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That Touch of Mink

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That Touch of Mink

Image credit: That Touch of Mink, 1962.

The world lost a shining light of female grace and gumption last week with the passing of Doris Day. Beloved by so many, it’s difficult to pinpoint what captivated us.  Was it her cheerful onscreen persona that could make even the worst day just a little bit better?  Or the way she portrayed working women as real people- driven to succeed but vulnerable enough to desire love?  Or perhaps it was her style- that perfect, not-a-hair-out-of-place style which made us understand how a woman could find pleasure and power in the art of beauty, just for herself.  For me, it was all of these things and more.  I’ve already covered one of my favorite movie characters Jan Morrow in Pillow Talk, but as we celebrate the life of Doris Day, I think it’s important to discuss another important role, Cathy Timberlake in That Touch of Mink (Disc/Download).

When I first saw this film twenty years ago, the only memory I took away was the Automat.  Such a quaint but brilliant concept- a vending machine for hot food!  Genius!  But watching it now, as an adult, and as a fan of the romance genre, I can say That Touch of Mink was ahead of its time.  Within the gorgeous Mad Men-esque world of the 1960s, we see Doris as an unemployed career-gal, meeting cute with Cary Grant over a Manhattan mud puddle.  You expect this film to progress a certain way (secretary falls for her charming, grumpy, billionaire boss, etc. etc.), but instead it ends up in a totally different place.  The rich tycoon doesn’t give her a job (at least not right away).  Rather, he offers her a trip around the world, a new wardrobe, and a lavish penthouse, all in exchange for… being with him.  Because it’s 1962, the sex is only implied, but we know what this arrangement entails.  We assume Doris will slap him in the face, but surprising everyone, she agrees! She jets off to Bermuda, wears his mink coat (in the tropics no less), and lets him parade her around in front of the other tycoons and party girls.  But this being Doris, she comes down with a rash and can’t actually go through with the act.  Cary, in his dopey Mr. Rogers cardigans, is pissed but gentlemanly about it.  She manages to snag him in the end by hatching a jealousy plot with John Astin, but already the damage is done.  The audience sees Doris as a Bad Girl.  A girl who essentially agrees to prostitute herself, who drinks a bottle of scotch, and invites the creepy guy at the Unemployment Office to join her in a weekend motel romp.  And the thing is, I’m still pretty smitten with this version of Doris.

One of my bucket-list items is to stay at Doris Day’s hotel in Carmel, CA, the Cypress Inn.  I’ve already perused their bar menu and picked out the drink I will have in Terry’s Bar (yeah, I’m that much of a planner).  It’s a champagne cocktail which pairs beautifully with this sophisticated, unusual film.  While watching That Touch of Mink, I recommend having a Day Drink.

Day Drink

Sparkling Rosé

Sugar Cube

Angostura Bitters

1/4 oz Peach Schnapps

1/2 oz Bourbon

Place sugar cube in the bottom of a champagne flute, and soak with a few dashes of bitters.  Top with Peach Schnapps and Bourbon, then Sparkling Rosé.

Day Drink.jpg

It’s incredibly striking to see the threads this movie shares with our modern counterpart, Fifty Shades of Grey.  Handsome, commitment-phobic billionaire seeks smart, pretty, innocent gal for exotic getaways, dress-up sessions, and sex?  Check, check, and check.  We’re missing the BDSM, but I don’t think I can picture Doris with a riding crop.  Unless we’re talking Calamity Jane, in which case she’s a natural.  So this week, let’s raise our glasses to Doris Day, patron saint of love, career, and family. Through her films, through her EPIC eye-rolls, I understand what it is to be a woman.  Cheers!

The Virgin Suicides

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Virgin Suicides

Image Credit: The Virgin Suicides, 1999.

Ninety-nine percent of the time, I watch an adaptation of a work of literary fiction and think, “The book was better.” But The Virgin Suicides (Disc/Download) is one film where this phrase does not apply. Though I loved Jeffrey Eugenides’ novel, Sofia Coppola made me see things within the pages that I missed the first time around. The angst of adolescence, the impulsivity, the dreaminess—I definitely need a cocktail if I’m going to put myself back in the mind of a thirteen-year-old girl.

