’re wrapping gifts because the dialogue is so darn snappy. And perhaps it will inspire you to go back out to the store for a cigarette case that plays music. Or, maybe you can just send Pepi. Cheers!