THE LOST WEEKEND (1945) B/W 101m dir: Billy Wilder
w/Ray Milland, Jane Wyman, Philip Terry, Howard Da Silva, Doris Dowling, Frank Faylen, Mary Young, Anita Sharp Bolster, Lilian Fontaine, Lewis L. Russell
Billy Wilder's grim drama, one of the first American films to deal with alcoholism, was a milestone in its time. Although its treatment of drinking is now rather familiar, it endures as a powerful, unsparing character study. Milland is superb as the failed writer who goes on a bender one lonely weekend and watches his life spiral into the gutter.
From Variety 's review of the film: "The filming by Paramount of The Lost Weekend marks a particularly outstanding achievement in the Hollywood setting. The psychiatric study of an alcoholic, it is an unusual picture. It is intense, morbid --- and thrilling."
From The Movie Guide: "One of the most justly celebrated 'problem films' of the 1940s. Though hailed in its time as a great advance in screen seriousness, this film just barely missed being shelved. The script by the noted team of Wilder and [Charles] Brackett is dispassionate and unrelenting but also occasionally poetic. The film's emotional power is greatly abetted by [John F.] Seitz's evocative black-and-white cinematography, ranging from unvarnished realism to delirious Expressionism. Finally, Milland's virtuoso work as the hopeless alcoholic is surprising, shocking and utterly riveting.
"Don (Milland) is a struggling writer who waters down his writer's block with booze. The film opens with the camera zooming through the window of a New York apartment building which Don shares with his responsible brother Nick (Terry, Mr. Joan Crawford No. 3), who is about to go away for the weekend. Nick is somewhat worried about leaving his brother alone, but Don assures him that he will be settling down to do some serious writing. It's all downhill from there.
"THE LOST WEEKEND is candid and brilliantly conceived from shot to shot. Wilder builds his film slowly and utilizes low-key lighting and deep-focus photography to emphasize objects that suggest the menace of alcohol, with scenes photographed through shot-glasses and bottles. A likable lead of light comedy and romance, Milland initially felt unequipped to handle such a serious role, but his wife encouraged him to try it. He was also encouraged by the fact that Wilder and Brackett had never had a flop. Faylen, though only onscreen for a few moments, makes an indelible impact as a bitchy male nurse in the sanitarium. Wyman forever escaped dumb blonde roles with her work here, and Da Silva is excellent as a conscientious bartender.
"Oddly, Paramount executives took one look at the finished film and told Wilder they were seriously considering not releasing it. They had received an avalanche of protest from temperance advocates who felt the film would encourage drinking. Powerful lobbyists for the liquor industry offered as much as $5 million for the negative of the film so it could be destroyed. But, at Wilder's urgings, Paramount released the film on a limited engagement in New York City, and the critics fell all over themselves praising it. It eventually became one of Paramount's biggest hits of 1945."
THE LOST WEEKEND received Oscars for Best Picture, Director, Actor (Milland), and Adapted Screenplay (Brackett and Wilder, from the novel by Charles R. Jackson). It was also nominated for Best Cinematography (Seitz), Editing (Doane Herrison), and Score (Miklos Rozsa).