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  • Picnic, 1955: Mod Movie Monday for Memorial Day

    Posted on May 30th, 2011 "Tiki Chris" Pinto 9 comments

    picnic Memorial Day is about remembering the brave men and women who fought and died for our freedom and for the our wonderful country. It’s also about the start of summer, and barbecues, and picnics. So for this Monday I though, what better movie to feature than

    Picnic, 1955

    starring Kim Novak, William Holden, Cliff Robertson, Rosalind Russel, Betty Field and Susan Strasberg. (Ok, this flick takes place on Labor Day weekend, but we’ll pretend it’s Memorial Day)kimnovak_picnic Drifter Hal Carter (Holden) blows into town to visit his old frat buddy Alan (Robertson). Alan’s old man is the town’s rich guy, by the way. So Carter, one of those guys who is really full of himself but doesn’t have dime or a donut to show for it, charms his way into talking the old man into a job…but of course, he doesn’t want to start at the bottom, he wants to run the place from the start. Meanwhile, Carter meets Alan’s squeeze, the incomparable Madge (Kim Novak). Madge’s old lady has been poor all her life and insists Madge marry into money…but of course, Carter sweet talks her until…well, you get the basic picture. william-holden-kim-novak-picnic-101There are some great scenes in this flick, ranging from full drama to silly comedy. But the scene that it’s best known for is the dance between Kim Novak and William Holden, late night at the Picnic. The tension between the two characters has been building throughout the film, and finally comes to a head during one of the most impressive “fall in love during a two minute dance” scenes in film history. From way it’s filmed with the colored party lights in the background, to the “take me now” look on Novak’s face, the one of the greatest songs ever played in a movie, the scene is just perfect. Two songs, by the way…the dixieland party band playing throughout the picnic suddenly switches to a west-coast jazz version of the old standard “Moonglow”, then magically adds a string section when it sweeps in with “Picnic” to lay down the music bed for “The Theme From Picnic”, played in real life by Morris Stoloff, and written by George Duning and Steve Allan (Allan is credited for combining the two melodies into a perfectly-synced medley). picnic1955williamholdenkimnovak

    As far as this jazz kat is concerned, there are three defining versions of Moonglow: Goodman’s quartet version, Shaw’s orchestra version, and Stoloff’s jazz version. This was a pretty steamy scene for 1955, by the way…back in the days when open-mouthed kissing wasn’t allowed in movies, people could get excited over just the idea that two characters might be even thinking of sex…and that’s what this scene produces. The way Novak barely moves, the way Holden melts at the sight of her. And something uncommon in non-musical movies of the era…they are actually dancing to the song being played, choreographed (lightly) to fit with the tune. Dig it, I think you’ll agree…

    Happy Memorial Day, kids. And thanks again to all the troops…remember the fallen, appreciate the active, respect the retired. -Tiki Chris reporting from the poolside BBQ at Tiki Lounge Talk, the B-Lounge for hep cats and swingers.

  • Noir Movie Monday: The Man with the Golden Arm, 1955 starring Frank Sinatra

    Posted on January 11th, 2011 "Tiki Chris" Pinto 1 comment

    man_with_golden_armContinuing our foray into the dark and dirty underworld of mid-20th century addicts, this week we’re diggin’ in to one of the most powerful portrayals of a heroin addict ever dared to be shown on the silver screen. From 1955,

    The Man With The Golden Arm

    Starring Frank Sinatra, Kim Novak, Arnold Stang, Eleanor Parker and Darrin McGavin.

    Gritty, true-to-life, this movie not only shows the dark side of life, but throws it in your face. From Sinatra’s character shooting H, to showing him going “cold turkey”; from the way the pusher slowly pulls him back in; from the subtle yet obvious sexual relationship with Novak’s shady burlesque dancer character…the flick doesn’t pull any punches. Otto Preminger made it so realistic that The Motion Picture Association of America originally refused to let it fly. It wasn’t until a year later, when the by-laws were changed to allow drugs and prostitution in movies that it finally got the MPAA certification.

    Sinatra and Novak

    Sinatra and Novak

    Sinatra, coming off his high from “From Here to Eternity” jumped so fast at the part that Marlon Brando didn’t have a chance to say yay or neigh. He plays the horse-addict character with such force, you’d think he was really high on heroin – and getting sick coming off of it – on film. Anyone who says Sinatra wasn’t an actor oughta have his head banged in with a hammer.

    Compare this dirty, realistic portrayal of real drug addicts to the hopped-up, over-exaggerated “dope fiends” in Refer Madness and High School Confidential, and you’ll see why this movie is such a stunner.

    Imagine seeing this on the big screen in 1955.

    Imagine seeing this on the big screen in 1955.

    The story is about a recovering heroin addict who, just getting off a six-month vacation at a rehab prison, returns home to his invalid wife and old pals with a new look on life. While in the joint he learned how to play drums…a real natural, a guy with golden arms…and even has an audition set up with a band, to go straight. But the pressures that led him to the monkey come piling back fast, and before he knows it he’s back in his old role, dealing cards for gangsters, taking speed to stay awake, taking H to forget his troubles. You can imagine where things go from there…or you can watch the movie.

    As usual, I won’t give anything away here. Let’s just say that when you’re done watching this flick, you’ll wonder why anyone would ever do drugs in the first place. It’s rough, really tough. And dark. Hence, Film Noir.golden-arm-dealer

    McGavin (yeah, the dad from Christmas Story) delivers one of the best lines of the flick, as the pusher: “The monkey is never dead, Dealer. The monkey never dies. When you kick him off, he just hides in a corner, waiting his turn.”

    Food & Booze: I would suggest buttermilk and cold turkey.

    A final note: When I was a kid, my family (who loved this movie) said it was based on the story of Gene Krupa, the swing drummer for Benny Goodman (who later had his own big band). He was supposed to be a hop-head, a horse addict who got kicked out of Goodman’s band for showing up high too many times. Since then I’ve read a lot of conflicting reports on this story, all the way down to how the movie had nothing to do with Krupa, and that he never had a monkey on his back. In fact, he had been busted on a trumped up reefer charge, and that was about it. Amazing how rumors used to fly in the old days before the interwebs, huh?

    Here’s the original trailer:

    golden-arm-title-Tiki Chris P. reporting from the back room…the one behind the hidden panel, in the back of that dark, shady bar you try to stay away from.