Friday, August 7, 2020

Blood Of The Vines - Wild About Wilder

Pairing wine with movies!  See the trailers and hear the fascinating commentary for these movies and many more at Trailers From Hell.  This week, Billy Wilder movies, one… two… three of them, with appropriate wine pairings.

1961's One, Two, Three saw James Cagney playing the head of Coca Cola's Berlin office.  If I were in Germany, I would prefer a Riesling.  Cagney's boss in Atlanta puts him in charge of his daughter, who is visiting the divided city.  She turns up married to a young East German communist hothead, and the comedy unfurls at a breakneck pace under Billy Wilder's direction.  Cagney's comic chops were never better.

The movie was loosely based on the 1939 Wilder-penned film, Ninotchka, which lampooned the Soviet Union under Stalin.  With the USSR still ripe for satire in the Cold War '60s, Wilder borrowed heavily from his previous work for One, Two, Three's framework.  Construction began on the Berlin Wall - Google it, kids - while the movie was being shot.  The chill of the Cold War after that rather put a damper on the laughs for many moviegoers.

Cagney reportedly hated co-star Horst Buchholz and wished he had "knocked him on his ass" for stealing scenes.  My wife chuckled at that.  "That's rich coming from Cagney," she said, adding with a maniacal grin, "Maybe we should talk to Mae Clarke about it."  Grapefruit for breakfast, anyone?  Top o' the world!

They drink a lot of Coke in One, Two, Three, but we want something a bit more robust with the movie.  Blue Nun was a popular German wine back in the '60s, but I’m Sure Jimmy Cagney wouldn't wish that on Horst Buchholz.  How about ordering a Spätburgunder?  It's really a German Pinot Noir, but just saying it puts me in mind of Cagney's "Schlemmer!"

Speaking of pacing, 1944's Double Indemnity has Fred MacMurray and Barbara Stanwyck as fast-talking tough guy and femme fatale.  How fast?  There didn’t appear to be a speed limit in effect.

After seeing what Walter Neff goes through in DI, and hearing a few Johnny Dollar episodes on old time radio, I realized how tough the insurance game can be.  It elevates the respect I feel for my State Farm guy.  But, if the next time I see him he asks if I've got a beer that’s not doing anything - I'll be looking over my shoulder.

Blood Of The Vines suggests pairing this film noir with the MacMurray Estate Pinot Noir, Russian River Valley. It's Fred, all right, from the ranch he bought in 1941.  Grapes weren't really planted there until Gallo did it in the '90s.  The wine features earthy cherry flavors - rich, sweet and powerful. 

It feels a bit creepy to pair wine with a movie about a drunk, but here goes.  1945's The Lost Weekend is about a writer who drinks too much, as if that narrows it down.  Ray Milland knocks back the rye whiskey here - experience he would use later in Dial M for Murder, the drinking man's Hitchcock.  Milland turned his portrayal of a rummy into an Academy Award, but it sometimes looks as if he's just trying to get away from the theramin music.

Wilder’s film really touched a nerve in the liquor biz, which allegedly had a mobster offer the studio five million dollars to burn the negative.  Wilder later joked that, for that kind of money, he'd strike the match.  

Drinks for a movie about a drunk?  It seems like such a cheap shot.  Beauregard Vineyards makes a Santa Cruz Mountains Zinfandel blend called, conveniently enough, "The Lost Weekend."  We don't know whether that name signifies a turning point in the winemaker's life or just cluelessness in the marketing department.  My money is on the latter.

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