Thursday, November 15, 2007

The Green Goddess

A strong memory that lingers from yesteryear is the very first time I saw the 1966 film (on television) "Madame X" starring John Forsythe and Lana Turner as star-crossed lovers. They marry and have a child - a son - but Forsythe's mother (portrayed with chilling malice by Constance Bennett) engineers the disappearance of Lana Turner's character from Forsythe's life, who thinks she is dead after falling overboard from a yacht. Years go by. Lana winds up in Mexico and is an addict - an absinthe addict. A drinking pal of Lana's discovers her secret, and concocts a blackmail scheme but Lana kills him before he can carry it out. In the ultimate twist of fate, Lana and Forsythe's child, now grown and protrayed by a young Keir Dellea, is appointed as Lana's attorney to defend her in the murder trial.

During most of the movie, I sobbed my head off. The courtroom climax is heart-shattering. They probably heard me crying in China.

The Green Goddess is now legal again, evidently, as Edward Rothstein writes at The New York Times:

Absinthe Returns in a Glass Half Full of Mystique and Misery
Published: November 12, 2007
(Image: Privat-Livemont’s 1896 poster advertising absinthe)

Dear reader! Should this column impress you as being more than usually lyrical, recalling perhaps the imagery and elegance of poetry by Baudelaire or Verlaine; should it seem a bit decadent, redolent of Oscar Wilde’s withering hauteur; should it have a touch of madness or perversity, combining, say, the tastes of Toulouse-Lautrec with the passions of van Gogh; should it simply sound direct and forceful and knowing like one of Ernest Hemingway’s characters; should it do any or all of that, let me credit something that each of these figures fervently paid tribute to: the green fairy, the green goddess, the green muse, the glaucous witch, the queen of poisons.


For this column was conceived under the influence of a green-colored, high-proof herbal liquor that was illegal in the United States for more than 95 years. And not just here, for when that mini-Prohibition began in 1912, alarm bells were ringing all over Europe. In 1905 a Swiss man murdered his family after drinking absinthe, leading to the liquor’s banishment from that country, where it originated. The French thought they risked losing World War I to robust beer-drinking Germans because of the dissolute influence of absinthe, so it was banned in that nation as well.

Rest of article.

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