Beauty Dragnet Druggist Broadway

Jp Enlarged

Dragnet Druggist was a terrific movie. I saw it when I switched on the TV in the middle of the night. Black and white and really racy. It had to be from the 1930s. Before films were rated. Today, it would be an NC-17. It starred no “A List” actors, cheap sets and a laughable script. It must have been written by a pharmacist who had screenwriting aspirations. This was probably his first try. It would have not been the least bit compelling to me if it was not about a druggist and his life.

Bungalow Broadway Beauty was pulp fiction. I found it on the rack at the corner store. There was a picture of a bespectacled balding man in a starched barber style white smock. He was pouring from a pint bottle into a graduate. I was already in the drug store business as a cleaner-upper and stock boy. I had the money so I bought it.

The Beauty was a cosmetician in a drug store. I was hoping for a pharmacist that was portrayed in a good light. What I found out was that the pharmacist was having his way with the Beauty. Her boyfriend, a long haul trucker in the days before the Interstate highway system, confronted the drug store owner and ended up kicking the crap out of the druggist. I was a teenager and the idea that pharmacists could have sex with the employees was an original idea. I watched the owner’s wife, Ella, and I still think that she and Frank, the employee pharmacist, had their fling. Why did they go downstairs into the basement alone so often? There was nothing down there, but cases of Rexall products.

We all know about Mister Gower in It’s a Wonderful Life. He was drunk, made a huge mistake on an Rx and the stock/delivery boy caught the error. Mister Gower had just gotten a telegram telling him that his son had died of influenza, at college. Every Christmas, I watch this classic and I feel bad for Mister Gower, Registered Man.

The main character in Kurt Vonnegut’s Deadeye Dick is a pharmacist from Ohio. I know something about Vonnegut and his relationship with a certain pharmacist. Kurt had good reason to portray the pharmacist as a bit flaky.

On the brilliant Fox TV drama House, the writers consistently portray the pharmacist as a doofus. When asked a drug question, one asshole says, “Well, I am just a pharmacist. How do I know?” I really enjoy House, but I cringe when there is a pharmacist in the story.

These examples of pharmacist portrayals can’t even be lumped together. They are so different.

However, each of them is full of the same suffering and pathos. Dragnet Druggist starred a guy with slicked back dark hair and a pencil-thin mustache. This was way before the Durham-Humphrey Amendment. Slick was getting customers addicted to a “health drink” that he called “Whiz”. He was a wealthy man. His wife was left at home and he lived the high life. How could a pharmacist in LA in the 1930s afford to drive a Cord. The scene I remember well is at a night club. His mistress was pestering him to dance. Finally, he grabs her face with his right hand and hisses, “I’m on my feet all day. Leave me alone about dancing.”

The pharmacist in Bunglaow Broadway Beauty is not a main character, but he worked long hours and apparently believed that he was entitled to use the good-looking female clerks any way his appetites desired. It was a hunger of male flesh for female flesh. After the beating, the movie never visited the drug store again. I will speculate that in 2009, there are plenty of pharmacists taking advantage of their power. That goes for female pharmacists also.

In these works of fiction, you have a fictionalized view of a pharmacist. What I see as a huge difference in these old examples is that the pharmacist was a real person, not just a stereotype. The scene I will always recall was in Dragnet Druggist. The pharmacist store owner did three things. He compounded. He drank coffee with a doctor almost every day and he made terrific ice cream sodas.

How could the movies or a novelist find a pharmacist to be a compelling character in the 21st Century.



  1. Becky theTechie  •  Aug 28, 2009 @1:27 am

    “How could the movies or a novelist find a pharmacist to be a compelling character in the 21st Century.”

    Two things jumped out at me:

    1. The antagonist in a drug abuse worshiping dreck fest that pulls a loaded semi-automatic on any [insert minority or group of choice here] that walks into his store, and wipes out the “innocent” kid dragged along on someone’s “Vykodinz, Somaz, and Zannies” run. Compelling to certain types, at least, though I usually have trouble identifying with the “bad guy” unless I know he’s responsible for a severly disabled child or mentally challenged adult sibling, etc. I like my villains to have some depth to them.

    2. The protagonist/antihero that does what we’ve all *wanted* to do to someone at one point or another: throw our keys, kick malfunctioning fusers across the parking lot, rip the warning alarm out of the GD robotic counter and shove it up the “I NEEEEED IIIIIIT!” patient’s patootie, brain the tardy delivery guy with a full Potassium 20meq stock bottle… Sort of like Office Space, until some idiot Vicodin-pilfering tech drops a couple tranqs into his coffee and he finishes the rest of the movie in a drug induced haze (Maybe starts tripping back to his hippie days? ;) ) while the skeezy floater hits on the college freshman cashier with the huge rack.

    Come to think of it, that might make an interesting “comedy of manners” play. *eyes her old English and Theter double major warily*

    Becky, you are one of the all time greats. Your comment here is wonderful. You jumped on and played with me. Have you considered going to pharmacy school?

  2. Sassenach  •  Aug 28, 2009 @8:54 am

    1. I could see a small town pharmacist cast in much the same role as a pastor, along the lines of the Mitford series. Arguably, a pharmacist knows more of the truth about a person’s situation than even their pastor. How a pharmacist could use that knowledge, without disclosing what he knows, to influence lives would be an interesting series.
    2. In the hands of a gifted writer, I think there could be a compelling story about a pharmacist who calls out a respected doctor on his prescribing habits for chronic pain. The ensuing controversy, in which both pharmacist and doctor believe they are doing the right thing, could be an interesting dissection of the problems in diagnosing, treating, and living with chronic pain. The cast of characters could be rounded out with vignettes of indivduals in the community who are facing their own issues with pain and addiction.