Starring Kirsten Dunst as the rebel within a family of five beautiful sisters, the film’s narration uses Eugenides’ words as a roadmap, treating us to his gorgeous prose. Set in 1970’s suburban Detroit, we get to know the Lisbon sisters through the eyes of their admirers, a group of hopelessly besotted neighborhood boys. When one of the sisters commits suicide, their overbearing parents (James Woods and Kathleen Turner) place the remaining girls under house arrest, and their only contact with the outside world is through their vinyl collection and a vintage phone. The boys try to rescue them, but that’s the thing about being a teenage girl—nobody can really save you from it.

One of my favorite parts of the film is when the Lisbon sisters attend a homecoming dance. They laugh and drink peach schnapps and make out with inappropriate boys, and it’s such a microcosm of what we expect adolescence to be, but rarely is. For these characters, it was like a dream that couldn’t last. While watching The Virgin Suicides, celebrate the hope of being a teenage girl with a First Blush.

First Blush

1 oz peach schnapps

1 oz grenadine

5 oz champagne

Pour chilled peach schnapps and grenadine into a flute, and top with champagne.

First Blush

What Sofia Coppola does so well as a director is capture a specific time and place with her unique artistic flair. ‘70s suburbia looks like a Formica fantasy filled with patterned wallpaper, female grooming detritus, and records strewn across the floor. It looks like a place where nothing bad could ever happen, until of course, it does. It always does. Cheers!

 

Belle de Jour

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belledejour

Image credit: Belle de Jour, 1967

It is one of my greatest sorrows that I missed being alive during the 1960’s. Sure it was a turbulent time in many ways, but the fashions- oh, the fashions. I’ve done my best to channel what I’ve seen on screen into my current wardrobe (thanks Boden!) but I despair that I’ll never have the style of Catherine Deneuve in Belle de Jour (DVD/Download). Everything, from her rain coat to her underwear, is perfection. Prostitution never looked so glamorous.

Directed by Luis Bunuel, Belle de Jour is a surprisingly modern film about sexual desire, marriage, and the secrets we keep locked away. Catherine Deneuve is stunning as Severine, the perfect French housewife who gives into her depraved yearnings by working at a brothel. Each day, before the clock strikes 5:00, she satisfies her baser fantasies with men of all types. Eventually she meets a gangster named Marcel, who has all the swagger of a young Mick Jaggar, and despite knowing her time with him is essentially make-believe, Severine finally comes alive. Her debasement is both elegant and sad, as though her perfect outward appearance is just an elaborate mask for the turmoil happening behind those impossibly pretty eyes.

It wouldn’t be a movie about prostitution without bottles of champagne, and Belle de Jour does not disappoint. Glamorous Madam Anais serves it up freely (though warm). Add some French liqueur, and you’ve got a cocktail with style.  While watching Belle de Jour, I recommend drinking a Boisson du Jour.

Boisson du Jour

4 oz French champagne

1 oz Cointreau

2 dashes grapefruit bitters

Orange twist

Combine ingredients in a coupe glass, stirring gently to combine. Garnish with an orange twist.

Time is a strong motif in Belle de Jour, even down to the title. Severine is the Daytime Beauty, only emerging while the sun is up. We hear the ticking clock at Madam Anais’, and we know that her time is slowly running out. When the clock strikes 5, she’ll take her impeccably tailored raincoat, pillbox hat, and cute buckled shoes and go home to a life that doesn’t quite fit. But then again, perhaps it was all a daydream. Cheers!

