Health and Well Being in Classics

Open, general discussion of classic sound-era films, personalities and history.
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J.S.Watson

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Health and Well Being in Classics

PostThu Jan 04, 2018 4:20 pm

Particularly, I'm thinking of treatments for maladies. Three things come to mind that never fail to show up in time of need, or to be prescribed (usually by a non-professional) and taken with no questions asked. Like they're the last word in remedy. A panacea. The three:

*Liquor

*Bicarbonate of soda

*Smelling salts

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Liquor, usually bourbon, was poured down throats of expectant mothers and men out of jobs alike. Haphazardly too: "You're shivering, I'll get you a drink." - Under the weather? Try a toddy. Surgical matters too, same discretion. If you need a bullet removed from your arm, make sure to take a good long slug first, then bite a pencil. Then pour more liquor on the wound to disinfect.

Bicarbonate of soda was just as readily available and was used to cure anything from hiccoughs to headaches and depression. I've never in my life heard someone ask for it, outside of every other classic film, yet it was kept in every respectable household, in every women's purse, in every kitchen and private lavatory.

Smelling salts were equally as prevalent. Are these the same as bath salts? What's the chemical compound? Are they safe for children? Where are they now? Did they say 'smelling salts' on the little bottle, or were they just referred to as such? Did the bottle ever run out, go empty or lose it's "smell"? And why was everybody passing out all the time? Too much liquor?

Favorite examples?

Other cure-alls?

--

Bonus material:

Nothing solved a crisis like a good old punch in the nose. A pop on the snoot. Once delivered, you can expect a return salvo, but not immediately, for the wronged or punched-party of the second part gets to return the "favor" at their own convenience. If and when that does happen, in a later scene, it's again just a solitary blow, as both parties automatically consider themselves "even" now. After all, fisticuffs is a gentlemanly pursuit.

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Mike Gebert

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Re: Health and Well Being in Classics

PostThu Jan 04, 2018 5:04 pm

Movies have their own laws of physics and biology. Every car, even a modern one with a computer system, can be started by touching the two wires under the dashboard. If someone is being chased down an alley, the odds are that they will find themselves up against a chain-link fence with no way out, even given that alleys are basically rendered useless if they're blocked by chain-link fences. And so on.

Alcohol as a cure-all at least has the historical validity of being, in fact, the basis of most patent medicines before the modern age of pharmaceuticals; it didn't cure anything but you at least felt a little better. Bicarbonate of soda may be hard to find under that name today, but as baking soda it's in every baker's pantry; it's no longer used to settle stomachs, but the same function of absorbing acid is handled by Alka-Seltzer or Tums. Fainting is uncommon today, for various reasons (people don't wear tight girdles, iron deficiency is rare, women don't feel the need to faint if a man says something naughty), but smelling salts or sal ammoniac are used to revive people in certain situations; when I used to volunteer on blood drives, I saw them administered once or twice, the nurse breaking a capsule under someone's nose.

I think they're all common in dramas because their functions are well known and they suit the way stories play out. Give someone alcohol and we can all pretend the actor wouldn't be screaming in agony if his belly were being probed for a bullet and sewn up with buckskin stitches.
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barry byrne

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Re: Health and Well Being in Classics

PostFri Jan 05, 2018 3:32 am

Well said Mr Administrator,

The movies are indeed a special place where babies can be safely delivered with large supplies of boiling water - well sometimes the mother dies, taxis are always ready to follow that cab (try that anyone?), doctors and nurses rush out to emergency room doors (no 12 hour ER wait times here), the house doctor in hotels arrives in seconds and every apartment in Paris has a view of the Eiffel Tower.

Enjoy 2018.
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maliejandra

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Re: Health and Well Being in Classics

PostFri Jan 05, 2018 6:55 am

Women in very early films were passing out because they wore corsets and couldn't breathe.
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NotSoSilent

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Re: Health and Well Being in Classics

PostFri Jan 05, 2018 7:41 am

Arnica is somewhat common, especially in silent films. I decided to buy some and try it out, and the darn stuff works pretty well.
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Jim Roots

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Re: Health and Well Being in Classics

PostFri Jan 05, 2018 8:00 am

My favourite is the way there's always a parking space exactly in front of whatever building the hero is heading for. Even in downtown NYC.

And no annoying parking meters, either.

BTW, hockey players are currently taking deep sniffs of smelling salts at the start of games. They feel it gives them an awakening jolt to get their blood racing. The young guys on the Toronto Maple Leafs are particularly fond of it -- you can find clips of them sharing it on the bench all over Sportsnet.ca.

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J.S.Watson

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Re: Health and Well Being in Classics

PostFri Jan 05, 2018 8:58 pm

Thanks for all the responses. - I didn't know anyone was responding - I just now saw how to turn on my Email alerts.

