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Category Archives: Classic Films

That Funny Feeling

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That Funny Feeling

Image credit: That Funny Feeling, 1965.

If I had to describe my favorite film genre, I’d have to say, “anything with 1960’s cocktail dresses”.   Even before Mad Men came on the scene, I was already obsessed.  Blame Doris Day, blame Sandra Dee– so many wonderful actresses took me down that A-line chiffon rabbit hole.  This week, I’ll be watching one of my favorites in the “pretty dress” canon, That Funny Feeling (Disc/Download).

Starring Sandra Dee and her then-husband, crooner Bobby Darin, That Funny Feeling follows the familiar Pillow Talk formula that worked so well for Doris and Rock. Sandra’s character Joan is a maid/struggling actress, who meets cute with Bobby Darin’s lothario character Tom, never realizing that he owns the apartment she cleans every morning. His trip gets cancelled, right after Joan allows him to escort her home to “her place”, which is actually his place! He has to move in with a friend (Donald O’Connor, in a truly bizarre role), to maintain the charade, during which time she covers his leather sofa with chintz slipcovers and hawks his suits– I’m still not sure why. Maybe so we can enjoy the sight gag of Bobby Darin climbing down a New York City fire escape in nothing but a plaid parka?   Strange plot devices aside, this movie is full of beautiful cocktail dresses, gin, midcentury interior décor, vintage stereo equipment, and sassy best friends. That’s enough to sell me on even the worst movie.

Sandra Dee is a classy lady in this film, allowing Bobby Darin to buy her gin and quinine that she takes one lousy sip of. Until later, when she has (oh dear!) a FULL GLASS and gets hammered. You can certainly watch this movie with a gin and tonic (I like the quinine ratio in Jack Rudy Tonic Syrup), but I also want to highlight the scene where her roommate dumps a bunch of brandy and Cointreau on a roast duck and lights it up with her cigarette. God, I love the 60’s. While watching That Funny Feeling, I recommend drinking a Big Apple Sidecar.

Big Apple Sidecar

1 ½ oz Calvados Apple Brandy

1 oz Cointreau

1 oz spiced apple cider

1 oz lime juice

½ oz lemon juice

½ oz simple syrup

Pour all ingredients into a cocktail shaker filled with ice. Shake until chilled, then strain into a coupe glass.

big apple sidecar

I will admit, there’s a cringe-inducing part of this film where Sandra Dee pretends to have a Japanese accent. It’s bad. It’s very, very bad. However, the script does lament the pervasive white-washing of Hollywood, much to my surprise. That’s the thing about these Sandra Dee movies- they may look all fluffy and retro on the surface, but dig deep and you’ll find some thoroughly modern problems.  After all, sometimes even the best cocktails need a little sweet to balance the bitter. Cheers!

Meet Me in St. Louis

Meet Me In St. Louis

Image credit: Meet Me in St. Louis, 1944.

After three weeks of black-and-white Christmas films, the technicolor explosion of Meet Me in St. Louis (Disc/Download) is quite a shock for the eyes. Visually stunning, this Judy Garland classic screams Hollywood Studio System, while signaling a modern auteur-driven type of storytelling still to come. With a creepy Victorian snow family, a night of trick-or-treating straight out of Stranger Things, and a horrifying platter of corned beef and cabbage, this movie is one crazy trolley ride.

Set in St. Louis at the turn of the century, the film is about the mundane lives of a large middle-class family, the Smiths (lord, even their name is boring).  The daughters are chasing after boys, the dad is rolling his eyes, and everyone’s all atwitter about the upcoming World’s Fair. Though the plot of Meet Me in St. Louis holds little interest for me,  the visual pop of Vincente Minnelli’s directorial style is what truly makes this film a classic. The vibrant costumes, unusual lighting, and ahead-of-its-time Halloween horror sequence—these are the elements I keep coming back to.

This film tends to get lumped into holiday movies due to Judy Garland’s heartbreakingly lovely rendition of “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas”, and the red velvet dress she wears. This was the moment the world sat up and took note of Garland, child actress no more. She’s beautiful and sexy, like something out of a John Singer Sargent painting. While watching Meet Me in St. Louis, celebrate Judy with this Red Velvet Martini.

