While on the pre-Easter school run this week, I heard a lot of people on the radio moaning about the irrationality of closing bottle stores over the weekend, but allowing the on-site sale of booze in restaurants, shebeens and bars to continue over Easter. It all seems a bit pointless at this stage of the game. Surely anyone who wants to drink offsite by now knows they should have stocked up. If you’re having a dry Easter Sunday — and it’s not by your own volition — well, you only have yourself to blame.
Herman Mankiewicz certainly would have had a few bottles stuffed away in the room where he was holed up on a ranch in Victorville, California, if he’d been able to get them — he was recovering from a broken leg sustained in a car accident while hitching a ride to New York with screenwriter Tommy Phillips, and so it was difficult. This is how David Fincher’s film Mank starts.
Gary Oldman has his gaze set on another Oscar to put on his mantlepiece for playing Mankiewicz, the notoriously drunk Hollywood screenwriter who himself won an Oscar for his work on Citizen Kane. In our feature interview Oldman talks about his own battle with alcohol. He once told the Los Angeles Times that he used to sweat vodka. “My tongue would be black in the morning. I blamed it on the shampoo.” He gave it up a long time ago.
Mankiewicz eventually died from uremic poisoning due to kidney failure from alcoholism. Throughout Hollywood’s history, booze has been as prevalent as the huge egos it bolstered.
Another great screenwriter, Raymond Chandler, who won an Oscar for The Blue Dahlia, apparently drank nonstop and ate no solid food for eight days while finishing the script. Stephen King can’t even remember writing some of his books in the ’80s. What drives writers to drink? James Parker asks this question in an article in The Atlantic. In answering, he says: “The disaster of their drinking was part of their negotiation with the unattainable. Their muses, their demons, were merciless. Their standards were impossibly high.” Would any great writer have it any other way?
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