Pairing wine with movies! See the trailers and hear the fascinating commentary for these movies and many more at Trailers From Hell. There are no words for this week’s movies. They’re silent. Well, two of them are. We have corks to pop for each.
The Man Who Laughs is from 1928 and was one of the first Universal silent films to be gussied up with that newfangled gimmick, “sound.” In addition to the sound effects, they even threw in a love song.
Paul Leni directed the movie in the dark fashion that typified German Expressionism. The lead character, Gwynplaine, was disfigured with a surgical grin across his face, and became known as the laughing man – and other, more cruel taunts in the schoolyard, no doubt. The Victor Hugo character had the last laugh, though, as the template for the Batman villain The Joker.
The grin is so macabre and the mood so glum that many moviegoers of the day figured The Man Who Laughs for a horror flick instead of a romantic drama. That sickening smile also explains why he wore his turtleneck pulled up so high.
As one who likes to sample wines from across these United States, here is one from Kansas – yes, that Kansas – that should bring a twisted smile to your face. Purple Grin is a sweet wine – not dessert sweet, but the opposite of dry – from the Sunflower State’s Prairie Fire Winery.
Lon Chaney was slated to play Gwynplaine, but a rights issue kept him out of the role. The studio gave Chaney his pick for his next movie, and it turned out to be 1925’s Phantom of the Opera, a wise choice, and the most famous of the thousand faces for which he would be known.
You know the story – a disfigured man has a thing for an opera singer and penchant for melodrama. Chaney reportedly made up his own makeup for the role of the Phantom, which was shocking enough to justify the character wearing a mask and hanging out in the shadows. Masks are a barrel of laughs until someone rips the veil off the disfigured man’s face. Then it’s get-the-hell-out-of-the-opera-house time.
Bogle makes a “hauntingly delightful” pair of wines called Phantom – a red one and a white one. Pick your favorite or have both. They cost only about $15 each.
When Comedy Was King came from 1960, but it is a compilation of some of the great comedy scenes from the silent era. You get a heaping helping of Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton, Laurel and Hardy, the Keystone Kops and, as they say in the commercials, “many many more.”
The cover for the DVD screams that we “never dreamed a film could be so funny,” which is rather over-the-top even by show biz standards. Sure, there are some very funny clips included in the picture, from some very funny people. However, I don’t need anyone telling me how funny I dream. I dream funny enough without making a contest out of it.
For a film about comedy, Let’s pair a wine which supplied one of the best laughs about wine – to wine nerds, anyway. In Sideways, Miles makes no bones about his disdain for Merlot. The wine he is saving for a special occasion, however – a 1961 Château Cheval Blanc – is actually a Merlot blend. Miles pours his from a paper bag, paired with a hamburger. Hopefully you can find better accompaniment for yours, since that vintage runs in the thousands of dollars. Plan to spend 500 bills for a 2021 bottle.
note: From the standpoint of a wine guy dabbling in movies, it would have been nice to have King Vidor’s silent exploitation film, “The Wine of Youth,” included in this piece. Maybe it will surface when “Still More Silents Please” comes around.