If we’re talking about movie stars and not, say, jazz musicians or my friends, I’d say Frederic March does the best drunk ever, better even than William Powell, if you don’t count John Barrymore, John Gilbert and Errol Flynn, who cheated, being actual drunks. No one plays a drunk like a drunk drunk.
Now in The Best Years of Our Lives, stone sober Frederic March is drunk and giving a speech. It’s a helluva speech. The major says take that hill, Frederic March. Frederic March says no, Major, there’s no collateral in it. The hill went untaken and America lost the war. And alternate history if there ever was one. I’m not sure if you all appreciate this point. Before multiple universes had even been conjectured over at Caltech, or even on Star Trek, Frederic March laid out the possibilities–the hill not being taken–and the ramifications. In Frederic March’s alternative universe, even if it was only for the duration of an inebriated speech to some babbity little bankers, the Japanese won World War 2. Frederic March, drunk, changed the entire fabric of the universe.
Now that is a drunk. But no wonder, Frederic March played the best drunk. No mean Foster Brooks he, that Frederic March. He played other roles too, and brilliantly, and is one of my favorite actors ever. But today’s lecture was about drunks, so there.