Posted on January 31st, 2011 1 comment
Guys and Dolls
from 1955, starring Frank Sinatra, Marlin Brando, Jean Simmons and Vivian Blaine.
Without a doubt this flick ranks in my all-time top favorites. The crazy characters, the oddball accents, the music, the floating craps game, the hats, the dolls…there ain’t nothin’ about this movie I don’t fully enjoy with a capital “E”, see?
This was one of the first (good) movies to use non-musical talent (Brando, Simmons) in a musical. Surrounded by actual singers (Sinatra, Blaine), the two leads pulled it off pretty well and paved the way for later musicals to star non-musical talent (all the way up to 2002’s Chicago, forcing notes out of Renne Zellweger, Cathrine Zeta-Jones and Richard Gere).
The story, adapted from Damon Runyon’s original short story, is about a collection of gamblers, showgirls, Salvation Army workers and other fringe characters inhabiting the nights of New York City around 1950. Two gamblers in particular, Nathan Detroit (Sinatra) and Sky Masterson (Brando) are focused upon as Detroit tries to find a new venue for his famous floating craps game. A “chance” meeting over cheesecake has Detroit attempting to con Masterson out of some dough in the hopes of using said dough to bribe a certain garage owner to allow the dice to roll. Masterson, a sharp character, sees through this rouse and tells Nathan no dice. He does however boast to Detroit that he can take any doll, no matter how pretty, to Havana for the weekend. Nathan accepts this challenge and the game is on.
As usual, I won’t give away any of the fun stuff in case you haven’t seen the flick. Let’s just say that great music, funny lines and people who speak in the vernacular of the above said paragraph are what you will find in this charming and thoroughly swinging film.
The Runyon Special
Pile it up in this order:
• Thick slice pumpernickle/rye swirl bread
with deli-style spicy mustard
• Munster cheese
• Thick tomato slices
• Roast beef
• Thick slice pumpernickle/rye swirl bread with deli-style spicy mustard on one side,
Thousand Island dressing on the other
• Corned beef
• Sweet chopped coleslaw
• Swiss cheese
• Thick slice pumpernickle/rye swirl bread with Thousand Island dressing
Cut this triple-decker in half, top with green olives on toothpicks and side with chips, more slaw and kosher pickle. For dessert, cheesecake (or strudel).
The drink: Dolce de Leche, Cubana style
(According to Sky Masterson, “Dolce de Leche” means “Sweet of Milk”. It’s a kind of milk shake made with Bacardi…but just enough to act as a preservative. Here’s the modernized version of this classic cocktail)
1 oz Bacardi Silver
1/2 oz Godiva Mocha Liquor (or chocolate liquor, or even Kahluha will work)
1/2 oz sweetened condensed milk
Shake it all up in a shaker with ice and strain, preferably into a coconut. Top with shaved chocolate and a pinch of cinnamon.
Here’s the opening sequence with “Can Do”. See you at the races, kids!
-Chris “Mack the Knife” Pinto reporting from the starting gate. They’re off!
Posted on January 11th, 2011 1 comment
Continuing 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,
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, 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.
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.
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:
Posted on April 3rd, 2010 1 comment
Another landmark has fallen victim to our crap-assed economy: The Historic Cal-Neva Lodge, once owned by Frank Sinatra and frequented by Jack Kennedy and Marylin Monroe, shut down casino operations this week due to loss in profits. Although a drop in tourism to Tahoe and increased competition from Vegas were probably a part of the problem, I blame the greedy, ignorant bankers and politicians for the closing.
But don’t start crying over it just yet. The Cal-Neva has had its ups and downs over the years; even Frank had his license yanked and the joint still made it through. The restaurant, lounge and showroom are remaining open. In fact, their website is still up, and they’re apparently still taking bookings for rooms. There are plans to get the casino back up by the end of the year.
The way I see it, there are plenty of millionaires out there who dig Sinatra and know what preserving this place means to the world. If you’re reading this, think about putting in a bid on the place. It must be saved.
See my post on the Cal-Neva Lodge (and a groovy story to go with it) by clicking here.
See the story on the San Francisco Chronicle here.