Articoli marcati con tag ‘America’

Leslie Howard Speaks His Mind, 1933

Leslie Howard Speaks His Mind

In an interview with Doris Mackie

Every now and again something extra pleasant falls to the interviewer’s lot. It may be a talk with someone comparatively unknown, who yet has an arresting personality and a story to tell, or it may be a talk with someone famous, who turns out to be even more interesting than you had expected. Leslie Howard belongs to the latter category.
There was, to begin with, something rather interesting in the fact that he had chosen to stay at one of the smaller and older London hotels instead of one of the modern caravanserais where film stars usually congregate, although, I suppose, it only meant that he knew his London, and knew where he wanted to go.

Leslie Howard and Ann Harding in The Animal Kingdom

“With either play or novel the treatment is always the danger – everything depends on the way it is transferred to the screen.” Leslie Howard with Ann Harding in “The Woman in His House,” soon to be shown at the cinema

Full of Ideas

He was alone when I was shown up. He looked tremendously fit, and it seemed somewhat appropriate that he should be reading a book on horses. He is, as you know, long and lean and fair. His voice is particularly quiet, and he is an easy person to talk to, because he is full of ideas, and doesn’t mind putting them into words.
We began on the subject of film stories. I knew it must interest him, because he freely exercises the option his contract gives him to turn down those of which he does not approve.
“A great many of the stories filmed,” he said at once, “are entirely unsuitable for filming, let alone for any particular actor. The screen suffers because producers simply have to go on making films. No stage producer ever put a play because he has to use a theatre. But all the big film producers are absolutely forced to turn out films at a certain rate to keep their theatres supplied, and for that reason a great number of stories are filmed which should never be done at all.
“The actor must remain free if he is to survive. I didn’t realise that when I started, but after the first six months I stipulated that I should always have the final word on the stories in which I played. An actor can suffer tremendously from bad material or faulty casting.”
I asked him how he went about the selection of his stories, and he told me that he had tried to apply theatrical standards.
“For the stage you go on reading plays till you find one you like- and if you don’t find it you don’t produce it.
“I have never played in a story written for the screen, although some have been done. Most films, of course, are taken from a novel or a play. Of the two the play is more dangerous, for a photographed play is not a good film.
“The stage is a literary medium concerned with words. It should be just as interesting if the actors simply sat down and talked all the time without moving. Stage movement is entirely artificial- you cannot get real action between four walls. All the same, a good play photographed is better than a poor pictorial story.
“Of course, with either play or novel the treatment is always the danger- everything depends on the way the thing is transferred to the screen. And you’ve got to remember that when you are transferring a play it has to be seriously condensed. In ‘The Woman in His House’ we had to do the three acts in the space of two.”
Mr. Howard considers that since the introduction of talkies the art of cinema has been standing still. It should, he believes, be fifty per cent. silent; that is to say, at least fifty per cent. action.
“It’s a very fascinating medium, and a very difficult one to work in, since it is a combination of so many arts, but photography is the most important of them all. The camera is still the principal factor in making a film, although it has been grossly neglected since the talkies came in.”

Leslie Howard and Mary Pickford in Secrets

Leslie Howard and Mary Pickford in “Secrets,” which Mr. Howard likes least of all his films “partly because they changed the story”

Film He Likes Least

Going back to the story question, I asked him which of his films he liked least, and the answer came back without hesitation.
“Secrets,” he said at once, “but that was partly because they changed the story. It was originally an English play, and they turned it into an American one. Then it is old-fashioned - actually it is only twelve years old, but it might be fifty- and full of theatrical convention. also, it is very difficult, almost impossible, to put biography on the talking screen. I, personally, find it very hard to believe in the passage of an enormous number of years when I am watching a film. It was better in the silent days- before the dialogue slowed things up to such an extent you could cover more ground- and, of course, on the stage the intervals, while people talk and walk about, help to strengthen the illusion of the passage of time.
“I was a little bit hesitant about ‘Secrets’ in the first place, but I fell for it because the whole connection was so interesting. Mary Pickford is a great friend of mine. Frank Borzage is one of the best directors in the world, and was fresh from a perfect success in ‘A Farewell to Arms.’ Frances Marion, on of the best writers in Hollywood, did the scenario. But in spite of it all ‘Secrets’ didn’t quite come off.

