The Celluloid Pantry: “Pixie Remover” and My Man Godfrey (1936)

updated Jun 9, 2019
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[Beginning next week, The Celluloid Pantry will take a short hiatus while Nora spends the month as a writer-in-residence at the Ucross Foundation. We’ll return December 12.]

(Image credit: Apartment Therapy)

“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.

Like many Depression-era comedies, My Man Godfrey pokes fun at the idle rich. Godfrey (William Powell) is a homeless man living at the city dump on Manhattan’s East River. He’s taken in by the eccentric Bullock family after one of the daughters, Irene (Carole Lombard), finds him – “a forgotten man” – as part of a scavenger hunt.

One thing leads to another and Godfrey is hired as the household’s butler, a position that’s regularly vacated and hard to fill. His first duty the first morning on the job is to bring a glass of tomato juice to Irene’s mother, Mrs. Bullock (Alice Brady), who’s suffering from a mean hangover. “She sees pixies,” the kitchen maid warns. Godfrey, no stranger to hangovers himself, adds a little Worcestershire sauce to the glass. “There’s nothing like a counterirritant,” he explains.

Godfrey goes to Mrs. Bullock’s room with the glass on a tray.
“What’s this?” she asks.
“Pixie remover.”
“Oh, then you see them too.”
“Oh we’re old friends’ Drink it, and they’ll go away very quickly.”
“Thank you. You’re very comforting. I hope I’ll see more of you. Maybe I’d better not drink any more of this, or you might go away too.”

Pixie Remover (a.k.a. Virgin Mary)

6 oz. tomato juice
2 dashes of Worcestershire sauce
a squeeze of lemon juice
1-2 dashes of Tabasco (or other hot sauce)
salt and pepper
celery stick (optional)

Pour the tomato and lemon juices into a highball glass, over ice. (For a Bloody Mary, also add 1 3/4 ounces of vodka.) Add spices and stir. Garnish with a wedge of lime and a celery stick.