Red Velvet Martini

2 oz Cake vodka

1 oz White Crème de Cacao

3/4 oz Grenadine

1/4 oz Simple syrup

2-3 dashes Aztec bitters

Chocolate drop for garnish

Mix liquid ingredients in a shaker filled with ice. Shake vigoriously, then strain into a martini glass. Garnish with a chocolate drop.

Red Velvet Martini

Because this film is full of iconic costumes, it makes me eager to learn more about the stories behind them. Until the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures opens in Los Angeles, whet your appetite with the book Hollywood Costume. And for anyone interested in the scary underbelly of a World’s Fair, I highly recommend Erik Larson’s The Devil in the White City. Chronicling the true story of a serial killer targeting visitors to the Chicago World’s Fair, this book will have you wondering if the Smith family home is really as boring as it seems. Cheers, and happy reading!

Holiday Affair

Holiday Affair

Image credit: Holiday Affair, 1949.

Poor Carl. All he wants for Christmas is for Janet Leigh to accept his proposal of marriage. He’s been waiting TWO YEARS, for god sakes. Two years of putting up with her bratty kid, watching her walk around in pointy brassieres, and being treated like the family Labrador. And now, at Christmas, he’s forced to watch his lady fall for the bedroom eyes of Robert Mitchum, an unemployed bum who hangs out in the park and gets arrested for stealing salt and pepper shakers. Holiday Affair (Disc/Download) may be billed as a charming holiday romance, but make no mistake- this film is a sad reminder that nice guys finish last.

I thought I’d seen the pinnacle of annoying child actors in the 1953 western Shane. But then came Timmy. Timmy is the kind of kid who badgers his broke single mom for the most expensive Christmas present on the market, thus making her feel guilty for all of her life choices. Timmy also turns the “poor me” face on Robert Mitchum’s character Steve, convincing this guy who just lost his job to spend a bunch of money on a kid he barely knows. Meanwhile, Carl the Earnest Lawyer wants to give Timmy and his mom a stable home and a hefty joint bank account. Does Timmy want that? No, of course not. He kicks Carl in the leg, screams his head off, and tries his damnest to fix his mom up with the hot bum. I have two words for Timmy’s Mom: Birth. Control.

I’m of the opinion that pretty much every Robert Mitchum film should be watched with Bourbon. This is a man’s man if there ever was one. Because I spent this movie mostly wanting to smash Timmy’s face in, while watching Holiday Affair I recommend drinking a Holiday Bourbon Smash.

Holiday Bourbon Smash

2 oz Bourbon

1 oz Pear Liqueur

2 oz Apple Cider

1 oz Lemon Juice

2 tbsp Cinnamon Pear jam

Club Soda

Cinnamon Stick Garnish

Combine the bourbon, pear liqueur, apple cider, lemon juice, and jam in a shaker filled with ice. Shake vigorously until well mixed, then strain into a glass filled with ice. Top with club soda, and garnish with a cinnamon stick.

Holiday Bourbon Smash.jpeg

The thing about this film is, I should love it. A single-mom-finding-romance-again is one of my favorite tropes! That Holiday Affair fails to light my yule log might be because I’ve read so many wonderful novels that do a much better job with this story. An old favorite of mine is Susan Elizabeth Phillips’ Dream a Little Dream, which features an adorably sweet kid, the feisty widow of a televangelist, and her romance with a hunky drive-in movie theater owner. There isn’t a Christmas tree, but did I mention he owns a movie theater??  Cheers!

Christmas in Connecticut

Christmas in Connecticut

Image credit: Christmas in Connecticut, 1945.

Take a saucy career-minded city gal, put her on a farm, hand her a baby and force her to flip flapjacks, and what do you get? This week’s delightful classic rom-com Christmas in Connecticut (Disc/Download). Though it would later be remade by esteemed director Arnold Schwartzenegger (no, I am not joking), the original Barbara Stanwyck version holds up remarkably well. This is Hallmark Christmas with better clothes, better looking men, and better acting. What are you waiting for?!