A Fascinating Story

Leslie Howard and Heather Angel in Berkeley Square

“Berkeley Square is a fascinating story- the sort that is very rarely written and still more rarely put over.” Leslie with Heather Angel in the film

It seemed natural to ask him next which film he considered his most successful, and his answer was equally unhesitating.
“Berkeley Square,” he said, “the last film I made- it hasn’t been shown over here yet. I liked it best of all my stage plays, and I like it best on the screen. It is a fascinating story- the sort that is very rarely written, and still more rarely put over.
“I liked ‘Smilin’ Through’ a lot, though. I didn’t think I was going to be in it after I turned down the part of Kenneth Wayne. There are some good moments in the part, and Fredric March made a big success of it, but it didn’t appeal to me. It was more or less a straight love story, on Romeo and Juliet lines. The old man, John Carteret, had the more interesting part of the story, though it may have been less popular with the audience. I mentioned casually that I liked it, and then thy offered it to me.”
When he goes back to America he is going to do Somerset Maugham’s story “Of Human Bondage” for R.K.O.It is his own selection- he turned down so many of the stories they put up to him that in desperation they asked him to suggest something!
“I wish you would tell me something about the stories you turned down,” I said, and he very obligingly complied.
“There was that thing that Constance Bennet played in,” he said, and for a minute he couldn’t recall the name. We found it between us- “Rockabye.” The whole story struck him as a piece of nonsense, very trite and unbelievable.
“The company found that out, too,” he said. “They spent 400,000 dollars on the first edition, and didn’t like it, so they did it again, with another director and some new characters, and spent another 400,000 dollars. Altogether it must have cost them over a million, and it wasn’t any better in the end.”
Another rejection was “Three Came Unarmed,” in which it was proposed that he should play with Katharine Hepburn.
“The book was interesting,” he agreed, “but when it was boiled down to bald facts it would have been simply awful as a film. They couldn’t make anything of it, and dropped it in the end.”
A third part which he turned down was another which would have seen him with Katherine Hepburn- “Christopher Strong.”
“I didn’t like the man….”
“As a man or as a part?”
“As a man. It was a real enough part, but he was an uninteresting creature- conventional. He didn’t lead a conventional life, of course, but his very unconventionality was conventional. To be really interesting,” quoth Leslie Howard quite seriously, although his eyes were twinkling, “a part must have a little touch of madness in it. Why should an audience go to see what they can see every day? The man in ‘The Woman in His House,’” he remarked firmly, “is just a little bit cracked!”

Refreshingly Different

Katharine Hepburn

“Katharine Hepburn is refreshingly different. She doesn’t rely, as nearly all the American girls do, on sex-appeal”

I asked him what he thought of Katharine Hepburn, as he had been so near to playing with her on two occasions. He thinks she has the making of a great actress in her. Her very hardness he finds interesting, although he is not sure whether it is the crudity of youth or a New England characteristic which will remain with her always. “She is refreshingly different,” he said, “she doesn’t rely, as nearly all the American girls do, on sex-appeal.”
All the same, I think he must be fundamentally uncertain about her greatness, for a few minutes later he was telling me that he thought that seventy-five per cent. of greatness in film acting lay in sex-appeal, the rest being a compound of imagination and technique.
“And no matter how great the technique may be,” he said, “it is useless without sex-appeal- that something they call X in America…”
He told me a little about the film he is to make in this country for Gilbert Miller. so far he has read the rough draft only, which he had in the States, and not the final script, but he describes it as light, very pleasant comedy. He doesn’t know yet who his leading lady will be, although half a dozen girls in the States confided in him that they had been signed up for the part! His own idea is that it calls for someone like Yvonne Printemps, so it will be interesting to see who is the final selection.
He likes comedy as much as serious stuff, and considers it a far finer test of the actor, but, like most of the very fine player I have met, he prefers variety in his parts and stories and hates what he calls eternal sameness.

