Monday, 29 April 2013

"Casablanca" and The Other Four Best Movies EVER Made...In My Humble Opinion. Part 1


 My Top Three favourite movies of all time used to be "Casablanca", "It's A Wonderful Life" and "Chinatown". In recent years, however, Frank Capra's timeless Christmas tale has been usurped by one of Howard Hawks' best films, "His Girl Friday". Rounding out the Top Five, then, are the Capra film and Alfred Hitchcock's "North By Northwest".


#1


                                Directed by Michael Curtiz
              Warner Bros., 1942
               Screenplay by Julius J. Epstein,              
                Philip G. Epstein, Howard Koch
                 and Casey Robinson (uncredited).
                  Based on "Everybody Comes to Rick's"
                   by Murray Burnett and Joan Alison.


The story centres around Rick Blaine (Humphrey Bogart), an American, who runs a casino/bar in unoccupied Morocco during the Second World War. Complications arise when Rick's old flame, Ilsa Lund (Ingrid Bergman), arrives in Casablanca with her new lover, a Resistance fighter named Victor Laszlo (Paul Henreid), whose presence unnerves the recently-arrived Nazi Official, Major Strasser (Conrad Veidt) who is intent on arresting him. Strasser is in Casablanca to investigate the murder of two German couriers who were carrying letters of transit, which allow the bearer freedom to travel throughout neutral territories. These letters of transit are now somewhere in Casablanca and Laszlo is out to get them so that he can carry on his Resistance work.
Rick remains neutral as both the German High Command and the French Vichy Prefect of Police, Renault (Claude Rains), try to get a bead on what makes him tick and where his loyalties lie.
Here's a scene from a transcript of the screenplay. It's one of the beautifully-written exchanges that populate this entire film;

                                     RENAULT
                         I have often speculated on why you
                         don't return to America. Did you
                         abscond with the church funds? Did
                         you run off with a senator's wife? I
                         like to think you killed a man. It's
                         the romantic in me.

               Rick still looks in the direction of the airport.

                                     RICK
                         It was a combination of all three.

                                     RENAULT
                         And what in heaven's name brought
                         you to Casablanca?

                                     RICK
                         My health. I came to Casablanca for
                         the waters.

                                     RENAULT
                         Waters? What waters? We're in the
                         desert.

                                     RICK
                         I was misinformed.
The template for the character of Rick Blaine was described as "two parts Hemingway, one part Scott-Fitzgerald". He was to be smooth and urbane, but with a tough and cynical core. The casting of Humphrey Bogart as Blaine was an attempt by Warner Brothers Studios to distance their star from his usual gangster and bad guy roles and reinvent him as a romantic lead. He was a perfect choice. I have read that Ronald Reagan was slated for the part, but this is, in fact, bogus, and that the role was also offered to George Raft, who turned it down. This, it appears, is also not true. The role of Rick Blaine was always written with Bogart in mind.

                                 
                                            Humphrey Bogart as Rick Blaine, owner of Rick's Cafe Americain
I don't know what I could say about this film that hasn't been said better by film reviewers and historians over the years. The screenplay was based on an unproduced stageplay entitled "Everybody Comes To Rick's", written by Murray Burnett and Joan Alison and numerous changes were made to the original story by twin brothers Julius J and Philip G Epstein initially, before Howard Koch came on board to continue work on it while the brothers went on to write a propaganda war movie for Frank Capra shortly after the bombing of Pearl Harbour. The Epsteins returned to work on the final draft of the screenplay some time later. Some further rewriting was done by casey Robinson, although his imput is uncredited.
Normally, I tend to worry when too many writers are involved in the screenplay because it usually results in a convoluted mess, but this film seemed to have been charmed from the beginning. There's not a bad line in the entire film and every character is well drawn.Warner Brothers was well-known for its high production values and this film has a beautiful look to it, with some great cinematography by Arthur Edison.


SPOILER ALERT (for the six people out there who've never seen this film)

Film director Sidney Pollack once said that the best love stories are the ones where the lovers don't wind up together. I tend to disagree because that's what happens in real life and I want more escapism in my films. However, "Casablanca" has a perfect ending. Rick Blaine wants to end up with Ilsa, but he knows the more noble option is to let her go with Laszlo, since she is the thing that keeps the Resistance leader fighting his cause. Absolutely perfect.

OKAY, YOU CAN READ ON, NOW

It's easily been about five years since I last watched "Casablanca". I have the 60th Anniversary two-disc special edition on DVD and, whenever I watched it, I'd get a mad craving for a cigarette. I've been off them for a couple of years, but I'm not sure if seeing Rick Blaine in his white dinner jacket and holding an unfiltered Lucky Strike (or even better, a Fatima) may not resurrect the urge for a smoke.
One way to find out. See you in 98 minutes!
100 minutes later...
My God, everybody subsists on a diet of cigarettes and alcohol in this film! I gotta get my butt over to Casablanca. Thankfully, I didn't get the urge for a cigarette while watching this film.
Besides, Bogart did enough smoking in it for the both of us.
"Casablanca" is my all-time favourite film and yet, after this viewing, it's an even better film than I recalled. I've already mentioned Arthur Edison's cinematography. The lighting and composition of nearly every shot in this film is superb and it clearly shows the care and attention that Warner Brothers Studios were renowned for in this era of Hollywood film.
Bogart's performance is multi-layered and there are some subtle shifts in his facial expressions throughout this film that convey Rick Blaine's hurt and conflicting emotions once Ilsa Lund comes back into his life.

