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.