All An Actor’s Tricks

“Besides,” he said shrewdly, “it doesn’t do to stick to one type of thing too long. The public get tired of it- begin to think that they know all your tricks.”
I’d have liked to go on talking to him for hours. He is so clear-cut in his ideas, so interestingly frank in his point of view, so definite- almost mathematically so- in his statements. But Mrs. Howard (all I saw of her was a hat peeping round the door) wanted to know where the children were, and I realised that I had been monopolising him for nearly an hour, which had seemed like a quarter of that time.
I left quite sadly (for a Leslie Howard doesn’t fall to one’s lot every day), but with a very definite insight into the factors which account for his popularity and his success. He isn’t only a very fine actor- he’s a very intelligent one, and brains go a very long way indeed in this year of grace.

(Film Weekly, July 21, 1933)

Leslie Howard: “Cinema”, 1935


Il vero suo nome è Leslie Stainer. Era impiegato di banca quando scoppiò la guerra mondiale; e sebbene giovanissimo si arruolò volontario. Il fatto è ch’egli mordeva il freno, nel pacifico posto impiegatizio; si sentiva fatto per grandi slanci e pel movimento, voleva adoprare le sue forze – compresse ma appunto per questo più vive; ovvero, sentiva il sangue urgergli, e doveva dargli uno sfogo. La guerra fu accolta da lui come la liberazione. Finita la guerra, Leslie Stainer non volle a nessun costo tormare nella banca – ma dove, dove trovare un nuovo campo di battaglia, sul quale impegnare tutto, dopo aver bruciato dietro di sé i vascelli borghesi? Si ricordò d’un tratto che nella scuola aveva recitato, e recitato con gusto e bravura. Detto fatto: “reciterò anche nella vita”. S’avvicinò energico e coraggioso a un palcoscenico di Londra, e dopo qualche tempo, sia pure oscuramente, poté debuttare: ottenne un ruolo di due minuti esatti in Peg del mio cuore. A questa minuscola esperienza seguirono altre, sempre più decisive: la vita però era dura. Non si contavano gli insuccessi, gli alti e bassi, periodi di disoccupazione. “Ho passato mesi interi alimentandomi solo con tè, latte e pane duro. La mia famiglia stava bene e mi avrebbe aiutato ben volentieri, ma io non volevo che poi mio padre e fratelli potessero burlarsi del mio insuccesso. ” Oggi Leslie Howard, lasciato da gran tempo dietro le spalle il viso sparuto e gli occhi febbrili di Leslie Stainer in cerca di fortuna e di gloria, racconta ciò sorridendo. Lui, l’antiborghese bellicoso degli anni oscuri, è diventato un perfetto borghese – ma, questo è vero, anche un artista. Per Leslie Stainer gli anni duri furono soltanto tre o quattro; egli possedeva sicure doti pel suo mestiere avventuroso, e soprattutto una volontà incrollabile, che gli offriva continue e perenni risorse. Entrato in quell’ambiente con un guardaroba meschino, incominciò presto a essere vestito con la più sobria e albionica eleganza. Le sue giacche con le spalle scese, i suoi pantaloni diritti e stretti, le sue tube perfette – a Hollywood, come i capi di vestiario analoghi del suo compatriota Ronald Colman, sono segnati a dito come gli esempi più puri della pura eleganza inglese. Ma anche a Londra egli fu presto l’attore aristocratico per eccellenza. Fece anche del cinematografo, avendo fondato assieme a Charles Aubrey Smith (oggi famoso e impareggiabile caratterista anziano, con tratti severi e nobileschi, del cinema americano) e, se non erro, al regista Adrian Brunel, una Casa intitolata a Minerva. Howard lavorò anche come regista e soggettista, a quel tempo, poi tutto fu interrotto da una lussuosa scrittura in America – Broadway, Hollywood non ancora. Erano passati soltanto cinque anni (o pochissimi di più) dal suo ruolo di due minuti esatti in Peg del mio cuore. I teatri di Broadway lo accolsero on sommo onore, egli recitò da par suo Shakespeare, il Peer Gynt ibseniano e non so più quali altre opere. Ma tra queste, di sicuro, ce ne fu una scritta da lui stesso, Murray Hill, ch’egli seppe tenere sul cartellone per tre mesi consecutivi, e ci fu una commedia di Frederick Lonsdale (Aren’t we all) che gli procurò il più grosso trionfo novaiorchese e fu tenuta sul cartellone per due anni di seguito. Da allora gli impegni americani lo soffocarono quasi, e per un pezzo non poté ritornare in Inghilterra. Un giorno vi ritornò e i suoi compatrioti lo trovarono ancora più bravo e più raffinato: ma dopo breve soggiorno Broadway lo richiamò, per decretargli autentici onori regali in seguito alla sua più bella interpretazione (resta famosa negli annali del teatro americano), in Outward Bound. La Warner Bros. s’affrettò a fargli interpretare un film intitolato Outward Bound, tratto da quella commedia. S’era agli ultimi momenti di vita del film muto; e Howard non fu contento del suo nuovo contratto col cinema, e giurò che non avrebbe più messo piede in un teatro di posa finché lo schermo non avesse parlato. Si comprende: un attore di teatro non poteva pensare in modo diverso. Il resto è storia che conosciamo tutti.

