Booze News: Bob and Doug McKenzie Return to the Small Screen!

>> Monday, April 28, 2008

Okay, this technically isn't movie-related, but it's joyous news just the same. Dave Thomas and Rick Moranis are set to return to the roles of beer-crazy brothers Bob and Doug McKenzie in an animated series scheduled to premiere in January 2009! Beauty, eh?

A Canadian network is already lined up, and an American outlet should be announced soon. Click on the video above (courtesy of for a preview, you hoser.

Strange Brew (DVD)


Booze News: May TCM Booze Movies Schedule

Month after month, Turner Classic Movies provides the finest programming for soused cinema fanatics (and for film lovers of all stripes). In May, the whiskey will be flowing freer than ever, as TCM salutes legendary crooner and Jack Daniels advocate, Frank Sinatra. Ol’ Blue Eyes will own Sunday and Wednesday nights on the network, with a retrospective of 40 of his films and TV specials.

I’ve listed some highlights of TCM’s Sinatrafest below (including a showing of all of the Rat Pack films on May 21st). There are a number of additional “booze movies” scheduled on the network next month, so they are listed as well.

By the way, I’m considering making this a monthly feature. If you find the schedule useful, let me know. I’d also appreciate comments if you know of soused cinema screenings coming up on other networks.



All Times Eastern

2 Friday

12:45 PM Country Girl, The (1954)

While Der Bingle drinks, his wife, Grace Kelly, eyes another man. Cast: Bing Crosby, Grace Kelly, William Holden. Dir: George Seaton. BW-104 mins

2:30 PM High Society (1956)

Musical version of The Philadelphia Story. Whatta swell party this is. Cast: Bing Crosby, Grace Kelly, Frank Sinatra. Dir: Charles Walters. C-107 mins, Letterbox Format

1:36 AM Short Film: Drunk Driving (1939)

BW-21 mins,

3 Saturday

4:15 PM Moulin Rouge (1952)

Absinthe anyone? Toulouse-Lautrec fights to find love despite his physical limitations. Cast: Jose Ferrer, Zsa Zsa Gabor, Colette Marchand. Dir: John Huston. C-119 mins

4 Sunday

8:00 PM Frank Sinatra: A Man and His Music (1965)

Sinatra’s swingin’ 60’s TV music special. Dir: Dwight Hemion. C-50 mins

11:00 PM Frank Sinatra: A Man and His Music (1965)

(Watch it again if you’re drunk enough.)

7 Wednesday

8:00 PM From Here To Eternity (1953)

Enlisted men in Hawaii fight for love and honor on the eve of World War II. They also drink. Cast: Burt Lancaster, Montgomery Clift, Frank Sinatra. Dir: Fred Zinnemann. BW-118 mins

8 Thursday

4:30 PM Thunder Road (1958)

Drive-in moonshine classic. Cast: Robert Mitchum, Gene Barry, Keely Smith. Dir: Arthur Ripley. BW-93 mins

6:15 PM Entertainer, The (1960)

A third-rate vaudevillian uses liquor and young women to escape the pressures of changing times. Cast: Laurence Olivier, Brenda de Banzie, Joan Plowright. Dir: Tony Richardson. BW-104 mins, Letterbox Format

9 Friday

8:15 AM Cat On A Hot Tin Roof (1958)

A dying plantation owner tries to help his alcoholic son solve his problems. Cast: Elizabeth Taylor, Paul Newman, Burl Ives. Dir: Richard Brooks. C-108 mins, Letterbox Format

11 Sunday

8:00 PM Frank Sinatra: A Man and His Music, part 2 (1966)

Frank Sinatra, joined by his daughter Nancy, performs a set of classics. Cast: Frank Sinatra, Nancy Sinatra. Dir: Dwight Hemion. C-50 mins

11:00 PM Frank Sinatra: A Man and His Music, part 2 (1966)

(Drink. Swing. Repeat.)

12:00 AM Guys And Dolls (1955)

A big-city gambler bets that he can seduce a Salvation Army girl (with the help of Bicardi). Cast: Marlon Brando, Frank Sinatra, Jean Simmons. Dir: Joseph L. Mankiewicz. C-149 mins, Letterbox Format

12 Monday

6:00 PM African Queen, The (1951)

A gin-swillin’ skipper and a spirited missionary take on the Germans in Africa during World War I. Cast: Humphrey Bogart, Katharine Hepburn. Dir: John Huston. C-105 mins

11:15 PM Slight Case Of Murder, A (1938)

Gangsters, murder, comedy, and beer. Cast: Edward G. Robinson, Jane Bryan, Allen Jenkins. Dir: Lloyd Bacon. BW-85 mins

14 Wednesday

11:30 AM Kissin' Cousins (1964)

Elvis and moonshine. Cast: Elvis Presley, Arthur O'Connell, Yvonne Craig. Dir: Gene Nelson. C-96 mins, Letterbox Format

10:15 PM Marriage on the Rocks (1965)

Frank and Dino in a so-so romantic comedy. Cast: Frank Sinatra, Deborah Kerr, Dean Martin. Dir: Jack Donohue. C-109 mins, Letterbox Format

12:15 AM High Society (1956)

(It’s still a swell party.)

18 Sunday

8:00 PM Frank Sinatra: A Man and His Music + Ella + Jobim (1967)

Frank Sinatra is joined by Ella and Jobim for the second of his 1960s television specials. Cast: Frank Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald, Antonio Carlos Jobim. Dir: Michael Pfleghar. C-60 mins

9:00 PM Pal Joey (1957)

The quintessential Sinatra film! An opportunistic singer woos a wealthy widow to boost his career. Cast: Frank Sinatra, Rita Hayworth, Kim Novak. Dir: George Sidney. C-109 mins, Letterbox Format

11:00 PM Frank Sinatra: A Man and His Music + Ella + Jobim (1967)
(Play it again, Frank.)

2:00 AM Joker Is Wild, The (1957)

Sinatra portrays boozin’ singer/comic Joe E. Lewis. Cast: Frank Sinatra, Mitzi Gaynor, Jeanne Crain. Dir: Charles Vidor. BW-126 mins

19 Monday

8:00 PM Hobson's Choice (1954)

A pub-lovin’ widower fights to control the lives of his three strong-willed daughters. Cast: Charles Laughton, John Mills, Brenda De Banzie. Dir: David Lean. BW-107 mins,

20 Tuesday

11:30 AM Philadelphia Story, The (1940)

Jimmy Stewart gets drunk. Cast: Cary Grant, Katharine Hepburn, James Stewart. Dir: George Cukor. BW-112 mins

5:15 AM Harvey (1950)

Stewart drinks again! Cast: James Stewart, Josephine Hull, Cecil Kellaway. Dir: Henry Koster. BW-104 mins,

21 Wednesday

8:00 PM Ocean's Eleven (1960)

The Rat Pack plans to rob a Las Vegas casino. Cast: Frank Sinatra, Peter Lawford, Sammy Davis, Jr.. Dir: Lewis Milestone. C-128 mins, Letterbox Format

10:15 PM Sergeants 3 (1962)

The Rat Pack goes West. This hasn’t aired on television in over 20 years. Cast: Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis, Jr. Dir: John Sturges. C-112 mins

12:15 AM Robin And The 7 Hoods (1964)

The booziest of the Rat Pack films. Cast: Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis, Jr. Dir: Gordon Douglas. C-123 mins, Letterbox Format

2:30 AM 4 For Texas (1963)

Frank and Dino are rival saloon owners. Cast: Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Charles Bronson. Dir: Robert Aldrich. C-115 mins, Letterbox Format

4:45 AM Some Came Running (1958)

Good dramatic turns from Frank, Dino, and Shirley. Cast: Frank Sinatra, Shirley MacLaine, Dean Martin. Dir: Vincente Minnelli. C-136 mins, Letterbox Format

25 Sunday

8:00 PM Frank Sinatra: Ol' Blue Eyes is Back (1973)

Ol' Blue Eyes confidently delivers a slate of quintessentially Frank tunes. Cast: Frank Sinatra, Gene Kelly. Dir: Marty Pasetta. C-60 mins

11:00 PM Frank Sinatra: Ol' Blue Eyes is Back (1973)

(His eyes are just as blue the second time around.)

26 Monday

6:00 AM Wings (1927)

Buddy Rodgers gets drunk in this Oscar-winning silent. Cast: Richard Arlen, Charles "Buddy" Rogers, Clara Bow. Dir: William A. Wellman. BW-139 mins


Review: The Bottom of the Bottle (1956)

>> Wednesday, April 23, 2008

USA/C-88m./Dir: Henry Hathaway/Wr: Sydney Boehm/Cast: Van Johnson (Donald Martin), Joseph Cotten (Patrick “P.M.” Martin), Ruth Roman (Nora Martin), Jack Carson (Hal Breckinridge), Margaret Hayes (Lil Breckinridge)

The Bottom of the Bottle is a fine example of the kind of slick, Cinemascope soap that was popular in the 1950’s. Joseph Cotton stars as Patrick “P.M.” Martin, a social-climbing rancher/lawyer living in the Mexican border town of Nogales, Arizona. P.M.’s oh-so-important community standing, as well as his already dicey marriage, is put in jeopardy when his alky brother Donald (Van Johnson) appears on his doorstep. Not only is Donald an unpredictable drunk; he’s also is a fugitive, having escaped from the pen with five years left on his sentence. Donald is desperate to cross the Santa Cruz River into Mexico, where his destitute wife and children await him. However, with the river impassable due to a downpour, the two brothers must find a way to cohabitate while old grudges, guilt, and thirsts bubble to the surface.

Incorporating dipsomania, marital strife, social anxiety, and heaping helpings of “brother’s keeper” Biblical overtones, The Bottom of the Bottle is anything but subtle. In fact it is often ridiculous. Still, the movie is consistently entertaining in the way that only an overblown sudser can be. It doesn’t hurt that the picture is skillfully directed with fine use of the Cinemascope frame and Deluxe color palate by old pro Henry Hathaway. First-rate performances by a never-better Van Johnson, always-reliable Joseph Cotten (in a thanklessly unlikable role), and honey-voiced Ruth Roman (as Cotten’s wife) also lend strong support.

For soused cinema enthusiasts, The Bottom of the Bottle provides a cocktail with plenty of kick. As P.M. warns his younger brother early on, “I just wanted to say that you’ll see plenty of drinking inside. It goes on most of the time during the storm from one house to another.” He isn’t lying. Temptation lies everywhere--even in a neighbor’s doorbell, which plays “How Dry I Am.” Catch this surprisingly entertaining gem if you can.

Drinks Consumed--Whiskey (Scotch and bourbon), gin (martini), and various unknown cocktails

Intoxicating Effects--Staggering, stumbling, bickering, destruction of property, public disturbance, hangover, and the shakes

Potent Quotables--DONALD: Mr. Jenkins, sir.
JENKINS: Yes, Mr. Bell.
DONALD: Would you oblige me please with a double double?
JENKINS: Anything in particular?
DONALD: Alcohol, alcohol.

Video Availability--The Bottom of the Bottle has never been commercially released on video.

Similarly Sauced Cinema--Van Johnson also got his drink on in The Big Hangover (1950), although usually unintentionally.


A Toast to Arthur Housman and Jack Norton, Character Drunks

>> Friday, April 11, 2008

In the days before public drunkenness was considered politically incorrect, it was possible for a performer to make a good living as a character actor specializing in souses. For example, if you’re old enough to remember watching television in the 60’s and 70’s, you can’t help but recall the frequently belching inebriate that Foster Brooks portrayed on numerous variety shows, sitcoms, and game shows. Of course, Brooks wasn’t the first to make a living portraying a comic lush. In the early days of the talkies through the heyday of the studio system, many character actors performed as drunkards, often providing staggering background action in nightclub and saloon scenes. Of this group of celluloid souses, two actors stand out as the most prolific and recognizable character drunks of all time--Arthur Housman and Jack Norton.

In the 1930’s, character actor Arthur Housman was far from being a household name, but the face of the slim, sleepy-eyed, mustachioed actor was well known to the movie-going public. Houseman made nearly 150 films between 1912 and 1929, portraying everything from reporters to acrobats, but when sound entered the picture, Housman was assigned a few jobs portraying a daffy dipsomaniac, and the character stuck to him like spirit gum. Between 1930 and his death in 1942, Housman played inebriates in dozens of features and shorts. Most of these were uncredited single-scene appearances. In the few cases when he did receive screen credit, he was most often listed as “Drunk,” but occasionally there were variations, such as “The Drunk,” “Drunken Sailor,” “Drunken, Irate Husband,” “Drunk Being Photographed,” and “Dick Harris, Drunk.”

