Characters referenced in Woody Allen’s movie “Midnight in Paris” (Part 38,Alcoholism and great writers and artists)

I have really enjoyed going through all the characters mentioned in Woody Allen’s latest film “Midnight in Paris.” One think that shocked me was that many of these great writers mentioned in the film were also alcoholics. Why is that?

It is my view that if a sensitive person really does examine life closely without a belief in God then they will come to a negative nihilistic point of view concerning life. That will possibly lead them to try and escape through alcoholism. What is the answer to that? We will get to that later in this post.

I stumbled on this list of the Top 15 Great Alcoholic Writers and here is the top five of that list:

 William Faulkner, Ernest Heminingway, Scott  Fitzgerald and James Joyce are all in the latest Woody Allen movie “Midnight in Paris” and they all were alcoholics.  

5. William Faulkner


William Cuthbert Faulkner (September 25, 1897 – July 6, 1962) was an American novelist, film screenwriter, and poet whose works feature his native state of Mississippi. He is regarded as one of the most influential writers of the twentieth century and was awarded the 1949 Nobel Prize for Literature. Much has been made of the fact that Faulkner had a serious drinking problem throughout his life, but as Faulkner himself stated on several occasions, and as was witnessed by members of his family, the press, and friends at various periods over the course of his career, he did not drink while writing, nor did he believe that alcohol helped to fuel the creative process. It is now widely believed that Faulkner used alcohol as an “escape valve” from the day-to-day pressures of his regular life.

4. Charles Bukowski


Henry Charles Bukowski (August 16, 1920 – March 9, 1994) was an influential Los Angeles poet and novelist. Bukowski’s writing was heavily influenced by the geography and atmosphere of his home city of Los Angeles. His father was in and out of work during the Depression years and was a reputed tyrant, verbally and physically abusing his son throughout his childhood. It was perhaps to numb himself from his father’s abuse that Bukowski began drinking at the age of 13, initiating his life-long affair with alcohol.

3. F. Scott Fitzgerald


Francis Scott Key Fitzgerald (September 24, 1896 – December 21, 1940) was an American writer of novels and short stories, whose works have been seen as evocative of the Jazz Age, a term he himself allegedly coined. Fitzgerald had been an alcoholic since his college days, and became notorious during the 1920s for his extraordinarily heavy drinking, leaving him in poor health by the late 1930s. On the night of December 20, 1940, he had a heart attack, and the next day, December 21, while awaiting a visit from his doctor, Fitzgerald collapsed and died. He was 44.

2. James Joyce

Bernice Abbott James Joyce 1926

James Augustine Aloysius Joyce (2 February 1882 – 13 January 1941) was an Irish expatriate writer, widely considered to be one of the most influential writers of the 20th century. He is best known for his landmark novel Ulysses (1922) and its highly controversial successor Finnegans Wake (1939). Joyce lived in Dublin for many years, binge drinking the whole time. His drinking episodes occasionally caused fights in the local pubs.

1. Ernest Hemingway


Ernest Miller Hemingway (July 21, 1899 – July 2, 1961) was an American novelist, short-story writer, and journalist. Nicknaming himself “Papa” while still in his 20s, he was part of the 1920s expatriate community in Paris known as “the Lost Generation”, as described in his memoir A Moveable Feast. Throughout his life, Hemingway had been a heavy drinker, succumbing to alcoholism in his later years during which time he suffered from increasing physical and mental problems. In July 1961, after being released from a mental hospital where he’d been treated for severe depression, he committed suicide at his home in Ketchum, Idaho with a shotgun.

Henri Toulouse Lautrec and  Paul Gauguin both died from the results of alcoholism. They also were in the film “Midnight in Paris.” Actually you can go through all 30 of the characters I have discussed and I think you will be quite shocked at how many became alcoholics.

Now to the answer. Several years ago I got to hear Pat Summerall speak here in Little Rock and I actually got to ask him a question. Below is his moving testimony and how he overcame alcoholism.

Pat Summerall: A Divine Intervention



Pat Summerall was the signature voice of sports broadcasting in America. Over the years, millions of viewers have welcomed him into their homes, as the voice of NFL football. He’s been part of televised football from its early days. Though he broadcast from the first Superbowl, and many since, he’s had a love for the game well before the “Superbowl” even existed. As a professional football player, he is best known as the kicker for the legendary New York Giants of the late ’50s and ’60s. He started playing football in his small hometown in Florida. He actually played multiple sports and was good at all he tried. When he headed off for college, he turned down a few offers because they wouldn’t let him play both football and basketball, and he didn’t want to choose between his two loves. In college, he played both, but after a while he decided to stick with football and see where it took him. It’s taken him from the Detroit Lions, to the New York Giants, to the Sportscaster’s Hall of Fame, with numerous stops along the way.

Pat’s broadcast career was something he hadn’t planned on pursuing, but rather something that just kind of happened. He “walked-on” for an audition with CBS radio and got the part. Just that easy, his broadcasting career took off and he was launched into stardom. He went from radio to television, even hosting the morning news for a stint on CBS. Through his career, Pat encountered and interacted with numerous celebrities and professional athletes who are legends themselves. Pat continued his broadcast career with CBS for 32 years. In addition to his coverage of football, he was also the network’s signature voice for its golf coverage, including the Masters, the U.S. Open Tennis Championships, the NBA and five Heavyweight Championship Fights. In 1999, Summerall was inducted into the American Sportscaster’s Association’s Hall of Fame.