E Leslie Howard s’è oggi ordinato quasi una doppia vita che si svolge regolare e fortunata. Da una parte le emozionanti finzioni del teatro e del cinema, alle quali egli presta tutto il suo ingegno e le sue capacità di vero artista. Da un’altra la vita famigliare più borghese e felice. E’ difficile trovare fra gli attori un marito e un padre migliore di lui. La sua giornata è tutta metodicamente divisa: giochi con la figlia decenne, lettura, polo, ozi in una vecchia e comodissima potrona di cuoio ch’egli si porta dietro da Londra a New York e viceversa, perché non potrebbe mai trovarne una simile. Il quarantenne (o poco più) Leslie quando si rifugia nella sua casa perde d’incanto ogni marzialità, fascino ed eleganza. Si affloscia beato, mette a posto la sua famosa (e un po’ buffa) collezione di fiammiferi (un dadà , un hobby squisitamente filisteo, inglese e anticombattivo), parla di cose domestiche con la buona moglie e dimentica completamente le poetiche sofferenze di Romeo e le spiritose invenzioni del professore di Pigmalione. Sorride continuamente, aprendo, nel viso da cavallo un giorno acceso di sogni, le tracce appena visibili di una malinconia antica. La quale non può più riaffiorare nella vita d’ogni giorno. Ma essa risplende sui legni del palcoscenico o davanti ai riflettori – e in quei momenti Leslie Howard è ancora un poeta, è ancora un combattente: come quando mangiava tè, latte e pane secco.

Duplice vita, ma unica e sostanziosa personalità artistica. Egli è uno dei più ammirevoli e grandi attori del nostro tempo, com’è del resto testimoniato da uno dei premi più indovinati di Venezia: quello toccatogli, per Pigmalione, come miglior attore apparso in quella Mostra.

Questo bravissimo Howard è inarrivabile se indossa un costume settecentesco. Allora ogni suo minimo atteggiamento è legato a quelle vesti leziose e trascinanti, e ne risulta una composizione assolutamente perfetta. Qualche volta egli è stato più potente, più drammatico ecc. che nella Primula rossa, ma non è stato mai così unico, così insostituibile. E altrettanto accadde in un finissimo film fantastico, La strana realtà di Peter Standish. Assolutamente un film howardiano.