Periodically Housman was given a more substantial film role that gave him an opportunity to showcase his talents. The most memorable of these roles were in the four films in which he costarred with Laurel and Hardy--Scram (1932), The Live Ghost (1934), The Fixer Uppers (1935), and Our Relations (1936). Each of those movies gave Housman the chance to interact with the most popular comedy team of the day, and the actor not only held his own; he often stole scenes from the pair. It should be noted that Housman also appeared in Laurel and Hardy’s The Flying Deuces (1939), but his appearance was only fleeting.

Arthur Housman died of pneumonia on april 7, 1942 at the age of 52. Little is known today of Housman’s life outside of the soundstage, with the exception of a tantalizing recollection from Stan Laurel. Stan remembered that Housman came by his crocked characterization naturally in that he was a dedicated drinker off camera; and Housman’s drink of preference was gin.

With Arthur Housman’s passing, the title of cinema’s number one character drunk was handed down to Jack Norton, a ex-vaudevillian with thinning hair who also wore a thin mustache. Norton was a teetotaler in real life, and when he entered the movies in 1934, he initially played sober characters. However, by the late thirties, Norton was rivaling Housman in the number film inebriates that he had portrayed. Norton’s drunk was not an imitation of Houseman’s glum-faced character. Instead, his character was brighter-eyed, more cheerful, and usually better dressed than Houseman’s. Norton mastered his interpretation by studying boozers carefully, assimilating the wobbly walk and slurred speech until he had perfected it.

From the mid-thirties through the late fourties, Norton was filmdom’s premiere background drunk, appearing in innumerable nightclub scenes dapperly dressed in an immaculate tux. Like Houseman, most of Norton’s appearances weren’t much more than cameos, with a sentence or two of dialogue on those occasions that he was given any lines at all. Some of Norton’s most memorable roles were for screwball director Preston Sturges, including an unforgettable turn as a member of the notorious “Ale and Quail Club” in Palm Beach Story (1942). However, modern audiences are most likely to recognize Norton as the jelly-legged film director, A. Pismo Clam, in W.C. Fields’ masterpiece, The Bank Dick (1940). At that time, only Norton was capable of portraying a souse so stinko as to make the Great Man look sober by comparison.

Jack Norton retired from film work in 1948 due to illness, but he continued to take periodic acting jobs on live television in the early 50’s. He died on October 15, 1958, bringing the classic days of the movies’ character drunk to a close. However, film lovers will continue to recognize the mugs of Arthur Housman and Jack Norton for as long as black and white films continue to be screened.


Review: The Moonshine War (1970)

>> Monday, April 7, 2008

USA/C-100m./Dir: Richard Quine/Wr: Elmore Leonard/Cast: Patrick McGoohan (Frank Long), Alan Alda (John W. “Son” Martin), Richard Widmark (Dr. Emmett Taulbee), Lee Hazlewood (Dual Metters), Melodie Johnson (Lizann Simpson), Will Geer (Sheriff Baylor), Joe Williams (Aaron)

It seems that there is an unwritten rule that moonshine movies are nearly always disappointing. Although the setting promises plenty of pie-eyed folksy fun, the characters tend to spend more time talking about whiskey than actually drinking it. The Moonshine War is, alas, no exception. Despite the promise of an Elmore Leonard script, from one of the author's own novels, the picture is a pretty flat brew.

Patrick “The Prisoner” McGoohan stars as Frank Long, a crooked Prohibition agent who goes sniffing after a large stash of moonshine that his hillbilly army buddy, Son Martin (Alan Alda), put away to sell after Repeal. Long isn’t interested in arresting Son Martin and his firewater-brewing neighbors. He wants to trick Martin out of the stuff in order to sell it himself. When Martin fails to fall for Long’s tricks, the Prohibition agent elicits the help of a deranged dentist (Richard Widmark) and his psychotic sidekick (Lee Hazlewood) to provide a little muscle. Unfortunately, Long’s recruits have their own plans for the whiskey--plans that threaten to leave Long high and dry.