Ingrid Bergman's performance is rich and shows the difference in acting styles back then between American actresses and those with European drama training.
                                           Ingrid Bergman as Ilsa Lund
Paul Henreid as Victor Laszlo plays second fiddle to Bogart's Rick, but he needs to be seen as both a sympathetic character and also one whom Ilsa would leave Rick for. Henreid does well in his role. He also appeared opposite Bette Davis in "Now Voyager" (Dir: Irving Rapper, 1942) and there's a scene where he puts two cigarettes in his mouth, lights them both, and then hands one to Bette Davis. It is one of the coolest scenes I've ever seen and, back in my early smoking days, every attempt to replicate the move would end in laughter for anybody watching me. Here it is off YouTube.
HEALTH WARNING- Smoking is very bad for you AND this scene may contain plot spoilers;

                                          Paul Henreid as Victor Laszlo

Claude Rains was a great character actor and here he delivers a wonderful performance as Captain Renault. In fact, this film has a beautiful array of character actors throughout, from Peter Lorre's brief screen-time as the oily Ugarte, to S.K. Sakall and Leonid Kinskey as Rick's employees, to Sydney Greenstreet as Ferrari, a shady businessman. And of course, there's also Dooley Wilson as Sam, the piano player at Rick's, whose rendition of "As Time Goes By" has become the stuff of Hollywood legend. Although, Barbra Streisand did a great little version of it in "What's Up, Doc?" (Dir: Peter Bogdanovich, 1972).

                                  
                                          Claude Rains as Captain Louis Renault

As mentioned above, I have read that the screenplay to this film was written in a very haphazard way, due to the working shedules of the writers involved. The Epstein brothers went off to do their patriotic bit for Capra and Howard Koch took over before they returned to the story a month later. It was even reported that whole scenes were being written on the day that they were due to be filmed. Either way, it's a great script, and, in 2006, the Writer's Guild of America named it the best screenplay of all time, and the American Film Institute have ranked "Casablanca" as Number 2 in their list of The 100 Greatest Movies. Probably behind "Citizen Kane", no doubt.

Perhaps it's because I'm a romantic at heart that I consider "Casablanca" to be such a great film. Perhaps it's because this film touches on notions of sacrifice for the greater good over one's own desires.
Perhaps it's because "Casablanca" is a perfect example of moviemaking from a time when story was important and scenes were given time to unfold.
I don't know.
All I know is that I watched it again a few hours ago and it's still in my Number One spot.


 #2

Picture courtesy of http://annyas.com

                            Directed by Howard Hawks,
             Columbia, 1940
              Screenplay by Charles Lederer
               Based on the stageplay "The Front Page"
                by Ben Hecht and Charles MacArthur.
I've mentioned this film before. It's one of the best screwball comedies ever made. I first saw it back in the late 1980s when it screened as a midday movie and I recorded it off tv onto a VHS cassette.
I played this film to death. I watched it EVERY NIGHT at around ten pm for ALMOST TWO MONTHS!
Once DVD came along, I kept an eye out for this film. I've bought two different copies of it on DVD, but the picture quality is not as good as the print that was screened on Channel 7 back in 1988. Why The Criterion Collection hasn't released a restored print of this classic film, I'll never know.
Cary Grant and Humphrey Bogart are my two favourite actors from The Golden Age of Hollywood. Back in the '80s, I was seeking out as many Cary Grant films as I could, keeping a lookout in the tv listings for screenings of his movies, hiring other films of his from my local video libraries.
This film was based on a stageplay, called "The Front Page", and had already been made into a movie back in 1931. It starred Adolphe Menjou as Walter Burns, newspaper Editor of a Chicago daily, and Pat O'Brien as his ace reporter, named Hildy Johnson. Johnson decides to quit the newspaper game to take a job in advertising and marry his fiancee just as a big story unfolds and Burns tries to keep him around to write the story so that his newspaper can get the scoop. The film touches on issues of race, reason versus insanity, and political corruption as a recently-unemployed man named Earl Williams is arrested for shooting a black policeman and the Mayor is looking to get him a death-sentence in a bid to garner public support for his office prior to an upcoming city election. This is a comedy?
There's more to the story, but I don't want to  ruin it for anybody who hasn't seen it.
This 1931 version is well-regarded,  and the film has since been remade a few times, in 1974 by the great Billy Wilder and starring Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau, and again in 1988 as a dreadful film with Burt Reynolds, Kathleen Turner and Christopher Reeve. They moved it from a newspaper to a tv news station and it was called "Switching Channels", directed by Ted Kotcheff, but it is the 1940 remake by Howard Hawks that is considered classic.
The main reason for this was Hawks' introduction of sexual politics into the mix. Hawks decided to make Hildy Johnson a woman and this changed the dynamic between the two main characters. It was a master-stroke and the casting of Rosalind Russell as Hildy was perfect.
(EDIT 3/5/13- It was actually screenwriter Charles Lederer's idea to make Hildy Johnson female.)
The other thing that Hawks did was have his two main leads deliver their dialogue overlapping each other. As one neared the end of a sentence, the other would start talking, making for dialogue scenes that moved at a breakneck pace over the 92 minute runtime of the movie. This is a trick that was used often in the tv series "Moonlighting", starring Cybil Shepherd and a younger Bruce Willis, in the late '80s.
Cary Grant is in perfect form as Editor of The Morning Post, Walter Burns, who will stoop as low as he can to get what he wants and Rosalind Russell proves that Hildy Johnson is more than up to the task of deflecting his tactics. Like "Casablanca", the supporting cast is wonderful, with each actor creating a unique character of their own.




