Monday, March 4, 2013

Up In Smoke

Has anyone not seen the movie Grease?  Well, maybe some people.  For me, it holds the distinction of being the *very first movie* I ever saw at the movies with my friends.  That means my parents dropped me off and picked me up, but I got to watch the movie with my friends.  In other words, Grease made History in my Personal History Book.  I loved it so much that I saw it two times at the theatre, bought the record, and my best friend and I choreographed a dance routine to Greased Lightning and took 3rd place in the local talent show.  Yeah, that movie is a Stand Out for me.  I do believe that I posted early on about my love for Cher as a young person.  I loved her songs, her hair, and even pretended to be her with the help of a towel (for my hair).  I pretty much felt the same way about Olivia Newton-John after Grease.  

Nicole, over at The Madlab Post Blog, is back at it with her regular Monday Feature at the movies.  Today she is asking everyone to think about characters who smoke in the movies.  This is not a brain bender.  Of course, everyone smoked in the movies in the 1950s and 1960s... just like so many people were doing in real life.  It was still fairly prevalent in the 1970s.  All kinds of smoking go for this meme... that means cigarettes, cigars, and even weed.  

I am choosing Grease because it is a movie done in the 1970s about the 1950s.  Of course, almost everyone smoked.  The smoking was a "sign of the times."  Cigarettes were not known by any of their current monikers.  No one called them cancer sticks, for instance.  In fact, the opposite was true.  Smoking was considered classy and sophisticated.  In the 50s, the marketing was still working fabulously.  Who smoked?  Rich people.  Successful people.  Movie stars.  Who didn't smoke?  Naive people.  The unsophisticated.  In other words, smoking didn't have any negative social stigma attached to it yet.  And no one had an inkling that it HARMED you in any way.  

I love this clip of Sandy attempting to pull off her her show of joining the club of the elite.  She is "moving on up."  She is about to nab her man and let him know that she is no longer a naive little girl.  First up in her bag of tricks: I have mastered smoking... sort of.

This is an excellent use of smoking as a plot device because it works.  She has no idea what she is doing and it SHOWS.  She is completely out of her element with that cigarette.  And that is how every movie should use any prop, be it a cigarette, or anything else... deliberately.

For the record, Danny loved Sandy before she was all big hair, skin tight black clothing, and a smoker.  When the furor dies down he will still love her.  He loved the girl from Summer Nights.  She is the one who is real... even though this is a great song.  And Olivia Newton-John totally pulled off the outfit...

What movie can you think of that used smoking as a plot device really well?  Did you see Grease and love it or hate it?  Was there a movie from your youth that goes down as a Stand Out for you? 


  1. Can't think of any off the top of my head.
    And yes, Olivia looked really hot in that outfit!

  2. I gave it some thought, but couldn't really come up with a movie that (at least I thought) used smoking as a plot device.

    I do like how "Grease" did it, though.

  3. Robin-

    I have never seen Grease.

    When it came out, I was at the right age where it was not "cool" enough for me to go see. After a few years, it simply became more fun not having seen it.

    Someone once gave the the DVD when they heard I hadn't seen the film and I regifted it. My plan is to make it into the afterlife "Grease"-free!

    I recently watched the first season of "Rockford Files" and it struck me how much smoking was going on...I guess I forgot how prevalent the habit used to be.


  4. I'm in a house of aggravation right now, making it difficult for me to think straight and thus, there isn't a particular childhood movie that comes to mind that really stood out to me. Grease is one of those classic movies that stand the test of time. I haven't seen it though but I am slightly familiar with one of the songs from the soundtrack.


  5. Is it wrong to cite Cheech and Chong movies here? Because, yeah.

    My stand out movie is Stand By Me. I dunno. I'll just always love it. It's a great coming of age story with an amazing cast. Soundtrack was pretty good too (for a girl who was born at the tail end of the 70's anyway).

  6. How can anyone NOT love Grease? :) for some strange reasons (or, actually, because of my age) I have seen "grease 2" first and only then the actual Grease. In the second part Michelle Pfeiffer is sort of a female version of John Travolta. And as much as I *adore* her, "grease 2" sucked big time. I guess that made me love Grease even more. The songs were better, the cast was better, everything was better. That finale dance sequence is unbeatable, still. No amount of juke-box musicals and Glee episodes can measure up.

    as for smoking in a movie as plot device - I gotta say Breakfast Club. They smoked pot, but still it counts :P

    and as for Stand Out movie of my youth I'd say - Star Wars (I grew up on it instead of Disney cartoons) and then, as pretentious as it will sound - Titanic. It wasn't the first movie I went out to see with my friends but the first one that made me feel like, wow, I'm almost adult now, there's a boy sitting next to me and attempting to put his arm around me and there's quite a few dozens of crying girls all around me and I am a part of something special (how was it special, besides the fact that our parents were not there? no idea, but maybe it was all that mattered). I couldn't quite muster up a single tear for the poor drowning, freezing DiCaprio but the overall feeling was something unforgettable.