With fame and money, came opportunity and that opportunity for Pat was to live in a self-indulgent way. Though he had a wife and children waiting at home, Pat spent much of his time on the road with other athletes and broadcasters. He was sucked in by the seductive world around him. He spent much of his time in bars, and when he wasn’t in a bar, alcohol was widely available at sporting events. Over time, Pat became an alcoholic. His behavior wasn’t only hurting himself, it was hurting his family. When his family and friends staged an intervention, one of his daughters wrote a letter saying she was ashamed to share his last name. Pat agreed to go to rehab at the Betty Ford Clinic in 1992.


While in rehab, Pat spent much of his time reading one of the two books available in his room, the Bible. He found that the thirst for knowledge about God and faith was replacing his thirst for alcohol. He found Jesus and gave up alcohol. He was later baptized and now shares his faith with others. His spirit was renewed, but years of drinking took a toll on his body. He has battled through serious health issues, including liver failure and the subsequent liver transplant, but continues to trust God through it all.


Midnight in Paris: The Lost Generation Reborn
Owen Wilson

Satire is a reactionary art form powered by contempt for the present. Although Woody Allen, now 75, has always espoused conventionally liberal views, he’s one of the last figures in American culture unaffected by the 1960s’ faux egalitarianism.

Having turned 21 in 1956, Woody’s enthusiasms remain those of a cultured mid-century New Yorker. In his famous speech at the end of 1979’s Manhattan on what makes life worth living, Allen references Mozart, Flaubert, Cézanne, Louis Armstrong, Groucho Marx, Marlon Brando, Frank Sinatra, Willie Mays, and Ingmar Bergman—in other words, nobody from the 1960s or 1970s. Like Ralph Lauren, Woody Allen has always been an old-fashioned snob.

In his delightful new romantic fantasy Midnight in Paris, Allen takes on a challenge similar to Evelyn Waugh in Brideshead Revisited: recreating a vanished golden age. To Woody, it’s the 1920s Paris of the Lost Generation modernists.

Midnight in Paris stars Owen Wilson (Wedding Crashers) as The Woody Allen Character: a well-paid but artistically frustrated Malibu script doctor named Gil who is struggling to finish his literary novel about a nostalgia shop. This is less of a stretch for Wilson than you’d think: Before getting sidetracked into Hollywood stardom, the blond Texan star cowrote Wes Anderson’s first three movies. Here, Wilson’s guileless boyishness and prep-school politeness make him hugely likable in the role of a kvetching rich guy. Gil is vacationing in Paris with his unappreciative fiancée (Rachel McAdams, her hair dyed blonde and tousled to look like Allen favorite Scarlett Johansson).

“Like Ralph Lauren, Woody Allen has always been an old-fashioned snob.”

Woody’s modern Paris looks stereotypically superb. Allen sets his camera exactly where generations of postcard photographers have stood to shoot the Eiffel Tower, the Paris Opera, and Montmartre’s Basilique du Sacré-Cœur. Not surprisingly, the only modern Parisian landmark that meets Woody’s approval is I. M. Pei’s glass pyramid addition to the Louvre. The inside-out 1977 Centre Pompidou is conspicuously absent.

In contrast to Jonathan Demme’s 2002 dud, The Truth About Charlie, which exulted in a multiracial Paris that didn’t seem much different from Houston, Woody has no interest in the Paris of immigrant Muslim youths setting cars on fire. His Paris, like his New York, is 95 percent white, with the remainder stylish blacks.

Gorgeous as it may look, contemporary Paris bores Gil. Instead, he’s fascinated that he’s walking the same streets as his 1920s idols. A favorable post-WWI exchange rate made Paris cheap for affluent Midwesterners such as Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and Cole Porter. Those artists weren’t starving. The title of Hemingway’s Parisian memoir, A Moveable Feast, can be read literally: A three-course dinner with wine cost $0.20 back then.

While Gil is out walking one midnight, an ancient Duesenberg limousine full of young flappers pulls up and carries him back in time to a 1927 Charleston dance party where Porter is pounding out on the piano his new song “Let’s Do It (Let’s Fall in Love).” Paul Johnson observed, “The keynote of the 1920s musical was joy, springing from an extraordinary exuberance in the delight of being alive and American.” Joy is the dominant emotion Woody conveys in his movie about an American in Paris.

Every midnight, Gil hops in the limo and meets more legends. Fitzgerald introduces Gil to Hemingway, who speaks only in oracular run-on sentences about courage and grace and manhood. Hemingway takes him to meet Gertrude Stein (a businesslike Kathy Bates), Picasso, and Matisse. The funniest cameo is Adrien Brody’s impression of surrealist Salvador Dali (or, as he refers to himself in the third person, “dah-LEEEE”). Brody plays the mannered Spaniard as a confident version of Manuel the Waiter from Fawlty Towers.

Cheap as Paris was for foreigners, how could modern Gil pay for all this high-class socializing with a wallet of credit cards and Euros? What could you bring from the present that would be accepted as payment in 1927? Gold coins?  Yet the question, “How can he pay for all that?” can be asked about every character in every Woody Allen movie. Plausibility be damned, Woody just likes expensive-looking stuff.

With contemporary characters, all this conspicuous consumption can be irritating because they are outcompeting us. In contrast, Woody’s love of opulence is pleasing when set in the past. Fitzgerald’s Marcelled hairdo of shiny waves would be annoying if, say, Justin Timberlake were paying to have it done now. Yet when a style is 85 years out of fashion, it’s hard not to enjoy it.

Allen is aware that 1920s artists are dauntingly esoteric material for 21st-century audiences, so he keeps his jokes on the nose. It’s all very predictable for anybody who has seen a half-dozen Woody Allen movies. Still, watching a master craftsman rummage through his well-worn bag of tricks with the sole intention of making his audience happy for 90 minutes is deliriously infectious.


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