ABOVE- Cary Grant as Walter Burns and Rosalind Russell as Hildy Johnson. Do you know how hard I tried to find a four-button-functional double-breasted suit with wide lapels like that back in 1989? Impossible, short of going tailor-made, which I couldn't afford.

Here's a snippet from the screenplay (transcript) where Hildy is trying to tell Burns that she's quitting the newspaper game in order to get married.
                                                                                         BURNS
                              (still interrupting)
                         You've had a better offer, eh?

                                     HILDY
                         You bet I've got a better offer.

                                     BURNS
                         Well, go on and take it. Work for
                         somebody else! That's the gratitude
                         I get for --

                                     HILDY
                         I know, Walter, but I --

                                     BURNS
                              (ignoring her)
                         What were you when you came here
                         five years ago? A little college
                         girl from a School of Journalism! I
                         took a little doll-faced mugg --

                                     HILDY
                         You wouldn't have taken me if I hadn't
                         been doll-faced!

                                     BURNS
                         Why should I? I thought it would be
                         a novelty to have a face around here
                         a man could look at without
                         shuddering.

                                     HILDY
                         Listen, Walter --

                                     BURNS
                              (going right on)
                         I made a great reporter out of you,
                         Hildy, but you won't be half as good
                         on any other paper, and you know it.
                         You need me and I need you -- and
                         the paper needs both of us.

                                     HILDY
                         Well, the paper'll have to learn to
                         do without me. And so will you. It
                         just didn't work out, Walter.

               WIDER ANGLE

                                     BURNS
                         It would have worked if you'd been
                         satisfied with just being editor and
                         reporter. But no! You had to marry
                         me and spoil everything.

                                     HILDY
                              (indignantly)
                         I wasn't satisfied! I suppose I
                         proposed to you!

                                     BURNS
                         Well, you practically did! Making
                         goo-goo eyes at me for two years
                         till I broke down. And I still claim
                         I was tight the night I proposed. If
                         you'd been a gentleman you'd have
                         forgotten all about it. But not you!

                                     HILDY
                              (speechless)
                         You -- you --

She grabs something and chucks it at him. He ducks. The phone rings.

                                     BURNS
                              (to Hildy)
                         You're losing your eye. You used to
                         be able to pitch better than that.
                              (he reaches for phone)
                         Hello... Yeah... What? Sweeney? Well,
                         what can I do for you?



 picture courtesy of http://www.carygrant.net
                                  *****
Grant practically yells his dialogue throughout this film and it further illustrates his bluster and blowhard methods of going about things. Quite a difference from how the debonaire Cary Grant has often been seen on-screen.
I remember a quote from Ivan Hutchinson, who was an Australian film critic, when he was presenting another Howard Hawks film on tv. He said; "Hawks liked his men to be men, and his women to be their buddies."
This is true of this film. Hildy Johnson is seen as 'one of the boys', often referring to herself as 'a newspaperman'. However, it is the fact that she is a woman that lends this film some heart. Walter Burns and all of the reporters on his staff are indeed quite cynical and cold-hearted, but it is made clear early on that the news story that they are covering requires a woman's touch. I've always liked the way Howard Hawks drew his female characters. They were almost as tough-as-nails as the men, but they would always show their feminine side before the end credits.

"His Girl Friday" is a beautifully-shot film too. Cinematographer Joseph Walker lights every frame just right, which is another reason why it's a crime that this film isn't available in a better print. I've read that the rights to this film fell into Public Domain in the late 1960s and this accounts for the poor quality DVDs currently on the market. I think an e-mail to Columbia Pictures may be in order. Or maybe I'll type out a letter on my circa 1936 Smith-Corona Standard. They'll think I'm a crackpot.
There's also an elegance in the composition of the shots in this film. Nothing is accidental in the way that they are arranged.


