Participant in an alcoholic chapter in The Century saga was Spencer Tracy, an actor and man of bounce whose fondness for the stuff that comes in bottles itself became legendary over the years and was never for a moment denied by Tracy himself who shunned the sanctimonious postures of fellow professionals and proclaimed it from the rooftops when he tied one on.
At the time, Tracy, under contract to Metro Goldwyn Mayer, had just finished a nonesuch in the company’s Hollywood studios and headed for New York for the express purpose of relaxing in P.J. Moriarty’s and other highly regarded outposts of Sunset Boulevard. No sooner had Tracy begun to sample things in Manhattan than the studio found to its dismay that retakes were necessary on several scenes in the recently completed film. Tracy was at length located in company with a brother of Matt McHugh, a fellow actor of convivial habit, who happened to be an employee of Lowe’s, Inc., the theater chain. MGM got McHugh on long distance and intimated that it would be most grateful if he could persuade Tracy to return on the first available section of The Century and, knowing that it would be difficult, placed at McHugh’s disposal the resources of their New York office.
And endproduct of those resources was a bottle of Jack Daniels from which a judicious amount of the dew of Tennessee had been removed and a liberal sleeping potion of chloral hydrate inserted in its place. It was to be given to Tracy at the train gate to insure his getting all the way to Chicago where other agents of Metro would take over. The studio wanted to take no chances that Tracy might remember friends at Albany or Buffalo. The plan worked in perfection in every detail save one: Tracy insisted that McHugh join him in his stateroom on Car 250 in an attack on the bottle before train time, where the accomplice, in the full knowledge that he too was being drugged, was forced to keep pace, drink for drink, with his intended victim. As The Century pulled out McHugh tottered toward Vanderbilt Avenue, only pausing to sit down on the wide marble steps for a nap. The station police took a dim view of this departure from decorum and when Tracy arrived in Los Angeles refreshed and rested, McHugh was in the tank on the Island working off a five-day drunk sentence."
"For many years the New York Central’s mainline, improbably enough, ran through town right down the main street of Syracuse in upper New York. The westbound train was scheduled to go through in the middle of the evening about time dinner was being served and patrons of the diner and club car could and did raise glasses to the equally affable patrons of the town’s saloons visible through the windows and engaged in mutually satisfactory occupations at their respective oases. Now and then a Syracusan more than ordinarily in wine would attempt to climb aboard the observation platform as the train progressed at a snail’s pace down the thouroughfare and a brakeman was stationed there against this contingency. Part of the charm of the trip vanished when the Central’s tracks were rerouted around the town."
“Things are a lot more like they used to be than they are now.”
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