  7. Hi Robin,

    I see I've been beaten to it in regards to Cheech and Chong. Your post title, "Up In Smoke", made me think of them. I guess in there case, smoking was a 'pot' device.

    Grease is the word. I think I shall have nightmares and suddenly I'm thinking of the film, "Xanadu". Help me :)

    Be well, my friend.


  8. Alex & Mark ~ The challenge was just smoking in the movies. Period. I added the twist of thinking about smoking to actually enhance the movie (aka using it to further the plot in some way). So, the initial meme is simply smoking. That should make things easier if you want to try again...

    Larry ~ Well, I don't think I am going to be the person to change your mind about watching this film. I love it (clearly), but you seem to have made your mind up on this one. And, yes, smoking WAS everywhere almost until the 80s. In fact, both of my parents were once smokers. If you like old movies, it really is almost an "understood" thing.

    Nicole ~ Once your mind settles it will come right to you:)

    Gini ~ Nope, nothing wrong with Cheech and Chong. They absolutely used weed as a plot device in their movies. I loved Stand By Me. Great film!!!

    The Factory Girl ~ Grease 2 was absolutely dreadful. I did think of The Breakfast Club and you are absolutely right in that it qualifies as using smoking as a plot device. Excellent call. How did I know you would say Star Wars???? Any movie that gives you that Coming of Age of feeling is a Stand Out movie; you will remember it forever. Thanks for sharing!!!

  9. I can't really think of one. But Grease is one of my favorite movies ever! I have always envied ONJ in that outfit -minus the ciggy.

  10. I always thought the smoking scene in Stand By Me was very effective. A bunch of 12 and 13 year olds all smoking and pretending to be so grown up, but so obviously not.

  11. ROBIN ~
    >> . . . Did you see Grease and love it or hate it?

    I did not see 'GREASE' in the theatre, but I did rent it years later and watched it a couple of times, several years apart.

    Honestly [sorry], I did not really care for 'GREASE', although I can/do understand why so many people (especially females) like it.

    For one thing, I'm not a Travolta fan. He's a little... "Eew". Supposed to be this sorta-macho guy but very... uh... how do I say this? Olivia Newton-John-ish. I mean, I wouldn't have wanted to find him in the community shower room with me after high school football practice. Just sayin'.

    Travolta's character does, however, score a few points for (if I remember correctly) having a poster of James Dean in his locker. Now THAT'S "cool"!

    The one thing I do kinda like about 'GREASE' (and the one reason I have rented it more than once) is that a few of my old friends from the 'Screen Extra's Guild' worked on that movie and I can spot them easily in a number of scenes throughout the movie. So, in a way, 'GREASE' is a sort of 'Time Machine' for me, even though I myself did not work on that production.

    >> . . . Was there a movie from your youth that goes down as a Stand Out for you?

    A few of them, actually. When I was very, very young my brother, Nappy, and I repeatedly went to watch again and again Disney's 'SWISS FAMILY ROBINSON', which had been re-released to the theatres. We thought it was thrilling!

    Another movie Nappy and I saw multiple times in the theatre was the now-forgotten 1968 Western 'MORE DEAD THAN ALIVE', starring Clint Walker and Vincent Price. The ending was absolutely shocking to us. I actually bought the DVD a couple years ago and was surprised that it had held up as well as it did.

    But if I had to choose only ONE stand-out movie from my childhood, it would perhaps be the Horror classic (Ha!) 'TROG', from 1970, starring Joan Crawford in what I think may have been her final screen role.

    Nappy and I saw 'TROG' in the theatre maybe three times and it totally scared the bejabbers out of us! It was the most awesome, horrific, terrifying thing I could even imagine - probably gave me nightmares. We feared and loved it!

    Then, after all those decades, I saw 'TROG' again about 10 or so years ago and it was SO BAD that I was pretty much cracking jokes about it and laughing all the way through it. Funny how 30 years can change one's perception, eh?