The scene above occurs in the Third Act and looking carefully, you see that the candle-stick telephones on the table and the overhanging lights in the ceiling mimic Walter and Hildy. It becomes a little more evident a few moments later when they are both making frantic phone calls with their backs to each other and their placement in the shot is no accident. It's a long scene, filled with snappy, rapid-fire dialogue and it's a credit to the talents of Grant, Russell and Ralph Bellamy (as Hildy's small-town insurance salesman fiance, who arrives in the office) and how they seemingly effortlessly deliver their lines over one another and yet we, as the audience, are able to follow every bit of it. Absolutely manic!

I've noticed a shift in comedy films over the last ten or fifteen years. The Farelly Brothers got the ball rolling with films like "There's Something About Mary" (1998) and Judd Apatow has kept things flowing with his films in recent years although, in his defence, he doesn't resort to the same level of crassness. Two-thousand and twelve saw a 'remake' of "21 Jump St", directed by Phil Lord and Chris Miller, and, while the teenager in me found it somewhat amusing, the adult in me thought it struck a few too many low blows and easy laughs with its gratuitous use of foul language (and I swear as much as the next man, maybe more so) and crass comments. Remove the smut and it wouldn't be so funny.
It would be great to see a return to the kind of comedy film writing that doesn't rely so heavily on fart jokes and dirty talk. I'm no prude. It just reminds me of all the fart jokes and dirty talk that I heard from friends of mine back in my twenties.
It's a shame that there's no real middle ground between these types of comedy films and say, something like Woody Allen's output. Although, Allen's films have been a little hit-and-miss of late.
Nobody makes a good screwball comedy anymore. One that relies on clever dialogue that's actually funny too.
Thank God for films like "His Girl Friday".

**********************************

Well, this post got a little out-of-hand. I thought I would cover all five films, but it looks like I'll have to split it up into parts. And, of course, while writing this, I got to thinking about films numbers six to ten. That's a post for a later date, no doubt. Too many great films. And most of them are in black and white.

Thanks for reading! And stay tuned for Part 2.


CREDITS;

Thanks to Wikipedia and IMDB for info on these movies. Further and more detailed info can be found there.

Apologies for the little forward/reverse logo visible in some of the pictures. Saves me trawling the web for photos. Special thanks to those whose pictures I did use. Please don't sue. I'm a movie lover, like you.

Friday, 26 April 2013

"Hey Mrs. Teeritz, Would Your Husband Like A Couple Of Typewriters?"





Here's my daughter, furiously working towards a deadline on the first edition of  "The Cloud Pop Times". One key at a time.


Here's a type sample from her machine. Ribbon needs replacing.

 
The other typewriter, the Deluxe 750TR has certain design elements...
 
 
 
...that remind me of stuff like this;
 
 
And here's a type sample. I'm not a fan of 'techno' or robot fonts. A little too moderen for my tastes.
 
 
And so, I'm happy to report that these two typewriters have indeed been put to good use. There was a day a couple of weeks ago and the sound of typewriters clacking away could be heard throughout the entire house. My wife was working on a short story on her computer.
"Quite the literary family", she quipped.
 
 
Thanks for reading!
And a very special thanks to ROG who gifted me these great typewriters. They're certainly being put to good use. Thanks again. ma'am!
 
 
 
***typecast (mainly) on a '66 Olympia SM9***

Sunday, 21 April 2013

A Beautiful World...Still

 
 
 
 
One day a terrible fire broke out in a forest - a huge woodlands was suddenly engulfed by a raging wild fire. Frightened, all the animals fled their homes and ran out of the forest. As they came to the edge of a stream they stopped to watch the fire and they were feeling very discouraged and powerless. They were all bemoaning the destruction of their homes. Every one of them thought there was nothing they could do about the fire, except for one little hummingbird.
This particular hummingbird decided it would do something. It swooped into the stream and picked up a few drops of water and went into the forest and put them on the fire. Then it went back to the stream and did it again, and it kept going back, again and again and again. All the other animals watched in disbelief; some tried to discourage the hummingbird with comments like, "Don't bother, it is too much, you are too little, your wings will burn, your beak is too tiny, it’s only a drop, you can't put out this fire."
 
And as the animals stood around disparaging the little bird’s efforts, the bird noticed how hopeless and forlorn they looked. Then one of the animals shouted out and challenged the hummingbird in a mocking voice, "What do you think you are doing?" And the hummingbird, without wasting time or losing a beat, looked back and said, "I am doing what I can."






"I'm not a protest singer/
 I can't write a song to send a message/
but it seems to me as if this message needed
to be sent."

-"What Are We Gonna Do?" by Dramarama
Lyrics by John Easdale


Thanks for reading.

Monday, 8 April 2013

A Recipe For The Dry Martini...According to Teeritz.

