The Third Rail: Ham on Rye, or Is Drinking Good for Actors?


No story of Hollywood excess would be complete without one thing: Robert Evans. And in each of those stories that lovably sleazy Hollywood producer had one thing in his hand: a drink. Long before the silver screen, the dramatic and inebriate arts have been intertwined. After all, wasn’t it Shakespeare who said “Cocktails and Dreams…. I see it in pink neon. Blink, blink, pinkety blink”? (Answer: No.) But has drinking had a positive effect on the dramatic arts? After the jump, we consider the evidence.

No: Ah, the French Champagne… had a terrible effect on Orson Welles. The esteemed actor, director, and black face-wearer should have left behind an unparalleled resume. Instead he is notorious for his unfortunate attempts at playing the shill for a Californian sparkling wine. If he’d avoided the quick payoff of commercials his legacy would be much more positive, remembered forever in his final film role as Unicorn in Transformers: The Movie.

Yes: Paul Giamatti has always been the most talented schlub in the room, but it took numerous glasses of wine in Sideways before he really won over America’s heart (this summary probably also describes Giamatti’s romantic experiences before Sideways — and after The Lady in the Water).

No: Just this. (Though as side note, according to all available evidence Charles Bukowski and movies do not mix.)

Yes: For better or worse, alcohol has always had the power to inspire melodrama. But at least sometimes actors know enough to avoid the crying jags and stick with humor. That’s how you end up with high art like this: