A Wing and a Latte: Backstory on a Visual Pun

Wing and A Prayer, 1944 moviePosterADDENDUM TO CHALK TALK: Look closely at the center of the Intelligentsia winged insignia. In place of the customary propellor or star between the wings, this clever image seems to show an artisanal coffee with a curl of cream on the top. The “wing and a prayer” phrase has been kept alive in American culture – at least among old-movie buffs – by a black-and-white movie that occasionally turns up on PBS or late-night television: Starring Dana Andrews and Don Ameche, this war propaganda film won an Oscar for Best Original Screenplay in 1944. It took its title from a number-one hit song of 1943, “Coming in on a Wing and a Prayer,” sung by the Song Spinners. Other number-one songs in that year: Bing Crosby, “White Christmas”; Harry James, “I Had the Craziest Dream (Last Night)”; Glenn Miller, “That Old Black Magic”; Benny Goodman, “Taking a Chance on Love”; Dick Haymes, “You’ll Never Know (How Much I Love You)”; Tommy Dorsey, “In the Blue of the Evening”; Mills Brothers, “Paper Doll (To Call My Own)”; and Al Dexter, “Pistol Packin’ Mama.” Quite a song list for a single year!

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  1. […] THE AGE OF REASON WAS FUELED BY CAFFEINATED CHATTER in the cheap and cheerful English coffeehouses of the late 17th and 18th centuries, says historian Brian Cowan of McGill University. Unlike the brews in the alehouses, coffee sharpened thinking and revved up the exchange of ideas that led to what’s called the Enlightenment. Keep that in mind while considering these two chalkboard easels (click on the image for a larger view). The one at left was seen by Brooklyn Artisan across the East River in NoLita, outside Gimme Coffee on Mott Street; at right, along Brooklyn’s Fifth Avenue. (The Intelligentsia insignia looks like a salute to some Army Air Corps flyer who managed to make it home on a wing and a latte.) […]

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