Noir Bar–Eddie Muller takes the TCM library in a quirky new direction

Review by C.J. Bunce

Today Turner Classic Movies/TCM and Running Press continue their long-running master class in cinema with the latest volume of the TCM Film Library.  But this one is a look into movies with a new twist, the cocktail kind.  Eddie Muller is a movie buff who turned his passion for movies into a career, writing books on movies and hosting shows on Turner Classic Movies.  His obsession with noir movies has finally been mixed with a shot of his past–his early days as a bartender–and blended into a concoction flavored with the old and the new.  In Eddie Muller’s Noir Bar: Cocktails Inspired by the World of Film Noir, available today for the first time at bookstores and here at Amazon, Muller dredges up some fan-favorite noir, looks into the corners for booze references, and then he pairs them into a recommendation for anyone with a fully stocked bar at home.

A 224-page hardcover volume full of recipes for liquor?  This book is certainly not for everyone, but its full-color photographs and Muller’s eye for detail might draw in even teetotaling fans of the Golden Age of cinema.  Basically each section is arranged with screencaps from a film, an image of a vintage movie poster or lobby card, and then a recipe for a drink to be paired with the movie, accompanied by commentary where Muller tries to tie his ingredients to a character’s mood or style.  Sorry, we weren’t supplied with any recipes to share with this review this time.

Muller’s movie choices are listed alphabetically, and he doesn’t provide an index to the films, just the ingredients, which makes the book a bit difficult to navigate when searching for cast or crew references.  He does include the requirements of a fully stocked bar, all the proper tools as well as the booze.

Here’s a question: As a movie fan of noir, who would you expect to be the star of this book?  Nick and Nora from The Thin Man series, right?  Alas, they don’t have a movie pairing in the book.  Readers will find lots of the grimier side of noir–plenty of B-movies to accompany some of the other more obvious contenders, like The Big Sleep, The Maltese Falcon, and Sunset Boulevard.  The “Queen of Film Noir” Barbara Stanwyck gets relegated to a pairing in only The Strange Love of Martha Ivers, which admittedly is a great entry.  But that’s it for her.  Muller must love co-star Lizabeth Scott (as we all do, right?), as he includes three of her films for his cocktail time.

Another interesting selection, with applicable tidbits about the drinking scenes in the film, is D.O.A.  He manages to pick up movies starring Anne Baxter, Linda Darnell, Rita Hayworth, Betty Grable, Gene Tierney, and Teresa Wright, and there’s plenty of Humphrey Bogart, but he features maybe too many Ray Milland movies.  He catches up with Dana Andrews, too, but it’s a surprise not to see either Laura or The Best Years of Our Lives covered.  Who doesn’t want to know what Waldo Lydecker is drinking while typing in the tub and plotting to take down the latest ingenue?  Also, how can you include Alfred Hitchcock’s Shadow of a Doubt without a drink closer to elderberry wine?  C’mon, Muller!

If cocktail culture is bigger than ever, as Muller suggests, is that really a good thing, or does it signal a society sinking deeper into depression and other societal issues?  We’ll let other websites address that.

Yes, this book is practically the definition of indulgent on the part of the writer.  It’s a strange trip, but it will probably appeal to a subset of fans of film noir (now we just need a book of corresponding snacks).  TCM’s Eddie Muller’s Noir Bar: Cocktails Inspired by the World of Film Noir is also for TCM library completists.  Order it now here at Amazon, out today from Running Press.

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