Elmore Leonard’s script contains some intriguingly lurid touches and some unusual, multifaceted characters. In more competent hands, The Moonshine War could have been a bizarre little psychodrama, dripping with filth, alcohol, and dark comedy. Unfortunately, Richard Quine’s direction is casual to the point of being drowsy. He showed more visual flair in the Columbo episodes that he produced around the same time.

The story is also undone through careless casting. Both McGoohan and Alda are talented, likable actors; but neither is capable of producing a credible Southern accident. McGoohan compensates by croaking most of his dialogue, while Alda’s drawl fluctuates from nonexistent to cartoonish. Most of the rest of the actors sleepwalk through their performances; but thankfully, Richard Widmark and Lee Hazlewood bring some welcome zest to the film with their spirited portrayals of a couple of laid-back psychotics.

All in all, The Moonshine War is a missed opportunity. With the elements available, it could have been the Touch of Evil of moonshine movies. Unfortunately, the finished film is simply mediocre drive-in fair--the kind of flick with just enough explosions and lewd content with which to cobble together a good trailer.

Drinks Consumed--Moonshine

Intoxicating Effects--Slurred speech and staggering

Potent Quotables--LONG: I want you to tell Son Martin somethin’ for me. Tell him I’ve commenced bustin’ stills an’ I’m gonna go on bustin’ them until he hands over his whiskey. You just spread the word, mister, you an’ your moonshinin’ neighbors. You go and have a talk to Son Martin.

Video Availability--The Moonshine War has never been released on video, but Yammering Magpie Cinema has a collector's copy available on DVD. The DVD is letterboxed and the video quality is quite nice. Yammering Magpie’s site ranks the video quality a “C," but that refers to their initial pan & scan release of the title. They have since upgraded the video, and I'd rate the new release an A-. The picture is a little softer than standard DVDs. It's closer to laserdisc quality. However, it's framed properly, free of speckles, and it may be the only way you’ll ever see this rarely screened flick.

Similarly Sauced Cinema--Burt Reynolds runs moonshine in the okay actioner White Lightning (1973).

Moonshine War - Movie Poster - 11 x 17



>> Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Jackie Gleason's performance as Jack "Call Me Irresponsible" Griffith, the lovable, turn-of-the-century dipsomaniac/family man in Papa's Delicate Condition (1963) is finally available on DVD! The previously neglected picture is part of a package of titles that Paramount is licensing to distributor Legend Films, presumably because the studio didn't think that it could make any money by releasing the flicks directly. Unlike many small distributor releases, the Paramount titles licensed to Legend have all be mastered from the best available dup negatives, released in their original aspect ratios, and anamorphically enhanced.

Papa's Delicate Condition and the other Paramount titles are now available for order directly from Legend Films' Website, and they will be available in June and July for purchase through other outlets. They are priced at $14.95 plus $4.95 shipping/$2 shipping for each additional title. Payment is through PayPal.

A full list of titles (at least the initial wave) is provided below. Papa's Delicate Condition is the only alky-related movie on the list, but several of the titles will be of interest to film fanatics, including the excellent foreign romantic comedy Girl on the Bridge (1999).

Baby It's You
Almost An Angel
French Postcards
The One And Only
Jekyll & Hyde Together Again
Some Kind Of Hero
The Whoopee Boys
Girl On The Bridge
Papa's Delicate Condition

Framed (coming soon)
Blue City
Villa Rides
Desperate Characters
King Of The Gypsies
Hitler - The Last Ten Days
Man, Woman And Child

The Sender (coming soon)
The Skull
The Deadly Bees (coming soon)
Student Bodies
Phase IV (coming soon)
The Man Who Could Cheat Death (coming soon)
The Possession Of Joel Delaney

The Optimists
Money From Home
The Pied Piper
Those Daring Young Men In Their Jaunty Jalopies
Won Ton Ton The Dog Who Saved Hollywood
The Busy Body

Papa's Delicate Condition (DVD)

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About Me

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I like to drink. I like to watch movies. I like to watch movies about drinking. I like to write about the movies I’ve watched, but only if I’ve had a drink first.

All text including the title "Booze Movies: The 100 Proof Film Guide" Copyright William T. Garver

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