An Homage to the Moustache

 
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This post came out of nowhere for me. In truth, I still laugh at why the moustache was on my mind at all. I blame it squarely on Mission: Impossible and Henry Cavill.  

As you might remember from my Mission: Impossible and the Opera? post way back when, the husband and I enjoy the Mission: Impossible franchise immensely. Well, dear readers, the new Mission: Impossible (titled Fallout) is slated to be released at the end of July with the cast and crew running pell mell to finish filming right now. 

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After the 30 second trailer aired during the Super Bowl, the principals took to social media to tout the teaser. In one particular post, a sentient moustache hi-jacked his owner’s Instagram and declared his glorious, bristly debut. Of course, this was none other than Henry Cavill’s moustache- I believe that’s even a viable hashtag: #HenryCavillsMoustache- which apparently has caused quite a media maelstrom. (I didn’t really know much about this, but my brother assures me, this moustache has been talked about a great deal over the last several months. A cursory google search will confirm this if you don’t believe me.)

That being said, the Instagram post was so witty, hilarious, and fun, it got me thinking about the majesty that is the moustache. (Clarification. I spell it moustache. I’m aware that many of you probably spell it mustache. Like the crumb catcher itself, its spelling is all a matter of preference. You say mustache, I say moustache… Mustache, moustache, let’s shave the whole thing off. I couldn’t resist a Gershwin parody.)

 Edward, Prince of Wales

Edward, Prince of Wales

Moustaches make the man… Well, actually, it’s the other way around, but there’s no denying how a man’s facial hair can mark him. Look at the 14th century Prince of Wales, Edward, whose moustaches were so famous, they were carved into a place of honor on his tomb. See how regally they drape over his chainmail. His moustache lives on in effigy. 

Now, I have never had a moustache- except for one embarrassing time when I was involved with some sort of Shakespearean drama which required drawing moustaches on and subsequently being unable to get them off. It was all rather awful and resulted in my having to take the NYC subway home wearing my schoolgirl uniform and said moustaches. Although, I can definitely laugh at it now. When I was fourteen, I wanted to crawl into my blazer and disappear.

As I adore whiskers, be they on kittens, Superman, or, most importantly, my husband, I thought it would be fun to start the weekend off with a chat about the stash. Here are a few men who have modeled the moustache magnificently. 

Let’s start with one of the most famed moustaches in fiction: Hercule Poirot’s. 

As the Belgian declared in Peril in End House:

If you must have a moustache, let it be a real moustache – a thing of beauty such as mine.
 Kenneth Branagh as Hercule Poirot

Kenneth Branagh as Hercule Poirot

Poirot’s mustachio has gone through quite the transformation. When it first bristled from the pages in Agatha Christie’s Mysterious Affair at Styles, it was a rather tame affair, stiff and military in its shaping. But, as the detective’s name grew with pre-eminence, his whiskers followed suit, becoming luxurious and enormous and immense. I believe Kenneth Branagh paid the perfect homage to them in his latest Murder on the Orient Express. That moustache was a thing of beauty. 

Of course, other notables include the Weird Sisters from Shakespeare’s Macbeth, the Lorax from Dr. Seuss’s The Lorax, and Dr. John Watson from Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock series. It’s worth mentioning, too, that Shakespeare, Seuss, and Doyle all bore the mark of the moustache as well. 

 Theodore Roosevelt

Theodore Roosevelt

As we’re on the subject of hirsute historical figures, I think it only right to doff the hat to Teddy Roosevelt. The soldier, the senator, the President, and- perhaps his pride and joy- the staunch conservationist, waxed a well shaped moustache for the many years his image graced the public life. And just like Edward, Prince of Wales, Roosevelt’s moustache is even carved into the cliff face at Mount Rushmore- an ENORMOUS effigy to his enormous moustache. It is almost as enormous as Hercule Poirot’s. 

 Albert Einstein

Albert Einstein

Another historical favorite, which I do not believe has an effigy carved in its honor, is the tickler attached to the scientific genius known as Albert Einstein. I always appreciate Einstein’s moustache; silly though it may sound, that push broom tempers Albert’s awesome and unfathomable mind, making it approachable. 

There are those who infuse tremendous humor into the moustache. I don’t think we can forget the behemoth that sat atop Groucho Marx’s lip for all those years. (Tidbit here, the Marx brothers lived for a handful of years four houses down from the house where I grew up in Queens.) 

 Charlie Chaplin

Charlie Chaplin

And Charlie Chaplin must be included; though his moustache was nowhere near as vast and gigantic as Groucho’s, the Tramp’s toothbrush ‘tache is tremendous. However, Mr. Chaplin’s moustache actually was the cynosure of controversy in the latter years of his acting career. Unlike Mr. Cavill’s moustache (mercifully), Mr. Chaplin’s whiskers were used to invoke parallels between the actor and the dictator, Adolph Hitler. Chaplin used this negative press to his advantage, however, when he donned the dictator’s duds and subsequently dismantled his fascist government using satire in his film, The Great Dictator. At the end of the film, Chaplin turned to the audience, dropped out of character, and spoke for five full minutes on the evils of fascism and the need to endeavor for peace. All because of his moustache. (Honorable mention here for Oliver Hardy of the comedic duo Laurel and Hardy.)

However, when it comes to actors with moustaches, I have to mention two who wear the pencil thins with aplomb.

 Clark Gable

Clark Gable

Let’s start with Clarke Gable and his moustache. The actor who Life magazine termed All man… and then some, is most famous for his iconic portrayal of Rhett Butler in David O. Selznick’s Gone with the Wind. However, I think my favorite film starring Clark is It Happened One Night. Butler’s moustahce was notable even early on in his career. For a bit of hilarity, take a gander at Mickey Rooney’s impersonation of him in Babes in Arms. Fantastic performance, even if the moustache slips a bit. 

 Errol Flynn

Errol Flynn

And finally, my favorite moustache must go to Errol Flynn. Ah, Errol Flynn, that rapscallion rascal with a buccaneer smile; his magnificent moustache needs no chiseling in marble or carving in stone to be remembered. For who could forget that dashing stash as it took to the high seas and vanquished the Spanish Armada in The Sea Hawks. Although, my particular favorite where Flynn’s lady tickler is concerned is Never Say Goodbye. The man was spectacular at playing the charming rake, and his moustache only augmented that charm. 
A few honorables that MUST be mentioned are Robert Donat, especially in The Count of Monte Cristo and Goodbye, Mr. Chips; Ronald Colman in nearly everything that he did, but particularly Random Harvest (best love story EVER); and Robert Taylor, because he’s Robert Taylor.

My husband insists, and he’s right to do so, that Tom Selleck be included in this homage. After all, Magnum PI’s mousatache dominated the pantheon of 1980s facial hair.

 A whimsical parody courtesy @heroic.gateway's account on Instagram. Brilliant graphic. 

A whimsical parody courtesy @heroic.gateway's account on Instagram. Brilliant graphic. 

So, kudos to Mr. Cavill for bringing back this fine bit of facial hair. Long may it reign. (There’s a hashtag for that, too: #Kingstache.) I look forward to seeing it in Mission: Impossible Fallout (although one does wonder whether the new Mission: Impossible received that name because of what befalls Ethan Hunt and the IMF or because of the fallout surrounding Mr. Cavill’s facial fur. Perhaps they should simply rename the entire thing: Moustache: Impossible Fallout. What do you think? I think that might be a hashtag, too.)

Now it’s your turn, dear readers; who modeled your favorite moustache? Kurt Russell? Peter the Great? Genghis Khan? Attila the Hun? Burt Reynolds? 

Oh, and if you have a yen for a moustache experience before July rolls around, I would recommend tackling Masterpiece’s Victoria. Many a moustache glimmers and gleams in that production, most handsomely, Prince Albert’s.