The Sweet Smell of Success has me asking the same questions, making the same observations that I always do when ever I watch old movies. In the past, watching them, I had always tended to take movies as ethnographies of the time and now, I am not so sure. See, until tonight, I had always marveled at how people constantly are drinking and smoking in old movies, how everyone has a liquor cabinet in their living rooms and sometimes even in their offices, and will casually drink cocktails in the afternoon. In every scene, people are lighting up cigarettes, also in the office.
And I sort of envy that culture, thinking that the current one, oddly enough has more teetoaler tendencies now than those days of Dick Van Dyke, wonder what it must have been like for it to be normal to enjoy cocktails in the afternoon as a non-event. Did people really smoke this much then? Did they actually drink this much then? Or, as I wondered tonight, are the both just used as props in the blocking, something for the actor to hold and gesticulate with? Perhaps in fact, people's smoking and drinking habits were just as minimal then, and the directors were lazy and used these props as crutches, making it easier to evoke a mood. But the liquor cabinets in the living room - if they didn't really exist, people would say, "What is that?" so surely they must have been so common.