[Note from Mantic59: Last month's post about shaving in the movies got such a positive reaction from readers that I have asked John from A Mythical Monkey Writes About The Movies to write more on the subject.]
Let me just say right off the bat that shaving in the movies is never really about shaving. As I mentioned last month (here), if you’re lucky, a movie such as Wrestling Ernest Hemingway or Barbershop at least talks about the why of shaving if not the how—showing that a hot towel, good lather and a sharp blade is as much about self-respect as it is about a close shave.
Mostly though, if you see someone shaving in a movie, you can be certain the director is telling you something else.
With that in mind, here are ten memorable shaving scenes from the history of movies.
Steamboat Bill, Jr. (1928)
The great Buster Keaton proves once again how much of a man’s identity is tied to his facial hair. Here, with two deft flicks of the wrist, the barber turns Buster from a foppish, ukelele-playing college boy into, well, Buster Keaton. But for his disappointed father, any improvement is a welcome one. (See also The African Queen.)
An Ache In Every Stake (1941)
While paying for a shave in a barber shop seems to be pretty rare these days, once upon a time it was a ritual for many men, and for the barber, a professional chair-side manner was essential. Curly Howard of the Three Stooges has got his patter down, and his technique isn’t bad either—he offers a hot towel, sharpens his razor and whips up a nice, frothy lather. Too bad he’s shaving a block of ice. (See also Chinatown, Wrestling Ernest Hemingway and Barbershop.)
Key Largo (1948)
The power shave. Whenever you see a scene like this, you can be sure the man in the chair is the most important person in the room. And whatever you do, don’t nick his chin. (Sorry, this video can’t be embedded, but you can see it here.) (See also The Untouchables—sorry, no link.)
Rabbit Of Seville (1950)
A good shaving technique always has rhythm, so it’s probably inevitable that someone in the movies set the process to music. But in case you haven’t thought about it, letting a complete stranger put a razor to your throat is an inherently risky proposition. Only a fool or Elmer Fudd would trust his whiskers to a large, furry rodent. (See also The Great Dictator.)
Rio Bravo (1959)
With few exceptions, Hollywood depicts shaving as a purely male occupation. When you see a woman getting involved, the result is certain to be either comedic or downright dangerous. All things considered, Angie Dickinson does a pretty good job in this scene from the classic western Rio Bravo, but Dean Martin is probably right to be worried. (See also The Color Purple.)
North By Northwest (1959)
As I was saying, in the movies, it never ends well when a woman gets involved in a shave. Here, Cary Grant is forced to use Eva Marie Saint’s travel razor, leading to a “mine is bigger than yours” joke. Fortunately, Grant has the style and wit to carry the moment off. (Again, click here to watch.) (See also It’s A Gift, After The Thin Man and Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House.)
A Hard Day’s Night (1964)
It’s not enough to clear the whiskers from your face—in Hollywood, real men use a razor (or if he’s really manly, a Bowie knife). (See also Little Big Man and Cold Mountain.)
The Big Shave (1967)
Did you ever wonder what trauma in Martin Scorsese’s early life led to all those violent, bloody scenes in Taxi Driver, Raging Bull and Goodfellas? This short from 1967 seems to suggest it was his morning shaving routine. (Caution: gore) (See also And Now For Something Completely Different, Dumb And Dumber and The Royal Tenenbaums.)
High Plains Drifter (1973)
You know a guy is tough when he can kill you without even leaving the barber’s chair. (Caution: strong language, violence) (See also My Darling Clementine and Mississippi Burning. But see Black Caesar where Fred “The Hammer” Williamson reminds would-be gangsters of just how dangerous shaving can be.)
Band Of Brothers (2001)
Above all, good grooming is part of most men’s daily routine, and shaving can help us maintain our sanity in the most insane situation. (See also Oh, God!)