Dry Martini
NOTE- 24/11/2014: This post was done a while ago and so those of you who visit regularly may have read it already. I reverted it back to Draft status because it had clocked up over 75,000 views, but I couldn't find the Traffic Sources. Which means to me that it's become some kind of spambot magnet or whatever the technical term is. I'm putting it back up now. We'll see what happens.

***************************************

I'll start this post by saying that I haven't had a Dry Martini since around 1992. As far as cocktails go, it's one of the more basic recipes out there. And yet, it's also one of the most potent.
In my humble opinion, anyway.

"A man must defend his home, his wife, his children, and his martini."
- Jackie Gleeson

It also has almost as many variations to its recipe as there are people on the planet (wow, what a party that would be) and these variations usually depend on the amount of Vermouth that is added to the drink.
Your purists will state the correct amount of Vermouth as something along these lines:

"After stirring the Gin in the shaker, pick up Vermouth bottle and, without opening it, wave it over the chilled cocktail glass. Then discard Vermouth in trash."

OR (even more stringent)

"After stirring Gin in the shaker, retrieve bottle of Vermouth from neighbouring room and return to doorway of room where you are preparing your Dry Martini. Stand in door-frame and wave Vermouth bottle once in the direction of the cocktail shaker. Then discard Vermouth in trash."

Your less adventurous Martini drinkers will advocate a recipe calling for 2 parts Gin, 1 part Vermouth. My own recipe leans more towards the Vermouth-in-the-doorway method.

"I like to have a martini, two at the very most --After three I'm under the table, After four, I'm under my host."
- Dorothy Parker

And let's not even talk of Appletinis, Green Tea Martinis and (Oh, my God!) Chocolate Martinis. Those are for children.
I'm talking about the Dry Martini.
From William Powell as Nick Charles in "The Thin Man" (Dir: W.S. Van Dyke, 1934)...


...to Cary Grant in "North By Northwest" (Dir: Alfred Hitchcock, 1959).

picture courtesy of http://www.glamamor.com/2011/03/inspiration-north-by-northwest.html

Okay, that isn't his drink in this scene, but he arrives at a meeting with plans to catch up on the drinking. Besides, it's such a cool photo, I just had to include it. I'd kill for a suit like that, although I did manage to track down a similar tie some years ago. The suit was made by Kilgour, an esteemed Savile Row Tailoring house.

Off-topic, I was driving my Mother's Datsun 200B towards a roundabout intersection back in November 1986 when news came on the radio that Cary Grant had died. I nearly hit a parked car.
A few days later, I was still miserable about his death and my girlfriend and I were meeting some friends for drinks that night. We were going to Mietta's, one of Melbourne's most respected fine dining restaurants. Of course, we weren't going there to eat. Prices were hefty and fine dining wasn't my thing, even though I was working in hospitality. I saw my fair share of polished cutlery and wine glasses on a daily basis, thank-you very much.
Nope, we weren't going to the restaurant. We were going to the bar, located on the ground floor of Mietta's and it was like stepping back in time. The decor was straight out of a 1920s English Drawing Room. All that was missing was Jeeves.
Dart-board sized tables with marble tops, a bentwood chair on either side. Larger tables against one wall, a black-lacquered grand piano near the left corner at the rear, incase anyone who knew how to tickle the ivories felt the urge to do so. And ashtrays. Because back then, you could smoke inside a restaurant or bar and provide atmosphere to the place. I kept expecting Noel Coward or F. Scott Fitzgerald to walk in.
Mietta O'Donnell herself was often to be found at the door to her establishment and she would greet you with a smile as you walked in. She was a well-respected figure in the restaurant industry and sadly, was killed in a car accident in Tasmania in 2001. Many have said that fine dining in Melbourne died on that day in 2001 as well.
My girlfriend ordered a Midori and Lemonade (it was the '80s, remember?) I ordered a Dry Martini as I opened my cigarette case and lit a Kent with my Zippo. Dear God, I was such a try-hard back then.

"I drink too much. The last time I gave a urine sample it had an olive in it."
- Rodney Dangerfield

And here's the thing about getting a Dry Martini at Mietta's in the 1980s. They served it in the correct cocktail glass. Have another look at that picture of William Powell in "The Thin Man".
Can't be bothered?
Okay, check out this still from "All About Eve" (Dir: Joseph L. Mankiewicz, 1950)


picture courtesy of http://blogofthecourtier.com/2012/06/27/a-bumpy-night-ahead/

Don't mess with Miss Davis. To me, that's the right size for a Dry Martini. And I'm not alone in thinking this;


And so, I've spent the better part of the last five years checking thrift stores for cocktail glasses of similar size. About a week ago, I thought I should get around to writing this particular post, so I grabbed a couple of sherry glasses from a nearby thrift store because they were the right size.

