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BUtterfield 8

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Liz Taylor Butterfield 8

Image credit: BUtterfield 8, 1960.

The 1960s were an interesting time for the subject of sex workers in cinema.  The words ‘party girl’, ‘call girl’, and sometimes even ‘model wink-wink’, got thrown around, leaving modern audiences to decipher what was really going on when Holly Golightly received $50 for the powder room, or when Liz Taylor had that mysterious answering service in this week’s film BUtterfield 8 (Disc/Download).  Was there a grey area when it came to sex work vs. relationships?  According to the tragically wild Gloria Wandrous, the answer is yes.

Earning Elizabeth Taylor her first academy award, BUtterfield 8 is the story of a promiscuous Manhattan “party girl” who falls in love with a feckless married man. The story opens with Gloria waking in his apartment to find $250 on the nightstand, but instead of taking the money, she scrawls “no sale” on his mirror in pink lipstick, steals his wife’s mink coat, and walks out with a bottle of scotch.  I love her instantly.  Taylor brings such depth to the role, forcing the audience to empathize with this woman who seems strong and confident on the outside, but inside is struggling with the trauma of childhood sexual abuse and the fear that she’ll never be loved.  She has some chaste scenes with  real life husband-of-the-moment Eddie Fisher, but ultimately can’t move on from rich lover Weston (played by Ewan McGregor look-a-like Laurence Harvey). There are moments where you think maybe, just maybe, this will turn into a Pretty Woman situation, where he’ll rescue Gloria and she’ll rescue him right back, but fair warning:  BUtterfield 8 is no fairy tale.

There’s a lot of booze in this movie, but one of my favorite lines is when Elizabeth Taylor claims she was “soaked through with gin.”  Been there, doll.  While watching BUtterfield 8, pour yourself this gin-based Honey Trap cocktail.

Honey Trap

2 oz Gin

1 oz Lime Juice

¾ oz Honey syrup (3tbsp honey + 1 tbsp water)

Lime twist

In a saucepan over medium heat, combine honey and water. Once it’s just barely boiling, remove from heat and let cool.  In a shaker with ice, combine gin, lime juice, and honey syrup.  Shake until chilled, then strain into a coupe glass. Garnish with a twist of lime.

In a weird way, this film feels almost Hitchcockian.  Like Gloria is a mystery we’re trying to unravel within this world of dim lighting, stylish sets, and lush orchestral scores.  Is she a prostitute, or just a girl who got her heart broken one too many times?  And does it even matter?  You be the judge.  Cheers!

Cat on a Hot Tin Roof

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Cat on a Hot Tin Roof

Image credit: Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, 1958.

This week, I’m all about bourbon.  And honestly, you can’t find a better bourbon movie than Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (Disc/Download).  I’m pretty sure Paul Newman had a highball glass glued to his hand throughout the shoot, and lord was there ever a sexier drunk than 1950s-era Newman?  I think not. If you’re sweltering through an endless summer like Brick, better grab the ice bucket and the full bottle—you’ll need them to get through this steamy drama.

Looking at this film purely from an aesthetic point of view, I’m immediately hooked by the gorgeous southern plantation sets, Elizabeth Taylor’s sensual costumes, and the rugged beauty of Paul Newman.  The man looks to be carved from marble, and is of course one hell of an actor.  Then there’s Elizabeth Taylor’s Maggie “the cat”, my role model for womanhood.  She’s tough, she’s conniving, and she’s not afraid to tell off bratty children.  Watching her smear ice cream over an annoying little girl’s head is SUCH a satisfying moment for me, and proof she’s the one with real Life in her.  It’s no wonder “Big Daddy” prefers her to his other daughter-in-law—you want the woman who will give you a cashmere robe for your birthday, not another loud-mouthed grandchild.

Although we’re supposed to feel anger or sympathy for Paul Newman’s alcoholic character Brick, I can’t help but be impressed.  This man knows how to hold his liquor!  Whether you’re sweating in a Mississippi plantation or just watching people onscreen do it, a cool drink will get you through the worst days of summer.  While watching Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, I recommend drinking this Mississippi Punch.

Mississippi Punch

2 oz Cognac

1 oz Bourbon

1 oz Jamaican Rum

½ oz Lemon Juice

½ oz simple syrup

Orange wedge for garnish

Combine all ingredients in a shaker filled with ice. Shake until chilled, then strain into a glass filled with crushed ice.  Garnish with an orange wedge.

Mississippi Punch.jpeg

Just like this cocktail, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof is INTENSE.  By the end I’m exhausted from the emotional turmoil of these characters, and I wish someone would put them all out of their misery. But then Brick smirks and tells Maggie to “lock the door,” and I get that warm, satisfied feeling only a classic film and a great line can deliver.  Well… a great line and a lot of bourbon.  Cheers!

Giant

Giant

Image credit: Giant, 1956

They say everything is bigger in Texas. Well, when it comes to cinema, perhaps they’re right. A prime example would be this week’s film Giant (DVD/Download). True Texans, and yes even Yankee transplants like me, can appreciate this epic film about land, greed, pride, and passion. With a run time of 3 hours and 20 minutes, there’s nothing small about Giant. With Thanksgiving looming, it’s the perfect time to settle in with a classic film about gluttony and family dysfunction.

Starring Rock Hudson as a west Texas rancher and Elizabeth Taylor as his Yankee bride, the timeline of Giant spans decades as it tells the story of the Reata ranch and its unhappy inhabitants. As a progressive northerner, Taylor is a fish out of water in the wild frontier of rural Texas. She loves her husband, and grows to love the barren open environment of her new home, but gets easily frustrated by the prejudice and intolerance she frequently witnesses. Her ally (a very HOT James Dean) saunters across the screen all brooding and beautiful, and together these two outcasts form an unlikely friendship. Their scenes together are simply magic, and one can truly sense the mutual respect that these two people shared in real life as well. Of course, Elizabeth Taylor’s chemistry with Rock Hudson is pretty incredible too, and the scene of Hudson gazing longingly at his estranged wife from across a crowded wedding, with love and adoration written all over his face, is one of the most romantic moments I’ve witnessed on the big screen. Seriously, all the feels.

With a movie about Texas cattle, dusty plains, and bit hats, one has to indulge in a little bourbon. OK, maybe a lot of bourbon. After all, you’ve got over 3 hours to sip- make it a double. While watching Giant, I recommend drinking a Reata Sweet Tea (bonus points for using Texas ingredients!).

Reata Sweet Tea

1 ½ oz Treaty Oak Red Handed Bourbon

1 oz Firefly Sweet Tea Bourbon

6 oz Texas Honey Cider

½ oz Lemon Juice

2 dashes Orange Bitters

Pour all ingredients over ice in a highball glass, stirring gently to combine.

Reata Sweet Tea

I’ve lived in Texas for more than a decade, but in many ways I can still identify with Elizabeth Taylor’s outsider character. I see a lot of injustices in my state, and tend to shake my fists pretty hard at our government, but I also have a deep appreciation for the land and the people I’ve met here. I’m proud to say I’m a Texan, despite not being a native one. You see, Texas is a state of mind, and yes- it is giant. Cheers y’all!