Monday, April 16, 2012

Best drugstore in the movies?

Tension (1949, dir. John Berry) is a great film noir, with Richard Basehart as the cuckolded pharmacist Warren Quimby and Audrey Totter as his three- or four- or five-timing wife Claire. Also on board: Cyd Charisse and (briefly) William Conrad. Basehart and Totter are terrific as a stunningly mismatched couple. The real star of the film though is the drugstore, an “All-Nite Service” establishment at the corner of St. Ann’s and Thirteenth, wherever that is.

[“Tasty Food.” Click on each image for a larger view.]

Tension begins with a monologue by Lieutenant Collier Bonnabel (Barry Sullivan):
You know, these stores have everything: raisins and radios, paregoric and phonographs, vitamin capsules and cap pistols. They’ll serve you a cup of coffee, sell you a pack of cigarettes or a postage stamp, and in a pinch they’ll even fill a prescription for you.
The store appears to have six main areas. Clockwise from the rear: a prescription counter, a lunch counter, a magazine rack, liquors and candy (both dandy), tobacco, and perfume.

[Warren Quimby fills a prescription. Notice, among other details, “Tomorrow’s Weather by Vicks.”]

[Quimby has a word with the loyal counterman Freddie (Tom D’Andrea).]

[Magazines, liquors, candy, and tobacco, as seen from behind the perfume counter. Mrs. Quimby has met her old friend Barney Deager (Lloyd Gough). He has a big car. She likes that. She’ll meet him outside.]

[Tobacco and perfume counters, as seen from behind the lunch counter. Notice the Eversharp Injection Blades display.]

My idea of a theme park: a dowdy-world drugstore, open all nite.

Further adventures in retail density
Harvey’s Hardware (Needham, Massachusetts)
Whelan’s Drug Store (a Berenice Abbott photograph)

[Paregoric? Merriam-Webster explains: “camphorated tincture of opium used especially to relieve pain.” I know this word from reading William Burroughs.]

comments: 5

Adair said...

There is a fairly long drugstore scene in D.O.A., when the really scary Chester (in my opinion one of the most frightening psychopaths in all of film noir) gets hit with a big perfume bottle by the brave pharmacist.

I also recall the drug store in Best Years of Our Lives, the one where Dana Andrews has a job at the soda fountain.

Michael Leddy said...

I can’t recall the D.O.A. scene, though I do remember Chester, for sure.

I thought about mentioning the BestYears scenes, which are great ones. That store must be several times the size of the one in Tension.

Anonymous said...

The establishment looks to me like a drug store around Western Avenue and perhaps Melrose Avenue or Santa Monica Boulevard, in old Los Angeles. "Wherever that is" has changed drastically in fifty years. Certainly the studios used local locations often. When was the last time there was a soda fountain in a drug store? Now I become morose....

Michael Leddy said...

Thanks for the possible locations. The IMDb lists Culver City as a location for shooting, though it says nothing about the drug store.

If you search in Google Maps for drugstore with pharmacy, you can find a few.

Elaine said...

There is a Woolworth's in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, with a soda fountain. Or, I should say, it used to be there. I took the kids there after we'd visited the fish hatchery and hiked on King's Mountain. I know that is more of a five-and-dime than a drugstore, but we have to take things where we find them...