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Irma la Douce

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Irma la Douce

Image credit: Irma la Douce, 1963

If you love the colorful costumes and sets of classic Hollywood musicals, but can’t abide characters spontaneously bursting into song, then Irma la Douce (Disc/Download) is your movie.  Starring Jack Lemmon as a police officer-turned-pimp and Shirley MacLaine as his prostitute love, this sixties gem is a Billy Wilder film on steroids.  Big visuals, big acting, big run-time—it’s a massive commitment.  But once you give into the world of the Hotel Casanova, you’re in for a real cinematic treat.

When we first see Irma, slouching against a doorway with that little dog under her arm, you instantly know—this is a woman who has seen it all, and just doesn’t give a sh*t anymore.  She views her profession for what it is (a job), and would never allow herself to be swept away by a sappy romance. Even when she “falls” for down-on-his-luck Nestor Patou, it’s with an eye-roll and a shrug.  I see glimpses of this character in Maggie Gyllenhaal’s fabulous work on HBO’s The Deuce, and at times Irma seems almost feminist in her attitudes.  She may have a boyfriend, but that doesn’t mean she’s ready to stop working.  And thus, her boyfriend has to come up with an asinine scheme, pretending to be an English lord, wearing a silly disguise, working multiple jobs so he can afford to pay  for her time, all so she doesn’t sleep with other men.  This relationship seems doomed from the start, but with a sparkling script by Wilder and winning performances by Apartment co-stars Lemmon and MacLaine, somehow it just works.

Included within the elaborate sets built for this film is a charming bar Chez Moustache, where the pimps come for their union meetings and working gals pop in for a pastis between clients.  You could certainly join them in a straight shot of this herbal spirit diluted with a little water, but I prefer mine in a cocktail.  While watching Irma la Douce, I recommend drinking this Cocktail X.

Cocktail X

1 ½ oz Calvados apple brandy

1 oz Cointreau

½ oz Pastis

1 ½  oz Pineapple Juice

Combine all ingredients in a shaker with ice.  Shake until chilled, then strain into a chilled coupe glass.

Cocktail X

Yes, this film is long. Yes, it’s absurd.  But it’s fun to see the intersection of classic MGM musical and 1960s visual style.  There’s teased hair, plastic heart sunglasses, and movie streets too beautiful to be real, but there is also a heartfelt message about the changing social attitudes within the time period Irma la Douce was made.  As wise Moustache says of the business of sex work, “Love is illegal – but not hate. That you can do anywhere, anytime, to anybody. But if you want a little warmth, a little tenderness, a shoulder to cry on, a smile to cuddle up with, you have to hide in dark corners, like a criminal.”  Leave it to a bartender to speak the truth. Cheers!

The Trouble with Angels

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The Trouble with Angels

Image credit: The Trouble with Angels, 1966.

I’ve got the most scathingly brilliant idea. Let’s revisit the wonderful female-centric ’60s film The Trouble with Angels (Disc/Download) while drinking cocktails and worshiping at the altar of Rosalind Russell. I’m not a religious gal myself, but I’d still like to say a prayer of thanks to whoever made this movie happen. Without it, I might never understand the true greatness that occurs when men get the hell out of the way and let women take over.

Starring Hayley Mills and June Harding as precocious teens stuck at an all-girls Catholic boarding school, The Trouble with Angels is a story of friendship and finding one’s place in the world. As a lonely child watching this for the first time, I envied the friendship of Mary and Rachel like nothing else. To have a best friend that would be there for you through thick and thin (even if it means years of scrubbing pots), seemed like an impossible dream. Sure, these girls annoy the heck out of Mother Superior, played by the commanding Rosalind Russell, but it’s such a joy to watch them make mistakes, learn from them, and grow closer. For all the “good girls” out there like Rachel (and me),  we need a “bad girl” to show us that life is meant to be lived, and sometimes, rules are meant to be broken.

This film was one of my first forays into 1960s cinema, and I credit it with triggering a lifelong obsession. I wanted it all- the teased hair, the clothes, the pop culture references, and still do. Rachel’s teen dream is none other than Jack Lemmon, which made me love the actor before I ever saw him strain spaghetti through a tennis racket in The Apartment. Rachel loves Jack Lemmon, so I love Jack Lemmon. I also love this lemon cocktail that’s as fizzy, sweet, and tart as the film itself. While watching The Trouble with Angels, I recommend drinking a glass of Lemmon-ade.