Ghost World

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ghost-world

Image credit: Ghost World, 2001

My apologies in advance for the shameless promotion this week, but I just can’t help it. I am SO excited for the publication of my husband’s newest book Draw Like This!, a fun and instructional guide for budding artists. Seriously, I wish I’d had this book when I was in art class.  It would have saved me so much stress and eraser smudging. I’ve had my share of art teachers over the years, and many of them could have inspired Illeana Douglas’ character in this week’s film Ghost World (DVD/Download). Chunky jewelry, a checkered past, and a heavy appreciation of symbolism are apparently all you need to cut it as an art instructor. And if all else fails, set up a student critique and call it a day.

Based on the graphic novel by Daniel Clowes, Ghost World is probably in my top ten all-time favorite films. Perhaps it’s because I was Enid in high school- jaded against my hometown, indifferent about the future, and worshipful of anything weird or different. And yes, that includes Steve Buscemi (still a movie-star crush of mine). I had the colored hair, the sketchbook, the vinyl records, and the scowl.  The story of Enid and her best friend Rebecca (played by a very young Scarlett Johansson) growing apart is so honest, and very true of the journey most of us take in young adulthood. We have to figure out ourselves first before we can figure out how to relate to other people.

Let’s face it, late adolescence is all about making bad choices. Not that I would call drinking too much champagne and sleeping with nice-guy Steve Buscemi a bad choice per-se, but for Enid it isn’t the smartest move. While watching Ghost World, I recommend drinking a One Night Stand.

One Night Stand

Champagne

1 Tsp brown sugar

3/4 oz Brandy

3 dashes angostura bitters

Orange peel

Place brown sugar in the bottom of a coupe glass, and top with bitters.  Add brandy, then top with champagne until full.  Garnish with an orange twist.

draw-like-this

As I think about what it means to be an artist, I realize that making great art is not about shocking viewers or arbitrarily assigning deep meaning to something ordinary. To me, it’s about finding what you enjoy, sticking with it, and finding your own voice. Whether it’s writing or drawing, any good teacher would tell you that practice is what makes the difference between success and failure. Of course, it helps to have some really great technical advice along the way (like the lessons in Draw Like This!). And, maybe some chunky jewelry. Cheers!

Gigi

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Image credit: MGM, Gigi, 1958

Image credit: MGM, Gigi, 1958

Responding to a reader request this week, I’m featuring what has been deemed by many as the last great MGM Musical, Gigi (DVD/Download). The original Broadway play starred a young Audrey Hepburn, who sadly declined the lead role in this 1958 musical film version. Leslie Caron is charming enough, but let’s face it, she’s no Audrey.

Gigi is the story of a young woman in Paris who is groomed for life as a courtesan by her grandmother and great-aunt. She grows up thinking of family acquaintance Gaston as an older brother-type, until her meddlesome family pushes them together romantically. Gaston suddenly sees Gigi in a new light, and offers to make her his mistress. She refuses initially, then relents. Then he reconsiders their arrangement, but then proposes marriage. If this sounds confusing, it is. I actually needed some Wikipedia help to get through this one, and I’m still not sure I totally understood it. The main problem originates from the severe French accents that most of the actors use. I probably would have done better if they had actually spoken French, with subtitles. Much of the plot moves forward through the songs, however the tunes weren’t all that catchy to me. I prefer musicals with big, splashy song-and-dance numbers (like Singin’ in the Rain), and that just isn’t Gigi. This is more of a My Fair Lady, Rex Harrison “I’m speaking these songs because I can’t really sing” variety of musical. I tip my hat to Maurice Chevalier, who manages to make the pedophile anthem “Thank Heaven for Little Girls” seem marginally charming. This is probably the best song from the film, though I have personal negative connotations after dancing to it in a kindergarten recital while a Maurice Chevalier look-alike twirled us around on stage. And then I stumbled mid-twirl. But I digress.

There are some fabulous scenes at Belle Epoche haunt Maxim’s, where art nouveau scenery frames colorful men and women drinking champagne and gossiping. I love that the men in Gigi are unafraid to drink copious amounts of champagne, as I feel it’s fallen victim to a “girly” reputation in recent decades. Therefore, while watching Gigi, I recommend drinking a Sparkling Gigi-tini.