  3. Jim Plagakis  •  Aug 28, 2009 @2:17 pm

    There was a time of undefatiguable energy when I wrote fiction. If you see quality now, from my pen, it is because of a couple thousand hours writing fiction since around 1968. Kurt Vonnegut and I shared letters between 1972 till around 1988. Kurt was (in his words) a hack writer who struck a nerve. Anyway, on his advice, I wrote novels. A couple had a pharmacist as the main character. The last one I wrote with a main character pharmacist was in 2003-2004. The main character was based on me. The supportive wife was based on Victoria. The story was 100% made up. You know, I can’t remember the hero’s name. I wrote it using Microsoft Works. It is on a disk that Word does not support.

    Essay writing is like being pulled from a boiling pot. Fiction writing gave me chops that I would never have acquired.. Ever. The hours were worth it. A lot of cheap psycho-therapy. Journaling with style and dialogue.
    In the end, I sold one novel. 1983. I made a total of $4000.00
    on it. I spent two years writing and re-writing it. Taking into consideration all of my fiction writng, I doubt if I made $2.00 an hour.

  4. Ronald  •  Aug 28, 2009 @10:17 pm

    What about Murphys Law with James Garner and Sally Fields?
    How did I not recall “Murphys Law”? I loved it. A manly man horse loving
    pharmacist who humiliates the opportunistic creep that Sally was, somehow, stuck to.
    The pharmacist was an older man and the drug store was a back to the future portrayal. Didn’t the pharmacist make ice cream sodas? What was Garner’s last line? “If I stay for dinner, I’ll be here for breakfast in the morning.”

  5. Becky theTechie  •  Aug 28, 2009 @10:18 pm

    Usually I don’t play with old men, but you’re welcome. ;D

    “Have you considered going to pharmacy school?” Every time you ask, Jim. And the answer’s always “No.”

    And I’ll keep asking. You are a smart girl, Becky.

  6. Becky theTechie  •  Aug 29, 2009 @8:36 pm

    Aww, thanks Jim. You need a tech? ;)

  7. Pharmacy student  •  Sep 1, 2009 @8:56 pm

    I watched an episode (rerun) of Desperate Housewives recently. (Don’t judge me. Sometimes there isn’t anything else on TV.) One housewife was married to a doctor. She had an affair with the pharmacist. The doctor stopped by the pharmacy to tell the pharmacist off and said something about how all the pretty women always wind up with doctors, not pharmacists. So, the pharmacist messes with the doctor’s potassium chloride tablets and kills him. Want to secretly cheer for the pharmacist? Sorry folks. By the end of the episode, pharmacist had developed a psychotic stalker type persona with the now widow. He admitted to the widow about the crime. Evidence was found at his home. He was arrested.

    You also forgot about the pharmacist Mort Goldman in Family Guy. The pharmacist is portrayed as this skinny geeky coward of a man. Google him for his picture.

    I have to agree with that comment about how House treats pharmacists like idiots. House’s team must not be that smart though if Dr. Foreman ended an episode reviewing a stack of flash cards… the card in his hand being about the drug “mirtazapine.”

  8. Gary  •  Sep 3, 2009 @12:12 pm

    Haven’t seen it, but new to the list is Don’t Shoot the Pharmacist starring Ben Bailey (Cash Cab driver). Here’s the IMDB link and the synopsis.

    A Pharmacist, braves a memorably zany night as he muses about life as a Vegas roulette dealer. Encountering a range of customers, from rude to idiotic, from beautiful to dangerous, Zack and his wise-cracking Pharmacy Tech, Ty, attempt to make sense of the world they spend half of their life in, at Brooklyn’s Goodyear Pharmacy. Before the shift finally comes to a close, Zack’s newfound “self” gets tested to the extreme, as the lives of Zack, Ty and frequent customer Phil, a manic OCD patient, are put in danger by an armed and desperate man who will stop at nothing to get what he wants.

  9. Jim (different Jim!)  •  Oct 13, 2009 @11:35 pm

    I was very entertained reading this article. I am a pharmacist but have also been involved in filmmaking. I wrote a screenplay with the main character being a pharmacist. Initially I received interested from a first look company for Sony Pictures. Unfortunately the VP of production left before the draft I was working on was finalised. The screenplay was a finalist in an international writing competition and then the short film version screenplay was short listed for production locally…I’m optimistic but will it get made? I suppose I just need to find a good agent.

    By the way, excellent website.

    The elusive agent! In my 30+ years of writing for publication, I have had one agent and the sale of one novel. I got royally cheated, or course. The book was a romantic novel that the agent promised she could sell if I would write it. So, I did it. I put it on the island of Mykonos and the interested editor wanted it, but wanted it in America. I re-wrote the thing and put it on Catalina. Before computers. You know, my friend, what that means. Anyway, I settled with the publisher who sold the book to a Norwegian and a West German publisher without my permission. The book did well. I settled for $1500.00 each in 1985. The agent is key, Jim. It seems as if they are the ones with the power. Jay Pee.

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