These health matters and the other examples named above are all part of the charm of classics, however superficial. It's interesting to look at some of these elements outside of a film's actual merits. It's all part of the charm that is, to me, rarely found in films outside of the classic era.
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Ray Faiola

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Re: Health and Well Being in Classics

PostSat Jan 06, 2018 5:40 am

And, of course, the remedy - or panacea - most often offered to a poor sap facing certain death is...a cigarette! One last drag on a fag before they put you in the bag.
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Re: Health and Well Being in Classics

PostSat Jan 06, 2018 5:53 am

Jim Roots wrote:My favourite is the way there's always a parking space exactly in front of whatever building the hero is heading for. Even in downtown NYC.

And no annoying parking meters, either.

Jim


And no one ever gets caught in traffic.

Bob
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NotSoSilent

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Re: Health and Well Being in Classics

PostSat Jan 06, 2018 10:09 am

Don't forget about the power of putting on a pot of coffee in crisis situations. That's always helpful when needing to have a good talk with somebody, or for a group of people trying to solve a really serious problem. Never mind that it's generally late at night and drinking coffee apparently never impacts sleep.

And of course a strong cup of black coffee will always make a drunk person sober. Always.
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R Michael Pyle

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Re: Health and Well Being in Classics

PostSat Jan 06, 2018 11:08 am

NotSoSilent wrote:Don't forget about the power of putting on a pot of coffee in crisis situations. That's always helpful when needing to have a good talk with somebody, or for a group of people trying to solve a really serious problem. Never mind that it's generally late at night and drinking coffee apparently never impacts sleep.

And of course a strong cup of black coffee will always make a drunk person sober. Always.

Well, in England and English films a cuppa can end wars, of the soul and literally.
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earlytalkiebuffRob

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Re: Health and Well Being in Classics

PostSat Jan 06, 2018 12:38 pm

I seem to recall Bing Crosby in the 1966 STAGECOACH drinking salt water before throwing up in order to sober up. And there's always the standby of string and a doorknob for toothache...
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Jim Roots

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Re: Health and Well Being in Classics

PostSun Jan 07, 2018 2:28 pm

earlytalkiebuffRob wrote:I seem to recall Bing Crosby in the 1966 STAGECOACH drinking salt water before throwing up in order to sober up. And there's always the standby of string and a doorknob for toothache...


That one I've never understood. Unless you have teeth like Terry-Thomas or a hockey player, how is it possible to tie a string around a tooth in your head? Dental floss, okay, you could probably do it with dental floss, but string?

Jim
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silentfilm

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Re: Health and Well Being in Classics

PostMon Jan 08, 2018 12:37 pm

Another thing that bothers me is the intolerance of disabilities in early films, usually by characters that have them. For instance, Van Johnston in Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo doesn't want to go on after losing a leg. At the end of The Patent Leather Kid, Richard Barthelmess is in a wheelchair, but feels it is necessary to stand and salute the American flag.

I guess it took The Best Years of Our Lives to show that disabled people (in this case an actor who was really disabled) could still live normal lives.
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J.S.Watson

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Re: Health and Well Being in Classics

PostMon Jan 08, 2018 12:45 pm

silentfilm wrote:Another thing that bothers me is the intolerance of disabilities in early films, usually by characters that have them. For instance, Van Johnston in Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo doesn't want to go on after losing a leg. At the end of The Patent Leather Kid, Richard Barthelmess is in a wheelchair, but feels it is necessary to stand and salute the American flag.

I guess it took The Best Years of Our Lives to show that disabled people (in this case an actor who was really disabled) could still live normal lives.


Another example of that was in a certain John Garfield film (refraining from naming it to avoid spoilers). He would rather die than lose his arm, which would happen if it wasn't promptly amputated.
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Jim Roots

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Re: Health and Well Being in Classics

PostMon Jan 08, 2018 1:11 pm

silentfilm wrote:Another thing that bothers me is the intolerance of disabilities in early films, usually by characters that have them. For instance, Van Johnston in Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo doesn't want to go on after losing a leg. At the end of The Patent Leather Kid, Richard Barthelmess is in a wheelchair, but feels it is necessary to stand and salute the American flag.

I guess it took The Best Years of Our Lives to show that disabled people (in this case an actor who was really disabled) could still live normal lives.


There are entire books written on the subject of how disability is portrayed in films. Don't get me started, especially on Lon Chaney.

And most egregiously, Syd Field in his standard guide to screenwriting notoriously urged writers to use disability as a visual metaphor for evil. Thanks a lot, Syd.

Jim
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greta de groat

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Re: Health and Well Being in Classics

PostMon Jan 08, 2018 2:02 pm

I hate it because the plot resolution always seems to be that the person in a wheelchair will spontaneously stand up and be healed, which makes it look like they just didn't want to get well badly enough. At least The Home Maker (1925) makes an interesting plot point out of it. On the other hand, in the lost 1929 film The Sacred Flame, a mother finds out that the wife of her wheelchair-bound son is in love with her other son, so she kills him so he won't find out and be sad. Huh?

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Daniel Eagan

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Re: Health and Well Being in Classics

PostMon Jan 08, 2018 3:02 pm

This thread is drifting, but 1951's Bright Victory is an exception to disability films. Blinded in the war, its protagonist has to learn to accept his disability.

Other war films dealt with similar issues in relatively honest terms.

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