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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 completely convinced I am 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!


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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 art direction. With stunning visuals orchestrated by Vincent Minnelli, you could do worse than this musical. And of course, a little champagne makes everything better. Cheers!