The parallels between my life and Elizabeth’s are uncanny.  When I started Cinema Sips over five years ago, I’ll be honest- I had no idea what I was doing. I trusted recipe books and expert advice to get me through, kind of like Elizabeth relies on her Hungarian chef uncle to convince readers she knows her way around a kitchen. Also, we both have no clue what to do with a baby. Literally, none. And most importantly, we strive to be the best-dressed person in any room, meager paychecks be-damned. Therefore, I can really empathize when Elizabeth is forced to pretend to be a domestic goddess for one zany weekend at Christmas, all to impress her publisher and a Navy war hero. Sometimes, a lady doesn’t want to flip flapjacks or give a baby a bath, so back the f*ck off, okay???

Another reason I’m convinced we’re sorta the same person is because this columnist loves a good martini.  The holidays are a great time to make festive martinis, so while you’re watching Christmas in Connecticut, I recommend drinking this Sleigh Ride Martini.

Sleigh Ride Martini

2 oz Peppermint Twist vodka

0.5 oz Vanilla vodka

0.5 oz White crème de cacao

Combine ingredients in a shaker filled with ice. Shake until very cold, then strain into a chilled glass. 

Sleighride Martini

BTW, the Smirnoff Peppermint Twist bottle is scratch-and-sniff!!!!  What a time to be alive!

If I had to pick a modern Hollywood equivalent of Elizabeth Lane The Domestic Goddess, my mind goes immediately to Reese Witherspoon. From hot rolling your hair to whipping up a batch of fluffy biscuits, her new book Whiskey in a Teacup is Elizabeth Lane’s column for a new audience. It may be more Mint Juleps than Martinis, but hey- I applaud any lady who enjoys a good cocktail and also tells me how to make it. Cheers!

The Bishop’s Wife

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The Bishop's Wife

Image credit: The Bishop’s Wife, 1947.

Who’s ready for an old-fashioned Christmas? This year, Cinema Sips will be highlighting  holiday films of the 1940’s, guaranteed to make you smile and long for the days when women wore hats and men dressed up to have breakfast. Kicking things off is the 1947 charmer, The Bishop’s Wife (Disc/Download).

Although it would later be remade with Denzel Washington and Whitney Houston, the original film stars Cary Grant as the winsome angel Dudley, sent down to Earth to give guidance to a conflicted bishop and his neglected wife (played by David Niven and Loretta Young, respectively). You’d think this would be a sermon-filled snooze-fest, but in reality it’s a delightful Mary Poppins-esque film about tolerance, empathy, and the magic of the holidays. Plus, there’s Cary on Ice, Cary decorating a Christmas Tree, and Cary in a polka dot scarf. This is all the incentive I need to watch.

So apparently, angels have no problem with our holiday indulgences.  When Dudley counsels a failing writer, he also keeps refilling his empty bottle of booze with a sneaky little finger trick. I’m pretty sure I could also use some spiritual guidance like that right about now (*looks skyward*).  While watching The Bishop’s Wife, I recommend drinking a Bishop cocktail.

Bishop

3 oz Rum

1 oz Red wine

1/4 oz Simple syrup

3/4 oz Lime juice

Pour ingredients into a cocktail shaker filled with ice. Shake until chilled, then strain into a wine glass.

Bishop

As part of my holiday posts this year, I’ll also be recommending some books that would make great gifts for the cinephile in your life. For fans of The Bishop’s Wife, be sure and check out Adriana Trigiani’s All the Stars in the Heavens, an engrossing novel about Loretta Young’s relationships with Spencer Tracy and Clark Gable, her rumored Hollywood scandals, and fun escapades with pal David Niven. You’ll see the bishop and his wife in a WHOOOOOLE new light. Cheers!

The Godfather

The Godfather

Image credit: The Godfather, 1972

This week is Thanksgiving, and I don’t know about y’all, but I am ready to eat, drink, and watch movies. Sure, we’ll come together with loved ones and enjoy some mashed potatoes and stuffing, but post-meal is where the real magic happens. Because that’s when you settle in with a good film. If you’re smart, you’ll choose something that celebrates, eating, drinking, and above all, la famiglia. This Thanksgiving, I’ll be watching The Godfather (DVD/Download).

