Drinking Champagne

British filmmaker Ken Russell cast Ann Margret who is usually shy and reserved offstage, but onstage she can be wildly exuberant and sensuous to be Nora Walker Hobbs, the mother of the pinball wizard in the motion picture Tommy, which was an adaptation of The Who’s rock opera.  Russell had a knack for creating images that were unforgettable for both their pop-art beauty and their boundary pushing eroticism and he wanted Ann Margret because she is a superb singer.  Ann was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actress for her role and she won a Golden Globe Award for Best Actress in a Musical or Comedy for this part.

On the Who’s 1967 sardonic concept album The Who Sell Out, they created fake commercials and public service announcements to ridicule the increasingly crass consumer culture and Roger Daltrey appears eating Heinz Beans to attack commercialism.  When he sat in a bath filled with baked beans for a picture, this resulted in him getting pneumonia.  In the 1960s while working for the BBC, Ken Russell made many advertisements for British commercial television.  These included detergent, baked beans, and chocolates.  In Tommy, Russell satirizes his advertising days using Ann Margret who is shown covered by soap suds, baked beans and liquid chocolate, intended as a parody of his old TV advertisements.  According to Russell, the baked bean and detergent scenes (and the Rex Baked Beans parody ad) were revenge for the ads he made early in his career.

Ann’s famous scene is where the song ‘Champagne’ follows ‘Pinball Wizard’ and Tommy is hailed as the new champ.  During the song ‘Champagne’, Nora (Ann Margret) was dressed in a spandex catsuit and she is sitting at a mirror watching her son’s televised victory.  As Tommy’s mother is watching his victory from the comfort of the pristine, heaven-like room of their new mansion, she is celebrating his (and her) success by drinking champagne.  Mrs. Walker watches a parodic TV advertisement for the fictional product Rex Baked Beans that are being presented to royalty.  Nora stands up wearing a long flowing white fluffy robe and she takes a swig from her bottle of champagne and then she starts singing and dancing around in a white room with white curtains.  Nora is flipping through channels and her son is back on the TV, as she falls to the carpet and he is singing and he wants to be recognized.  She is indulging in excesses, while celebrating Tommy’s success and what she believes to be his awaited salvation, but when she looks again to the broadcast, she sees Tommy is still as catatonic as ever, as he calls out, “See me, feel me, touch me, heal me.”  Nora grabs the remote then it looks like the My Fair Lady scene where they are at the races is on TV.  Her son is back and she switches the remote again to see a gloved hand reaching for Black Beauty chocolates and the two My Fair Lady characters both appear to be enjoying the chocolates.

Nora get up from the floor and sits in a chair and spins around and then she removes her robe and flops down on the bed still singing.  She is wearing silver pumps and she caresses her ankle and thigh as she sticks them up in the air.  She tosses all the pillows around as she is still watching Tommy on TV.  She is off the bed and on the floor throwing her pumps around.  She is in anguish as she sees her son again and she takes another swig of her champagne.  No matter how many times she changes the channel, it keeps reverting back to her son.  Disgusted with her own exploitation of Tommy, the guilt she experiences results in her having a nervous breakdown.  She is frantic, so she throws the bottle into the TV screen and when it smashes, all of these soap suds come pouring out of the TV.  I can’t really say that “She has such a bubbly personality”, but Nora seems to be enjoying this, as she starts rubbing the suds into her body.  Now the beans come pouring out and Nora is swimming around in a sea of baked beans and she pours them over her head.  Chocolate starts spurting out of the TV and Nora is rolling around the floor ROF in it.  The white room has become a disgusting mess of bubbles, and from her slithering around through several hundred pounds of baked beans and melted chocolate, the luxuries that Nora consumed in her blind greed.

Ann Margret was directed to portray a character that was having a nervous breakdown, and they said that she could do whatever she wanted.  She cleans her face off with some white flowers and a guy enters the room wearing a sailor’s hat drinking whiskey.  He sees that the TV set is broken and Nora is rolling around the floor on her robe, but there is no mess of soap suds, beans and melted chocolate.  He looks around and stumbles on to the bed and we realize that Nora was just having a hallucination.

Ann Margret really deserved the award she won for playing Nora Walker, as she cut her hand badly on the broken glass that came out of the television screen.  Her hand was dripping with blood when she accidentally struck the broken glass and the cut glass sliced into her hand.  They wrapped her bloody hand up in a blanket and carried her off the set, and she was taken to the hospital to have her hand stitched.  The doctors took twenty-seven stitches to close the wound, but she was back on-set the next day.

[MRS. WALKER]

It rains champagne!
A son was born again!
A genius untamed!
A life of wealth and fame, wealth and fame!
Champagne flowing down just like rain,
Caviar breakfasts every day.
Merchant banks and yachts and …
Servants and cars and private sand.

[TOMMY]

See me, feel me, touch me, heal me.
See me, feel me, touch me, heal me, heal me.

[MRS. WALKER]

They flock in, thousands strong.
We’ll just play along.
A million in reserve.
For love, a just deserve, just deserve!
Birds and flowers and peacock’s wings,
Sequined gowns and birds that sing!
Private planes and fishing lanes.
Bigger crowds and bigger, bigger, bigger takes.
But what’s it all worth?
What’s it all worth when my son is blind?
He can’t hear the music nor enjoy what I’m buying.
His life is worthless, affecting mine.
I’d pay any price to drive his plight from my mind!

[TOMMY]

See me, feel me, touch me, heal me.
See me, feel me, touch me, heal me.

Written for Mindlovemisery’s Menagerie Saturday Mix Mad About Metaphor hosted by weejars aka Sarah where we are supposed to use the metaphor, “She has such a bubbly personality.”

12 thoughts on “Drinking Champagne

  1. Happy Sunday, Funday, Jim, I hadn’t known how this motion picture is. Nice to see it, when a music discussion is taking place. Heard of it, but never been familiar.

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  2. I love The Who Sell Out…it was a brilliant concept they had… I like Tommy and the movie…Ann is great in it…you should see it Jim

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