(“Cinema”, n. 35, 1938)

Ecco, ho voluto qui trascrivere questo articolo, che è veramente – lui sì – unico. Nell’assordante silenzio che in quegli anni circondò Leslie Howard in Italia, resta una voce isolata e assolutamente fuori dal coro. Non so chi si celi dietro lo pseudonimo di Puck, ma certamente lo scoprirò. Per quanto pieno di inesattezze, l’articolo è comunque un tributo inatteso. Ed altrettanto inattesa fu certamente quella Coppa Volpi con la quale Leslie fu premiato alla fascistissima Mostra del cinema di Venezia per il suo Pygmalion, anche se sospetto che parte del merito di questo straordinario riconoscimento fosse dovuto alle simpatie a suo tempo espresse da  George Bernard Shaw per il fascismo italiano. Certo che sembra davvero paradossale, un riconoscimento all’ “ebreo” Howard (perché tale sarebbe stato considerato, ancorché battezzato e personalmente agnostico) alla vigilia delle leggi razziali, in un paese che l’aveva ignorato fino a quel momento e che continuò ad ignorarlo in seguito. Quanto alle inesattezze, ne ho lette di peggiori nei tardivi tributi “riparatori” scritti dopo la guerra. Ci sarebbe molto da scrivere sui rapporti (inesistenti) fra i critici cinematografici italiani e Leslie Howard…

Leslie Howard in Pygmalion

Leslie Howard in Pygmalion


Associated Artists: Leslie Howard, Hugh Walpole and Dudley Murphy (1936)

News and Gossip of the Week:
by the Editor [Herbert Thompson]

Leslie Howard, Hugh Walpole and Dudley Murphy Found a New Film Company of Their Own

Leslie Howard

“I’m tired of playing in films in which I’m not interested,” says Leslie Howard– so he’s forming his own film company

Actor Leslie Howard, author Hugh Walpole and director Dudley Murphy gave a little party last week.
It was a kind of christening celebration in honor of a new film company they have founded.
If everything woks out properly — and there is no reason to believe that it won’t — this company will in time be one of the most important factors in film production in either Britain or America.

That is probably a rash thing for me to say. The infant mortality among film companies is incredibly high.
one month, a new company is formed, its million-pound production schedule is announced, famous stars are signed. The next month, the company is disbanded and forgotten.
But there is something about the Howard – Walpole – Murphy undertaking — Associated Artists is the name — which inspires me with hope and anticipation.

The company is to be run on the original lines as a co-operative effort. Howard, Walpole and Murphy are looking for seven other members who will thus bring the total strength up to ten.
Of these ten, four will be actors and actresses, three directors, and three writers.
They will work together in groups on the various pictures, each one of the ten having a financial interest in each film irrespective of whether he is actively participating or not.

Murphy and Howard have been working on the plan for three years now. Within the next two years their new company will make fifteen pictures, at a cost of £ 675,000.
Two of these will be “supers,” costing around £ 85,000. The others will cost £ 35,000 each.
Howard is due to play in both of the big pictures. One is Riviera, by Franz Molnar and Robert Sherwood. The other is the long-promised Bonnie Prince Charlie, with script by Hugh Walpole.

The most vital asset the Associated Artists has is enthusiasm. Take the case of Hugh Walpole, who has returned to England with a great love of films and a great distaste for Hollywood.
“I’m never going back,” he told me. “I can’t bear the loss of freedom that one is subjected to over there.
“Hollywood producers have no respect for writers’ ideas. They have one-track minds. If a scenario doesn’t fit in with one of the box-office patterns they have created, they pass it over to a staff man who hacks it to pieces and destroys any originality it may have possessed.

“My first job in Hollywood, preparing the scenario of David Copperfield, was a straightforward piece of work that was filmed practically without alteration.
“Other scenarios that I have worked on (notably  Kim) have been torn to shreds.
“That sort of treatment gets a writer’s back up. It makes him feel that films are, after all, what many intelligent people consider them– a bastard art.