Lemmon-ade

1.5 oz vodka

1.5 oz Gabriello Lemon Cream Liqueur

½ oz simple syrup

½ oz lemon juice

Lemon Italian Soda

Lemon Twist

Combine vodka, lemon liqueur, simple syrup, and lemon juice over ice in a shaker. Shake until chilled, then strain into a glass filled with crushed ice. Top with Italian soda, and garnish with a lemon twist.

Lemmon-ade

Watching this film as an adult, I’m delighted by how well it still holds up. I attribute this to the fact that it was directed by a woman (the trailblazing Ida Lupino), written by a woman, and starring all women. Their conversations don’t revolve around men, but around friendships, education, and self-discovery. For females of any generation, this is an important film that deserves to be toasted. Mothers, show it to your daughters—they’ll thank you for it someday. Cheers!

The Days of Wine and Roses

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Days of Wine and Roses

Image credit: The Days of Wine and Roses, 1962.

I’ve spent a lot of time watching rom-coms and writing books with that all-important Happily Ever After, but this February, I’m planning a deep dive into the tragic romance genre. I want to celebrate those tear-jerker movies that leave you gutted, but nevertheless believing in the all-consuming power of love. This week, I’m subjecting myself to a serious punch to the face by watching The Days of Wine and Roses (Disc/Download).

I’ll be honest, when I hit play on this film, I was expecting something much different than what I got. I thought Blake Edwards + Henry Mancini + Jack Lemmon = a romantic comedy with great music and fabulous party scenes. Well, I got the music, parties, and romance, but there’s nothing funny about this movie about two alcoholics struggling to get sober. Like Reefer Madness before it, and Leaving Las Vegas decades after, this is a film that will make you want to give up all your vices and just stay home with a glass of water. It strays a little too far into propaganda-territory for Alcoholics Anonymous, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen such a powerful film about loving someone who can’t love themselves. Jack Lemmon and Lee Remick give powerhouse performances as a doomed husband and wife who fall on and off the wagon multiple times, and when each subsequent fall is from a greater height, you start to really ache for them. You hope that their love is enough to help them through this, but eventually, it becomes clear—it might not be.

When the film begins, Lee Remick is a teetotaler, until she meets the sweet, drunken charmer Jack Lemmon and his Brandy Alexander‘s. One sip, and it’s all downhill. You could certainly enjoy that cocktail with her, but this film is also a great excuse to use rosewater. Especially when Jack Lemmon is tearing through a greenhouse looking for the bottle he stashed in a plant. It’s so moving, you can almost smell the soil, roses, and bitter stench of cheap booze. While watching The Days of Wine and Roses, I recommend this Wilted Rose Martini. (But seriously- just one, dear reader.)

Wilted Rose Martini

2 ½ oz Lemon Vodka

½ oz Elderflower Liqueur

½ oz Lemon Juice

½ oz simple syrup

3 drops Rosewater

Lemon Twist

Combine all ingredients in a shaker with ice. Shake until chilled, then strain into a martini glass. Garnish with a lemon twist.

Wilted Rose Martini

I count my lucky stars that I’m able to have only one or two cocktails and call it a night. I know how slippery that slope is for many people, and this film gives me empathy for their struggle. The ending is ambiguous, and we don’t know if either of these people will ever stay clean. But I have hope that they do—I believe in love, and I believe that people can conquer their demons.  Maybe there’s a Happily Ever After still to come. Cheers!

Some Like it Hot

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Image credit MGM 1959

Image credit MGM 1959

What do you get when you cross two burly jazz musicians in drag, a blonde ukulele-playing starlet, a hot water bottle full of whiskey, and a room full of tommy-gun toting gangsters? A heck of a good time, that’s what. This week’s film selection is the 1959 Billy Wilder classic  Some Like it Hot. Set against the backdrop of the roaring 20’s, this film features Jack Lemmon and Tony Curtis as two Chicago jazz musicians down on their luck and on the run from the mob. They hear of a female band in need of new members, so these two bosom buddies trade in their overcoats for dresses and wigs, and hop a train to Florida. On board, they meet Marilyn Monroe’s character Sugar Kane, and the rest of Sweet Sue’s Society Syncopators. These ladies like to party, and pretty soon the drunken shenanigans are off and running.