SIZE OF THE COCKTAIL GLASS

I've got a standard cocktail glass. It's the one that everybody thinks of when they think of cocktails, especially the Dry Martini. And, as stated above, I picked up a couple of sherry glasses  because, to me,  they represent the proper size for this drink.
Here are the two of them side by side;


The larger one (left) holds 150ml (5 oz approx) and the smaller sherry glass on the right holds 90ml (3 oz approx). Now, the idea is not to fill the glass to the brim. We're not animals, after all. You need to leave some clearance so that you can reach for the olive-laden toothpick without getting your fingers wet.
Remember how I said that I haven't had a Dry Martini since around '92? I was diagnosed with a duodenal ulcer a few years earlier and scaling back on alcohol was a necessity. Martinis were off my menu, but I did have a moment of weakness and mixed myself one at a party. In 1992. The ulcer was eradicated about ten years ago and hasn't flared up since. Well, actually, I've found that ultra high levels of stress will sometimes produce that old familiar sensation in my gut, but as long as I'm not called on to rescue a stricken nuclear sub off the ocean floor, I should be okay.

Anyway, onto the main ingredients.


There are many Martini drinkers and afficionados who will swear by Gordon's Gin or Tanqueray or Plymouth or some other, more exotic brand. I don't mind Tanqueray, myself, but I prefer Bombay Sapphire. Now, I'm no expert on alcohol. I can't taste pepper or oak in red wine. I can't taste the juniper berries used in Bombay Sapphire. I just like the taste of it. If you want to read more detailed articles about mixing drinks (I hate the term 'mixology') and various spirits and cocktails, then head over to;
http://savoystomp.com/ for starters. However, I've found a wonderful range of sites that deal with the bon vivant aspects of alcohol and drinking responsibly. Plenty out there.

And so, I use Bombay Sapphire Gin for my Dry Martinis. And I also use Noilly Prat French Vermouth. This is a Dry Vermouth, and it can be drunk with a mixer or used in equal measure with other spirits, but Vermouth is really rather more well-known as the 'other' liquid ingredient in a Dry Martini.
I will use a cocktail shaker that I uhh...'liberated' from a hotel bar I worked at a few decades ago.


That weird-looking thing with the spring around it is a cocktail strainer. It's gonna keep the ice out of my drink.

And then there's the olive. Although, whenever I've prepared one of these, I've always had a few olives on standby so that I can chomp on them while I prepare the drink.

"Happiness is...finding two olives in your martini when you're hungry."
-Johnny Carson




And use a good toothpick. Don't use those cheap-assed flat ones. They can tend to splinter and wind up jammed between your teeth. No fun.

Okay, so let's get down to business. I pour a small dash of Vermouth directly into the glass. It doesn't matter how much Vermouth you use because...well, it ain't stayin' in the drink, let me tell you. I swirl the Vermouth around in the glass, making certain to coat as much of the inside as possible.


Satisfied that there's a nice, thin coating of Vermouth inside the glass, I pour the rest down the sink. Thank you Noilly Prat. Your sacrifice will not have been in vain. And yeah, I know the glass has a cutesy floral pattern etched in it, but this was common in cocktail, brandy and sherry glasses of the 1950s.

"He knows just how I like my martini - full of alcohol."
-Homer Simpson

Next, I put some ice in the cocktail shaker. I was low on ice, but since I was using the smaller glass, I could get away with only needing four or five cubes. Besides, the gin wasn't gonna stay in the shaker long enough to dilute, anyway.

For this 90ml (3 oz) glass, I would be using 60ml (2 oz) of Bombay Sapphire. Given the conical shape of the glass, this amount of gin would get close to the top, yet still leave a little breathing room.
I poured in two 30ml measures and give the shaker a quick swirl for about ten or twelve seconds.


It was enough to put a chill through the gin and lower half of the shaker. Now, y'all know I'm a Bond fan and I have tried this drink 'shaken, not stirred' in the past. Once. Some of your hardcore Martini drinkers will argue that shaking will "bruise the gin" and what-not. I don't know about that, but what I do know is that shaking it will make the drink look cloudy when you pour it. BFD.
I will do a write-up on Bond's (or rather, Ian Fleming's) version of a Martini (The Vesper) at some point. But right now, back to this one.

The strainer is in place. The ONLY thing getting through it will be gin. Another reason not to spend too long swirling the shaker around is because you want to avoid any small shards of ice getting into the drink. No real reason, except that a Dry Martini should always look perfect.


After I poured it into the glass, I looked at it for a moment. I hadn't had one of these in two decades. The effect was somewhat shattered by the fact that I was preparing this drink on a black placemat draped over the top of the microwave oven in the kitchen. Better lighting just above the microwave oven. Long story, don't ask. However, that square of black cardboard taped to the kitchen tiles helped a little with the illusion.
And then, of course, I had to place the drink in an atmospheric setting for its final photo. I wanted to make it look like you-know-who had just dialled down to Room Service.