Sparkling Gigi-tini

1 oz Vodka

2 oz Pineapple Juice

½ oz Brandy

2 oz champagne

Mix Vodka, Pineapple, and Brandy together in a cocktail shaker filled with ice. Strain into a chilled coupe glass, and top with champagne.

Gigi Tini

Two things I really did love about Gigi were the costumes and the sets. All that art nouveau fabulousness in Maurice Chevalier’s apartment made me swoon, and Leslie Caron’s white dress toward the end (which I mistook for a wedding dress because up until that point I still didn’t understand she was learning to be a courtesan) was pretty fantastic. How did I live all these years without black fans jutting out from my shoulders? Cecil Beaton was truly a master of costume design. With stunning visuals orchestrated by Vincent Minnelli, you could do worse than this musical. And of course, a little champagne makes everything better. Cheers!

The Philadelphia Story

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Philadelphia Story

I am so excited this week to write about one of my favorite films from the golden age of Hollywood, The Philadelphia Story. One of the reasons this is a favorite of mine is not just because of its sparkling dialogue, beautiful art deco sets, and long langorous cocktail hours of a wealthy Philadelphia family, but rather because it stars one of my all-time favorite actors, Jimmy Stewart. In a strange coincidence, I was actually born and raised in Jimmy Stewart’s hometown of Indiana, Pennsylvania. However, I like to think I would have been a fan even if our ancestors hadn’t shared the same zip code once upon a time. The Philadelphia Story was actually the film that won Stewart his only acting Academy Award in 1941, and it’s easy to see why. His performance as writer Macaulay “Mike” Connor is just marvelous.

The other two big stars of this film are Katharine Hepburn and Cary Grant. Hepburn plays a divorced Philadelphia socialite who’s engaged to be married once again. Her ex-husband (played by Grant) comes to see her the day before the wedding, bringing along two reporters who are there to cover the wedding, but really do little more than get under Hepburn’s skin. Hepburn and Grant’s verbal sparring is masterful, however it is truly Jimmy Stewart as a reporter who steals the show (and for a time, Hepburn’s heart). He breezes into all of his scenes, tall and lanky and charming, offering up the absolute best one liners. I swear, every time I watch him ask the librarian at a Quaker library “Dost thou have a washroom?” I get the giggles. This is also a great film for cocktail pairings because Grant has a long history with whiskey, and Hepburn and Stewart have a booze and moonlight-fueled tryst by the swimming pool. They break into the wedding champagne a touch early, giving Jimmy Stewart a chance to really show his acting chops as a happy drunk.

When I watch this film, so many cocktail opportunities come to mind. On one hand, I’d love to mix up a batch of Uncle Willie’s Stingers, however with so much bubbly flowing, I’ve got to go with a classic champagne cocktail. This week, I’m serving up a drink called Cinderella’s Slipper (the name’s origin will become obvious about halfway through the movie).

CinderellasSlipper

Cinderella’s Slipper

1 Sugar Cube

2-3 Dashes Angostura bitters

1 oz Brandy

Champagne

Orange peel for garnish

Place the sugar cube in the bottom of a champagne flute. Use the dashes of Angostura bitters to saturate the sugar cube. Add the brandy. As you fill the flute with champagne, the sugar cube will dissolve. Garnish with orange peel.

This drink typically calls for a maraschino cherry as a garnish in the bottom of the flute, but I like to think that Hepburn’s character Tracy Lord would never do anything so gauche. Sip this as you watch Jimmy Stewart carry Katharine Hepburn around in his fluffy white robe, and I dare you to not chime in when he starts drunkenly shouting “Oh C.K. Dexter Haaaaven!” This film is classic Hollywood screwball comedy at its best, and I for one plan on watching it, champagne flute in hand, while imagining what it must have been like to be Katharine Hepburn back then. Cary Grant on my right arm, Jimmy Stewart on my left. Not exactly a terrible place to be. Cheers!

Drawing by Christopher Locke

Drawing by Christopher Locke