One of the most romantic movies of all time, the champagne just flows in Casablanca (1942).
Rick Blaine (Humphrey Bogart, left), the cynical proprietor of a stylish nightclub in Morocco during WWII, nurses a broken heart with bourbon and brandy, but recalls happier days in an unoccupied Paris with old flame Ilsa Lund (Ingrid Bergman, right) and Mumm Cordon Rouge champagne.
Men have come a long way in the kitchens of Hollywood. In the over-the-top romantic comedy Pillow Talk (1959), Rock Hudson plays a slick and devious ladies’ man (Brad Allen) pretending to be an honest country boy (Rex Stetson), who may or may not be the type who is “devoted to his mother” and likes to “collect recipes and exchange bits of gossip.” (The layers of irony are so thick and convoluted here, it’s hard to be sure now what’s intentional.)
Chinatown (1974) is a thirsty film. Private eye Jake “JJ” Gittes (Jack Nicholson) uncovers a water scandal in a drought-stricken 1930s Los Angeles, taking him from parched riverbeds to the lush, green lawns and ornamental fish ponds of a private estate.
Evelyn Cross Mulwray (Faye Dunaway, above) is an icy-cool socialite, dressed impeccably in crisp linens and pearls. She serves tea from a silver service with sugar and lemon, and apéritifs in cut crystal glasses. So, naturally, when she orders a cocktail, it’s something chilled and brisk: “a Tom Collins with lime, not lemon.”
The Canadian distiller, The Seagram Company Ltd, has a long and storied history with the American underworld. Back in the days of Prohibition, it became a major bootleg whiskey supplier to its dry southern neighbor. (Canadian Prohibition ended in the early 1920s, but the U.S. had to wait until 1933 before liquor could be legally manufactured and sold.)
What is it about movie mobsters and food? In Goodfellas (1990) it's Paulie's garlic (see our earlier post) and Henry's slow-simmered sauce, in The Godfather (1972), it's Clemenza's cannoli, and in The Professional (1994), it's the hit-man Léon's milk. There's something in the seamless shift between cold-blooded killing and enthusiastic eating that gives their menace a convincing depth.
One of the smallest, most perfect Christmas scenes in cinema comes from a French war film that trancends boundaries of race, language, religion, and social class.
In The Grand Illusion (France, 1937), two escaped French POWs, Lieutenants Maréchal (Jean Gabin, center) and Rosenthal (Marcel Dalio, left), are taken in by a German war widow, Elsa (Dita Parlo, right).
"You must never be rough with them. You must always send them away quietly."
The Bloody Mary, a cocktail of tomato juice, vodka, Worcestershire sauce, lemon juice, Tabasco, and salt and pepper, was invented by Fernand "Pete" Petiot, a bartender at Harry's Bar in Paris as a much-needed hangover cure. In My Man Godfrey (1936), its alcohol-free cousin, the Virgin Mary, is served up with a new twist.
A remake of Marathon Man (1976) would be so different now. That's what I find fascinating. Not so much all the 2006 modernizing that would have to be done on the war criminals and the, um, dentistry, but the big changes they'd need to make with the marathon running and the food.