    ~ D-FensDogg
    'Loyal American Underground'

  12. The first movie I saw on my own was Pollyanna starring Hayley Mills, later I saw her in The Parent Trap.
    I remember Grease very well though, because I own a copy on dvd and watch it still. Grease 2 was rubbish in my opinion.
    I came here via Manzanita's Wanna Buy A Duck.

  13. Yvonne ~ That's okay. Grease is one of mine, too. And ONJ is Totally Hot. BTW, she came out with a record called that (Totally Hot) several years later. Naturally.... one of my faves.

    Kellie ~ Totally agree about Stand By Me and the smoking. That was a great movie aside from the smoking. I can't watch it without missing River Phoenix terribly...

    Steven ~ Yep. I loved Grease. It brings back everything good and easy and fun and wonderful from my childhood. I loved the soundtrack, the dancing, just everything. It was a movie that marked a Rite of Passage for me and I will always love it. I am afraid that I haven't seen any of your Stand Out movies, but I am glad that this post stirred your memory pot. It is SO FUN to recall those times. Regarding TROG... I have had a few of those cases. Not always with movies necessarily. Remember Vienna Sausages? Consider those just one of my TROGs. What was I thinking??? Yes, 30 years can change one's perception. Definitely.

    River ~ I agree about Grease 2 being rubbish. And you know that the script was rubbish because Michelle Pfeiffer is GOLD. That movie should just never have been made. Some things are never meant to be! I am afraid I missed Pollyanna, but did see the Parent Trap and the remade Parent Trap. I am not sure why they do these things... even though the remake was fairly good. I guess they have run out of ideas in Hollywood. IDK. I love Manzi's blog. Glad you came by.

  14. Robin
    Grease was a great movie. Of course I like any movie with dancing and singing. I only saw it once cause by that time, I think I was already getting a little long in the tooth.

    Casablanca was a smok'n movie. I don't know if it changed any plot but 2 of the all-time great smokers in the movie. "play it again, Sam"..... cough cough, choke choke. I still do love that movie.

    Does my all time favorite movie have to be about smoking? It is "The Mortal Storm."I have it in CD now and watch it often. A very young Jimmy Stewart and Margaret Sullavan. One of my favorite character actresses was Maria Ouspenskaya and she played a part so reminiscent of my own German grandmother. It came out in 1939 or 40 and it was so timely as I recall, I was young but so aware when Hitler invaded Poland. The old b/w movies are such a treasure.

    1. Casablanca was a great smok'n That is a classic movie for so many reasons!

      No, your All-Time Favorite/Stand Out movie(s) don't have to involve smoking at all. So, The Mortal Storm completely works. Thanks for sharing your story. I know that many Hollywood types have been actively trying to save/restore many of those old b&w movies because they are such treasures. Apparently the film they were made on just doesn't stand the test of time, so they have been working overtime to try and convert them to something that will last. I sure hope that they succeed.

  15. ROBIN ~
    The movie 'Swiss Family Robinson' has island-invading pirates and grenades made out of coconuts! No little boy could possibly fail to love 'Swiss Family Robinson'.

    I'm not surprised you haven't seen 'More Dead Than Alive'. Hardly anyone has. But it's not bad, and Clint Walker is a "real man", unlike that dancing Vinnie Barbarino dude. (Just givin' ya a bad time.)

    So funny you mentioned Vienna Sausages because...

    I have been a vegetarian since, like, 1985. For years prior to that I had considered becoming a vegetarian but KNOWING how much I would miss hamburgers, I delayed that vegetarian decision until '85.

    After all these years, guess what... I never once felt that I missed hamburgers. But the ONE thing I do find myself occasionally thinking longingly about are... yep... those canned, little Vienna Sausages. They were the FURTHEST thing from my mind when I was contemplating vegetarianism, and yet they are the only "form of meat" I have ever REALLY missed. Life is so funny!

    ~ D-FensDogg
    'Loyal American Underground'

    1. My "psychic powers" are at work again. I have this uncanny ability to tap into the ONE THING that hits the proverbial nerve. Vienna Sausages are today's winner:)

  16. What do you mean... some people? I was there, alright. Eight years old and kickin'... Well, actually I was holding my Mom's hand and waiting in line with her, but I thought it was a great movie even if I didn't understand the bun in the oven joke... My favorite movie from way back then is The Woman in Red. Now that's a movie only some have seen. All I know is I didn't care about her British accent. She looked that good.

    Hope you're doing fine, Robin.


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