THE CYNICAL PATRONS OF MANHATTAN’S STORK CLUB

Written by Ruth at Silver Screenings


Hollywood likes to make movies about poor, kindhearted individuals who acquire sudden wealth.


But what happens when that unexpected windfall ruins your love life?


Just ask Betty Hutton’s character in the musical comedy The Stork Club (1945). Hutton plays a hat check girl who works at the glamorous See-And-Be-Seen night spot, New York’s famed Stork Club.


Alas! On her day off, she has the misfortune of rescuing a miserable millionaire (Barry Fitzgerald) when he falls off a pier. Not only that, she thinks he’s homeless, and she arranges for him to be hired as a busboy at the club. As a gesture of gratitude – for saving his life, not for the crummy job – the stingy Fitzgerald decides to become her anonymous benefactor.


Fitzgerald’s lawyer (Robert Benchley) delivers a letter to Hutton that outlines her new benefits, including a luxurious apartment and an account at a swishy Fifth Avenue department store.


However, Benchley’s letter also thanks Hutton for being “very accommodating”, a phrase that can be taken a number of ways – especially by her boyfriend (Don DeFore) when he returns to New York after WWII.


DeFore doesn’t believe Hutton lives the Luxury Life for nothing, and who can blame him? So Hutton invents a wild story involving Fitzgerald: See this homeless man? I saved his life, but he’s really very rich and he’s given me all this in gratitude.


It’s not a story any reasonable person would believe. Indeed, we ourselves wouldn’t have believed it if we hadn’t been watching the movie.


DeFore certainly ain’t buying it, and, far as he’s concerned, his relationship with Hutton is Over.


Manhattan’s Stork Club was an actual place and, during its Heyday, it was one of the most illustrious clubs in the world. It was famous for enticing celebrities who – then, as now – created a buzz and attracted hordes of well-heeled customers. It was, as they say, a License to Print Money.


It was established in 1929* by Sherman Billingsley, an ex-bootlegger whose life would make a fascinating film.


Stories about the joint are legendary, whether true or not. Humphrey Bogart was allegedly banned after he argued with Billingsley, and Ernest Hemingway supposedly cashed a cheque for film rights to clear his bar tab.


The club was so exclusive. You could get in only if the doorman allowed it, and he had to unhook a (14kt) gold chain to let you through. According to Untapped New York, owner Billingsley “pampered the most famous celebrities by buying them booze…and he employed a photographer to document every night and give the photos to the tabloids.”


To read the rest of Ruth's review, click here!


Then, head over to TheFilmDetective.tv to catch The Stork Club (1945)!

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