Friday, March 16, 2007

Cinematic Puffery

The WSJ has a great article today in OpinionJournal, "Huffing and Puffing", by Kyle Smith. Mr. Smith takes umbrage with folks who like to ban things and his take on it - spell that "d-i-s-g-u-s-t-e-d."

He makes a very hilarious but dead-on serious gripe here:

That's only the tip of the Marlboro, though. If every piece of filmed entertainment featuring tobacco usage is to be slapped with an R, the ratings board might want to borrow a trick from the kids and call in a few pizzas and some kegs of Red Bull. They'll have to either airbrush or give the scarlet R letter to the entire Marx Brothers oeuvre and the Bob Hope and Bing Crosby pictures. Also out will be "Meet Me in St. Louis," "Lady and the Tramp," "E.T.," Bugs Bunny cartoons, "The Parent Trap," "Chariots of Fire," "Superman," "The Chronicles of Narnia," "Elf" and the World Series (which should be banned for its tediousness, not its players' incessant tobacco chewing).

Christmas won't be the same without you, Frosty--unless you replace your corn-cob pipe with a stick of Dentyne. And some Grinch had better get to work ridding every children's library of its copy of "A Visit from St. Nicholas" ("The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth/And the smoke it encircled his head like a wreath.")

To set the record straight, I am a non-smoker. I have been exposed to second-hand smoke most all my life and now have adult onset asthma. Connection? You be the judge. Nonetheless, sometimes Dudleys ( as in Do-Rights) cause more harm than the substance/behavior they are trying to save society from. There's always a train approaching a rope-bound helpless female in the Dudley world.

After reading Mr. Smith's little vignette, I started thinking about smoking scenes in movies. Of course, anything with the sublime Mr. Bogart would suffice or even the Divine Ms. D (as in "Davis").

Okay, readers, here's the request: post or email me your favorite or memorable smoking scene(s) from the big screen. What movies just wouldn't be the same if the smoking scene or characters hit the cutting room floor?

My picks:

(1). Though I loved the movie, I coughed the entire full length while watching "Silkwood". Kept thinking how dumb it was to be fighting exposure to a potentially gene-scrambling substance while puffing away on coffin nails.

(2). Who could fall in love with a pipeless Captain in The Ghost and Mrs. Muir?

(3). And puh-leeze, no fancy cigarette holder for Burgess Meredith as "The Penguin"?

(4). Would Frankenstein be the same without this scene (and the haunting sound of Mendelssohn on the old fellow's violin)?:

Then the blind man puts a cigar in the monster's mouth
and lights a large wooden match that flares up in his face.
The monster, remembering the torches of the villagers,
recoils, grunting in terror.
"No, my friend, smoke -- gooood,"
and the old man demonstrates with his own cigar.
The monster takes a tentative puff
and smiles hugely, saying, "Smoke -- gooood,"
and sits back like a banker, grunting and puffing.

Or better yet, the hilarious Gene Wilder's Frankenstein with Peter Boyle playing the scene.

(5). Imagine Gomez Adams without his favorite smoke. Impossible!

Okay, Triflers, your turn! Flick those Bics!


Bill said...

There is a correlation between breathing second-hand smoke and pulmonary problems, according to most.

Now, I have another observation. Why stop here? What about banning movies, ads, and TV shows with characters named Smokey?

Karen said...

Good post. The Penguin without his fancy smancy cigarette holder? Perish the thought!

joared said...

Interesting post, but if I started naming all the old classic movies with cigarettes, I'd be here all night. Funny thing is, in recent years whenever I've seen some old movies, the smoking jumps right out at me. Of course, in movies, theatre, as we did in amateur plays with which I was involved, smoking always made for "business" the actor could perform on stage. Now, it all looks so obvious, sometimes for dramatic effect.

What is it with this guy you wrote about -- saints preserve us!

Roberta S said...

A provocative post, this is. Seems to me (and I do have to concede I'm not much of a movie watcher) that in the old movies, they used to smoke -- now they have sex!

Searcjie said...

From "Deep Throat":

Dolly Sharp (as "Helen") to her partner: "Mind if I smoke while you eat?"

Whisky Prajer said...

Our family has been watching "Get Smart" via DVD. Hoo boy, the smoking!! The only one who dodges the habit is 99, whom we've always known was the brains in the outfit.

Annie in Austin said...

Very interesting post, Pattie. I hate cigarette smoke, but we have to accept history instead of denying or rewriting it.

The last time I watched a favorite old, atmospheric mystery, "Laura", it was astonishing how much everyone smoked and drank back in the 40's. I read the original book, and if anything, it was even worse.

We recently rented a movie called "Hollywoodland", set in late forties through the fifties, with lostsa puffing going on. I remember the late fifties, when almost every man I know smoked. I don't know if the filmmakers were striving for authenticity, or just liked having an excuse to light up.

Annie the Garden Blogger

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