“There is no reason why that sort of thing should have to happen. The combination of Frank Capra and his scenarist, Robert Riskin, has proved to Hollywood what intelligent co-operation can achieve.
“I have joined Associated Artists because the company has that kind of co-operation as its principal aim.
“I shall write the scenario of Bonnie Prince Charlie– Howard and Murphy will do the rest.
“And I shall be very surprised if our team-work does not produce a much better picture than any I have been connected with in Hollywood.”

Leslie Howard does not like Hollywood and its methods any more than Walpole does. He has to return there to make more pictures for Warners.
“But I shall definitely be making one picture a year for Associated Artists,” he told me. “And when my Hollywood contract expires I shall stay in England for good.
“I’m tired of playing in films in which I am not interested. If I do go to Hollywood again, it will be under exchange terms which will benefit my own company.”

That question of star exchanges is important. When Associated Artists have elected their full complement of ten members, they will be in a position to haggle with Hollywood’s biggest studios for Hollywood’s biggest names.
“At the moment,” said Dudley Murphy, “it is just impossible to hire a real star.
“Every one of them is under contract to one or other of the studios. It is not worth the studio’s while to hire the star out, however big the salary offered.”

“But there are occasions when one studio wants a big star attached to another– and is able to get him on an exchange basis.
“M.G.M., for instance, wanted Leslie Howard from Warner for Romeo and Juliet. Warners wouldn’t sell his services for money– but they would let him out on hire on condition that they got Clark Gable in return.
“We shall be able to do the same thing. If Hollywood wants Hugh Walpole for a picture Hugh will go– but only on condition that we get a top-rank star or director in return.
“Since we are limiting our membership to first-class directors, stars and writers, we shall be almost the only British company in a position to import really worth-while Hollywood talent.”

Hugh Walpole

Hugh Walpole is fed up with Hollywood, too. He is joining Howard in the new venture

(Film Weekly, September 12, 1936)


Ancora uno dei mille progetti irrealizzati nella vicenda artistica di Leslie Howard:  non ho trovato traccia di questa casa di produzione cinematografica, che a quanto pare non solo non produsse neanche un film, ma non riuscì neanche a decollare, nonostante le più che lodevoli intenzioni, la statura dei promotori e il plauso della stampa specializzata inglese.
Per quanto riguarda la partecipazione di Leslie Howard alla nascente casa di produzione, nonostante il desiderio di dedicarsi alla regia e alla produzione che egli manifestava costantemente nelle interviste, e nonostante la sua ben nota avversione per Hollywood e il suo sistema, occorre tener conto del fatto che questo progetto si situa nel 1936, anno cruciale nella biografia artistica di Leslie. Il 1936 si chiuse con il rovinoso destino di Hamlet, l’ambizioso progetto che aveva assorbito tutte le sue energie, fisicamente e finanziariamente, fino allo stremo. Da quella esperienza uscì moralmente abbattuto – fu la sua ultima apparizione in teatro – ed economicamente quasi rovinato. Il ritorno ad Hollywood si impose come una vera e propria questione di sopravvivenza, e a questa forzata rentrée – e alla inestimabile capacità di auto-ironia che Leslie Howard dimostrò ancora una volta – dobbiamo quei due gioielli che sono It’s Love I’m After e Stand-in.

Dei due “super” film citati, Riviera di Ferenc Molnar non fu mai realizzato. Per quanto riguarda Bonnie Prince Charlie, ennesimo progetto che tenne Leslie occupato per anni senza arrivare a nulla, fu finalmente realizzato solo nel 1948 dalla London Film Productions, diretto da Anthony Kimmins e Alexander Korda, sceneggiato da Clemence Dane e interpretato da David Niven.

La Vodka

La vodka è un distillato di cereali (ma anche ottenuto da fecola e polpa di patata) ottenuto da almeno 3 distillazioni e filtrato su materiali diversi (carboni, polveri di diamante, farine fossili, ecc.). Dalla prima distillazione si ottiene la brantowka (vodka bruciata, 15°), dalla seconda la prostka (vodka rustica, 30°) e dalla terza l’okovita(acquavite, 70°). È considerata la bevanda alcolica tradizionale polacca e russa.