I took a tentative sip. And was transported back to that Friday night at Mietta's in 1986. That was a memorable Dry Martini. And so was this one. This one tasted as good as I remembered. And I took my time sipping it as I continued writing this post and transferring pictures from my camera to the laptop.
One more picture, without the soft-focus filter.


"I'm not talking a cup of cheap gin splashed over an ice cube. I'm talking satin, fire and ice; Fred Astaire in a glass; surgical cleanliness, insight.. comfort; redemption and absolution. 
I'm talking MARTINI."
-Anonymous

Now I wish I had written that.

Thanks for reading. And cheers!

EDIT, 20 mins later: Special thanks to Little Miss E for taking some of the photos for this post!

Friday, 5 April 2013

Pleased to meet you, Miss Croft.


The oil-stained case. And the top of the case, where the handle is located, appears to be more discoloured than the rest of the case. This thing could have sat upright someplace for years, although the outside of the case does show scuffs and scratches.




I would have been biting my nails during this stage, but I needed both hands for the Playstation controller. When Miss Croft got to the top, the view was worth it. This game more than makes up for some lack-lustre titles in the "Tomb Raider" series.





*It still feels weird saying 'turn of the century'. Anyway, here's one more shot . All dressed up and nowhere to go. Unless you call going to the pet store to get kitty-litter and flea treatment an exciting destination.


Caffe latte number 2. Okay, time to get changed. I ain't going to the pet store dressed like this. That would be overkill.

Thanks for reading!


***typecast on a 1966 Olympia SM9***

Thursday, 4 April 2013

The Typewriter Collection No. 13- Olympia SM9, circa 1966.

I had read good things about the SM9 from various members of The Typosphere. I have also read that Paul Auster used one to write most of his fiction throughout the '70s and '80s. He even wrote an entire book about his SM9. That's dedication for ya.
The Olympia SM9 has also featured in "Ruby Sparks" (Dirs: Jonathan Dayton, Valerie Faris, 2012), the story of a struggling young writer (who uses a SM9) who dreams up his ideal woman...who then comes to life.

 Ruby Sparks movie Wallpaper #3

ABOVE- Paul Dano as Calvin, a young author crippled by Writer's Block. At least he has an Olympia. And it's a pet hate of mine when a wristwatch doesn't sit properly on the wrist. He's wearing it a tad loose. A watchmaker's hole-punch can fix that.

Anyhow, the SM9 series had a solid reputation and there was one for sale on eBay with a low "Buy It Now" price. The seller stated that it was not in working order. I wrote about it last week...

http://teeritz.blogspot.com.au/2013/03/just-bought-olympia-sm9which-might-need.html

...and many of you offered suggestions as to what could be wrong with it. Basically, the carriage was not moving and I had hoped that it was nothing more than the carriage lock being engaged. Alas, this was not the case.



The typewriter arrived yesterday morning and I was surprised and delighted by how clean it was. I got the impression that it wasn't used much. The draw-band was made of a strip of white cloth and had no stains or grease/oil spills on it. No scratches or scuffs on the bodywork. Nice two-tone case with an off-white upper half and an Lettera 32-ish shade of green on the lower half. And it was made of steel, too. I'm not up on the history of typewriter development in the same way that I am with wristwatches, but it seems to me that many brands were switching over to plastic bodies around this time.
I'm betting that this machine is a circa 1966 vintage, based on the 3155257 serial number. I've checked out Ted's Typewriter Database and there doesn't seem to be a listing for the SM9s, but many of you have similarly numbered models and have pinpointed the year down to around 1965 to 1968. I'm hoping this one is a '66 model. Looking at my collection, I seem to only have one model from the Sixties, a circa 1960 Olympia Splendid 99. I suppose another model from this era wouldn't hurt. And it has such a nice mid-Sixties design aesthetic to it.
I'd almost expect to see it sitting in Miss Moneypenny's flat or Virgil Tracy's office.

 I tried to type on it. The typeslugs all hit the same spot on the platen. Yep, the carriage was locked dead-centre, but the lock was off. I used a little force on the carriage...and heard it make a God-awful scraping sound as it slid across the body of the typewriter.
'That doesn't sound right', I thought to myself.  I grabbed a torch (flashlight) and shone it down the length of the underside of the carriage. All the teeth on the carriage rail were present and correct. None were bent, chipped, worn-down or missing.
I put the typewriter back in its case and tried calling Zack, one of the repairers that I know.  Actually, Zack represents 50% of the typewriter repairers that I know. He wasn't home. I would try calling him again tonight. Looks like this SM9 would require a service to get it going as it should.

No matter. I knew it may possibly require attention when I bought it. And if it types anywhere as nicely as my SM2 and SM3, then it was money well-spent, regardless.

Got up this morning and the sun was shining. Autumn is a little late this year, but the bright sunny days have been few and far between over the last two weeks ,so it seems that Summer may be well and truly over.
Still, the sunlight gave me a chance to have a better look at this machine in proper daylight.



