A Little Night Music: Café Culture in 50’s Hollywood

Yes, I know it’s a symptom of my having been born in the wrong era, but there’s something about the red orange cigarette glow of a bohemian café in the 50s that drives me wild. Not that I by any means intend to romanticize a lifestyle that could lead to a chronic pulmonary disease, but … give me a crowded café, black turtlenecks, a sexy saxophone and a single malt whisky and I’m a happy camper. The deeply brooding reds and oranges and  blues and blacks  (with a splatter of pink and green thrown in here and there) seem to melt into each other in the heat of the cigarettes and stage lights. And the later the hour, the easier it is to believe that anything is possible within its walls.

Maybe that’s why Hollywood movies in the 50s favored this setting. And given the emotions that such a mood creates, maybe that’s why out of such settings came some of the best musical moments of the decade.

And so, for no particular reason at all, I felt compelled to showcase some of my favorite, scotch-soaked smoky moments on screen:

Audrey Hepburn gets her bebop on in bohemian Paris
Audrey Hepburn gets her bebop on in bohemian Paris
Tab Hunter & Gwen Verdon toast to their lost souls in Damn Yankees
Tab Hunter & Gwen Verdon toast to their lost souls in Damn Yankees
Cyd Charisse & Gene Kelly do a hat trick in Singin’ in the Rain
Cyd Charisse & Gene Kelly do a hat trick in Singin’ in the Rain

And finally, Judy Garland slam-dunks an Arlen & Gershwin number in A Star is Born. It’s such a stunning scene that a screen shot just won’t do it justice. (And if you’ve never seen it, prepare to have your socks blown off by Miss Garland.)

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Gen Y reject and wage slave extraordinaire.

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