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Shaving In Hollywood: 7 Memorable Scenes

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If you think this scene was about shaving, you weren’t paying attention.

[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 seven 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.)

Edward G. Robinson in Key Largo.

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.)

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.)

Cary Grant in North By Northwest

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!)

Related Post: The Role Of The Straight Razor In Movies



17 thoughts on “Shaving In Hollywood: 7 Memorable Scenes”

  1. Robert De Niro playing Al Capone in The Untouchables is a standout classic for me personally. It was one of those movies back in the day which we rented from the local video store and didn’t know what to expect. I loved the part also with Sean Connery and Andy Garcia where they were extracting the team and AG pulls a gun on Sean Connery. Classic.
    I also love De Niro in the movie Heat when he plays Neil Macauley. Actually Heat is my favourite movie.

  2. How did you forget Chaplin’s shaving scene in The Great Dictator? How was that not the #1 scene?

  3. In Monkey Business, Harpo and Chico briefly pose as barbers on a steamship and shave a man, including his moustache. It’s a classic display of their impeccable timing.

  4. I don’t remember which “The Three Stooges” episode it was, but all three stooges shaved eachother’s face. It was quite funny. They slapped on the shaving cream, and went at it. Wish i could remember what the title of the episode was.

    1. I also witnessed this masterful short subject shaving scene…where there wasn’t one missed step…just three guys in a tight bathroom shaving one another perfectly…with the brush…straight razor…perfect chorography…it was a one time deal at a stooges fest where larry’s daughter was also there…let’s just say..imagine a women that looks like he father…breath taking…the reason non of us can find it is do to legal rangling for decades between the Howard and Fine it came out for a short time and was locked up again until the families come to decide who owns them and of course the money…when anyone says it’s not about the money…you can be sure it is…what a tragedy ..and like all of us feel cheated and after 15 years of searching I’m begining to believe non of us will be living …there are ..i think..110 short subjects..and 190 total …it’s almost as bad as being a San Francisco Giants fan who was waiting about a century to win the world series…ugg..gook luck to us all hard core stooges fans…peace out…T. Callinan

  5. You missed the scene in Lawrence of Arabia where Lawrence is shaving in the desert in the midst a band of Arabs. He’s sitting there using precious water to maintain one of the most visible cultural differences between himself and the Arabs. Later in the movie he sports a beard.

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