Like I said above, the carriage rail had no visible issues, but something was making a shocking scraping sound when I moved the carriage across. Y'all must be hating reading that, but I had to get a look at as much of this machine as I could. Besides, it's German built. I could probably drop this typewriter off a building onto a land-mine and it would still work.

Some of you had suggested that the escapement might be the issue, but I had a good look at it and it seemed to be working as it should. Everything worked smoothly when the space bar was depressed and there didn't appear to be anything blocking it. And so, I kept looking at other areas of the machine.

And, after staring at almost every inch of this typewriter, I noticed something. The TAB setting key would not depress fully, whereas the TAB clearing key would. Space bar worked normal too, but the carriage wouldn't move.

Time to get some tools out. A Leatherman WAVE and a Toledo 117-4 screwdriver. Don't ask me what's so special about this screwdriver, I just like saying 'Toledo'.

I laid the typewriter upside-down onto a placemat, ensuring that the carriage return lever hung over the side of the table, and undid the four screws that held to case to the machine. I then carefully turned it over and removed the ribbon cover (should'a done this first).

The case came away pretty easy after that. I tried pressing the TAB set key and looked at the rear of the machine while I did so. That's when I noticed a small steel rod move a couple of millimetres. This TAB mechanism on the SM9 works differently to my other, older Olympias. This one looks more like an Olivetti Lettera 32, where you have an arrangement of pins running along the rear length of the carriage and a metal rod pushes one of these pins in when you set the tab and another rod pushes the pin out, from the opposite side, when you clear a tab.
Looked at from behind, the TAB set rod curved to the right, whereas the TAB clear rod was upright. Okay, things were beginning to get interesting. Now, based on what I understand about German design and engineering, this piece didn't look deliberately shaped in that way. 
Not only that, but I saw that this curved piece of steel was also touching against the pins. This would account for the scraping sound. I was beginning to suspect that this area had received a nasty knock at some point.
A few minutes of setting and clearing tabs to establish how they worked (or didn't) and I then reached for the Leatherman and unfolded the pliers.

"I'm goin' in", I said to the kids, who were sitting in the lounge room, my daughter (who's ten)engrossed in a book called "Zom-B City", while my son (12) seeked vengeance in fifteenth Century Venice playing "Assassin's Creed II".

I clamped the jaws of the pliers gently onto the bent steel rod and applied some gentle force. The rod straightened a little. I pressed the tab set key. Not much happened.

"Very well, if you insist, Mein Herr", I thought to myself as I reattached the pliers and twisted a little harder. The rod looked straight now. I pressed the tab setting key again and it pushed against one of the pins. I pressed the tab clearing key and the opposite rod pushed the pin from the opposite side.
I lifted up the machine, held the back of it firmly and pressed down on the space bar. And the carriage clicked along.
Success!!!


That rod on the left bears the scars of my Leatherman pliers. This typewriter is now truly mine.

I put the case back together, fed a sheet of paper into the platen, and started typing. First paragraph, twelve lines long, no problem.
Next paragraph, two lines in and I got to the end of the right-hand margin and the typeslugs kept hitting the same spot on the page. I hit the Margin Release key and kept writing. Heard the bell at the end of the line and typed a few more letters. And then the typeslugs stopped half-way.  As they should until I hit the Margin Release key. I kept writing and got to the end of another paragraph thirteen lines long.
Started another paragraph and had the same problem on almost every line. The typeslugs wouldn't brake before hitting the page at the end of a line.
Screwdriver time again. But first I had a look at the underside again. There are two steel strips that rest against each other. When you press the Margin Release key, one of these bars lifts out of the way to allow you to type almost right to the edge of the platen. Closer inspection showed that one strip was sitting slightly low compared to the one next to it. I reached for the Leatherman tool.


A light twist and it's now sitting flush against the other piece. Now, when I reach the end of the line, the typeslugs lock halfway until I hit the Margin Release key.

 
Paint job's pretty clean. I think that scratch on the lower-right decal may be the only cosmetic flaw.
 
 
Main-spring drum has some dust on it, but the draw-band is clean.
 
 
Obligatory profile shot. I would say that this looks "Mad Men-esque", but everybody's an expert on that show these days. Great mid-Sixties design. Again, I'm hoping it's a '66 model. If anyone has a firmer date based on the serial number (3155257), please let me know.

This typewriter has a nice , snappy action. Very responsive, with no sluggishness to the keys. I have to say that Olympia is fast becoming my favourite brand, based on how built-to-last these machines are. Actually, it's pretty much neck-and-neck with Smith-Corona.

 
Sometimes, all you need is a Leatherman and a Toledo screwdriver.
 
 

Thanks for reading!

****************

EDIT (Apr 6th, 2013);
Tidied up some spelling and grammatical errors. Serves me right for writing this post till midnight. Date of manufacture pinned down to late 1966, based on serial number.
Special thanks to Richard P. and The Reverend Ted Munk!