Probably my favorite scene in the film is one that lends itself well to this week’s cocktail selection. During the train ride down to Florida, Sugar Kane gets the party started in Jack Lemmon (aka Daphne)’s bunk. He provides the whiskey, she chips some ice off an ENORMOUS block (did all trains carry polar ice down to Florida back then?), and pretty soon the rest of the Syncopators have gathered in his bunk with a bottle of Vermouth and a pretty ingenious hot water bottle/cocktail shaker-thing. Manhattans are served in Dixie cups, and someone manages to produce some Saltine crackers (I don’t think I want to know from where). It becomes kind of a naughty sorority party, with Jack Lemmon in the center as the ugliest sorority sister I have ever seen.  Zowie!

While I’m watching this scene, of course all I want is a Manhattan so I can join in the party too. While I’ve typically posted cutesy variations on classic cocktails thus far, this week I’m going with something more traditional since this is such a classic comedic film. This week’s cocktail: The Classic Manhattan.

Classic Manhattan

2 oz Bourbon Whiskey

1 oz Sweet Vermouth

2 dashes Angostura bitters

1 maraschino cherry

Combine the rye, vermouth, and bitters in a mixing glass, fill with ice, and stir until cold. Strain into a chilled glass, garnish with the cherry or orange twist.

classic-manhattan

If you’re like me, one of these is all you need for sipping during the movie. But of course it’s more fun to invite some friends over, make a big batch, and laugh at Tony Curtis’ faux-Cary Grant accent midway through the film together. This is truly a film that encourages celebrating music, friendship, cocktails and womanhood. And if you’re not a woman, well, nobody’s perfect. Cheers!

The Apartment

Photo Credit Mirisch Corporation, 1960

Photo Credit Mirisch Corporation, 1960

Happy New Year from Cinema Sips! What a fabulous excuse to drink a cocktail. Tonight, I’m screening one of my favorite films, Billy Wilder’s The Apartment. This picture takes place over the holiday season in Mad Men-era New York City, and ends with a climactic New Years Eve. What better way to ring in 2014 than with a sparkling cocktail and the sparkling chemistry between Jack Lemmon and Shirley MacLaine in this wonderful classic film. Additionally, the cocktails are certainly flowing in this movie, so I can think of no better film to end 2013 on than this one.

The Apartment tells the story of Jack Lemmon’s character C.C. Baxter, a lowly employee of a large life insurance firm. In order to work his way up in the firm, he lends his apartment out to company executives and their mistresses. Things turn sour when he realizes that one of those mistresses is the woman he’s already fallen for, adorable white-gloved elevator operator Shirley MacLaine. Although there is a lot of humor in this film, there is quite a lot of darkness too. MacLaine does a wonderful job of playing the wounded “other woman”, who is both funny and devastatingly sad at the same time. Jack Lemmon is charming with his bowler hats and tennis racket-strained spaghetti, yet his character also harbors a dark suicidal past. Billy Wilder’s script is perfect as usual, filled with witty banter and charming outdated phrases. Oh to be Shirley MacLaine with her cute little white gloves and her frozen daiquiris in a basement tiki bar- I love it all.

For my cocktail tonight, I’m referencing the multitude of martinis that are drunk during the course of this film, as well as the champagne that makes the final scene so climactic. I’m adding a splash of Cassis liquor to make it a bit more festive and sweeter, and just a hint of lemon to bring out the fruitiness of the champagne. This drink is similar to a Kir Royale, only with an addition of vodka and lemon. In this film, the most shocking thing of all is not that C.C. Baxter lets numerous men and women have trysts in his bed, but rather that he lives in an absolutely HUGE apartment in New York City, for which he pays a mere $85 a month. To that end, I’m serving up the Low Rent Royale Martini tonight.

1 ½ oz vodka

½ oz Cassis liqueur

Champagne or dry sparkling wine

Lemon twist

Shake vodka and cassis liqueur together over ice, and strain into a chilled glass. Top with Champagne and lemon twist.

kir-royale-martini

I hope you enjoy this sparkling cocktail as much as I do, and with any luck The Apartment will make you laugh while simultaneously tugging at your heart strings. Whether you already have your someone special to kiss at midnight, or you’re still looking for that person, this film makes me hopeful that good things are ahead. At least drinks-wise anyway. Happy New Year, and cheers!