Tralasciando le sostanze responsabili dei sapori tipici di questa bevanda, la vodka è composta principalmente da acqua e alcool (etanolo) presente tra il 37,5 e il 60 percento in volume. Nella classica Vodka Russa, il tasso di alcool presente deve essere vicino al 46 percento, numero attribuito dal famoso chimico russo Dimitri Mendeleev. La vodka viene utilizzata come base di molti cocktail popolari, come il Bloody Mary, il Vodka-Red Bull, il Vodka Lemon, il Bullshot e il Vodka Martini (chiamato anche Vodkamartini o Vodkatini).

Esistono anche bevande a base di vodka, tipicamente di gradazione alcolica notevolmente inferiore, prodotte con aromi di frutta (per esempio limone o pesca).

Cenni storici

La Vodka è tra le bevande alcoliche più antiche e più bevute del mondo. La sua provenienza non può essere ricostruita con precisione, ma si pensa che sia da rintracciare nelle attuali Polonia e Russia.

Trae quindi le sue origini nell’Est Europa, dove si contendono la paternità del nome la Polonia e la Russia. La parola “vodka” è, in varie lingue slave, diminutivo dei termini corrispondenti all’italiano “acqua”, ad esempio in russo “вода” [voda], o in polacco “woda”, in analogia con l’italiano “acquavite” che, similmente, designa una bevanda che ha l’aspetto limpido e trasparente dell’acqua. Essa è apparsa scritta, per la prima volta, in Polonia nel 1405 in un registro di Sandomierz Court. Probabilmente si è voluto indicare con il nome di “acquetta” (con ironico eufemismo) un distillato leggero e pulito nel gusto, ma non certo nel grado alcolico, perché, come già accennato, alcune qualità di Vodka superano agevolmente anche i 50º alcolici. È poi interessante sapere che la vodka viene chiamata, nelle località dove si presume sia nata, con parole la cui radice significa “bruciare”, per esempio in polacco: gorzałka.

Nel 1520, nella sola Danzica in Polonia operavano già una sessantina di distillerie ufficiali, senza contare quelle clandestine. In Russia, nel 1649, lo Zar Alessio promulgò un codice imperiale per la produzione della Vodka; e all’inizio del XVIII secolo i nobili proprietari terrieri avevano l’autorizzazione per detenere un alambicco per piccole produzioni di consumo privato. Qui il termine Vodka (con significato moderno) venne scritto in un documento ufficiale risalente al regno dell’imperatrice Caterina II; il decreto, datato 8 giugno 1751, regolava la proprietà di alcune distillerie di vodka. Un’altra possibile origine del termine può essere trovata nelle cronache di Novgorod, dell’anno 1533, dove il termine “vodka” è stato utilizzato nel contesto di tinture alcoliche.

Oggi in Polonia e Russia sono migliaia le distillerie che producono questa bevanda. Si produce un’ottima vodka anche in quasi tutti i paesi dell’Est e del Nord Europa, i quali sono anche ottimi consumatori, con tradizioni che si tramandano da secoli. Nell’Europa Occidentale e nel Nord America la diffusione su larga scala ha invece una storia più recente. Essa raramente veniva bevuta al di fuori dell’Europa orientale prima del 1950 ma la sua popolarità fu estesa anche al Nuovo Mondo in seguito al dopoguerra francese. Nel 1975, negli Stati Uniti d’America, sorpassò le vendite del bourbon whiskey, fino ad allora il liquore più bevuto dalla popolazione americana. Anche se la vodka non appartiene alla cultura italiana, in questi ultimi anni è aumentata nel paese sia la produzione che il consumo della bevanda. Si può quindi ormai definire la Vodka una bevanda conosciuta e prodotta su scala mondiale.