I’m not going to rehash the plot of The Godfather because really, it’s been almost 50 years, and if you don’t already know that this is a movie about a large mafia crime family, heaven help you. What I will say, however, is that as a fan of late 60’s/early 70’s cinema, this film encompasses so much of what I love about the era. You have the faded Hollywood icon in the form of Marlon Brando as Vito Corleone contrasting with the brash, exciting newcomer Al Pacino as Michael Corleone.  Then there are the 1940’s period sets that still feel a bit like 70’s gritty NYC, and Francis Ford Coppola’s blend of cinema verite mixed with grandiose storytelling. You see the wine and the red sauce and the piles of wedding cake that scream ITALIAN, but also the quiet, subtle moments that pull the viewer in and make you feel the story.  Hollywood was still figuring out what it wanted to be when this film was made, and The Godfather said it loud and clear- the old studio system was dead, long live the auteur.

If you find yourself cooking for a large crowd on T-Day, you may just want to keep things simple and enjoy a nice bottle of red wine with this film (Sicilian or Southern Italian-origin would be my choice for authenticity’s sake). But if you want to go a little further, pick up a bottle of Sambuca and digest your dinner like the Corleones. While watching The Godfather, I recommend drinking The Closer.

The Closer

1 oz White Sambuca

1 oz Coffee liqueur

1 oz half-and-half

Star Anise for garnish

Combine ingredients in a cocktail shaker, blend well, then strain into a glass with a large ice cube.  Garnish with star anise.  

I’ve set the ambitious goal of watching ALL THREE Godfather films in one day, breaking only for more drinks and dessert. We’ll see how far I get (feel free to check in with me on Twitter @cinemasips to see if I’ve started swearing in Italian yet). I will leave you with this quote from Mario Puzo’s The Godfather: “Time erodes gratitude more quickly than it does beauty.” So take that gratitude you feel on Thanksgiving, and let it stay with you for a while. Cheers!

Rosemary’s Baby

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rosemarys baby

Image credit: Rosemary’s Baby, 1968.

Cute dresses, weird jewelry, and Ruth Gordon’s funky hats- THIS is how you get me to watch a horror film. Like a spoonful of sugar helping the medicine go down, the costume and production design of Rosemary’s Baby (DVD/Download) make it palatable (dare I say, enjoyable) to a scary-movie neophyte like me. If you haven’t seen this classic film yet, stop what you’re doing and go watch it right now.  You’ll thank me later.

More than a horror film, I consider this picture to be classic suspense. Rosemary, played brilliantly by vintage-pixie Mia Farrow, is married to a handsome, feckless actor when they move into a storied New York City apartment building. Their neighbors, played by Ruth Gordon and Sidney Blackmer, are old, very creepy, and secret occultists. Rosemary is drugged and raped by the devil while a bunch of naked senior citizens (AND HER AWFUL HUSBAND) stand by and watch, then she’s unknowingly forced to carry the spawn of Satan for 9 months. There are not enough words in the English language to fully convey how much I hate Rosemary’s husband, who makes her think he violently raped and clawed her up, instead of the devil in her dream. Because that’s somehow okay??? I’d say Rosemary needs a divorce attorney.

How, you ask, do Rosemary and her husband get pulled into this coven’s orbit? By that great social icebreaker, a cocktail party. Their strange neighbors serve up cocktails and terrible cake made of god-knows-what. Devil’s food? (Sorry, I had to). While you watch Rosemary’s Baby, I recommend drinking this Vodka Blush cocktail, straight from the Castavet’s fabulous apartment.

Vodka Blush

2 1/2 oz Vodka

½ oz Lime juice

½ oz Grenadine

Sprig of Rosemary for garnish

Mix vodka and lime juice in a cocktail shaker filled with ice. Shake until cold, then strain into a chilled flute. Slowly top with grenadine, and garnish with a sprig of rosemary.

Vodka Blush

While I definitely had one tense night of sleep where I woke up expecting Ruth Gordon to be standing in a corner with too much lipstick and a lime green feather boa, this movie didn’t exactly scare the bejeezus out of me. I attribute this mainly to the relatable performance by Mia Farrow, Roman Polanski’s incredible direction, and an enviable 60’s wardrobe. I can only hope her maternity dresses will come back in style for the rest of us. Not that I’m planning on getting pregnant with the spawn of Satan, but they’re the perfect camouflage for a belly full of cocktails and queso. Cheers!