|The Lost Weekend|
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Billy Wilder|
|Produced by||Charles Brackett|
|Screenplay by||Charles Brackett|
|Based on||The Lost Weekend|
by Charles R. Jackson
|Music by||Miklós Rózsa|
|Cinematography||John F. Seitz|
|Edited by||Doane Harrison|
|Distributed by||Paramount Pictures|
|Box office||$11,000,000 or $4.3 million (US rentals)|
The Lost Weekend is a 1945 American film directed by Billy Wilder starring Ray Milland and Jane Wyman. It was based on Charles R. Jackson's 1944 novel of the same name about an alcoholic writer. The film was nominated for seven Academy Awards and won four: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor, and Best Adapted Screenplay. It also shared the Grand Prix at the first Cannes Film Festival, making it one of only two films (the other being Marty) to win both the Academy Award for Best Picture and the highest award at Cannes.
In 2011, The Lost Weekend was added to the National Film Registry of the Library of Congress as being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant." On review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, the film has an approval rating of 100% based on 33 reviews, with an average rating of 8.32/10. The site's critical consensus reads, "Director Billy Wilder's unflinchingly honest look at the effects of alcoholism may have had some of its impact blunted by time, but it remains a powerful and remarkably prescient film."
On a Thursday, an alcoholic New York writer, Don Birnam (Ray Milland), is packing for a weekend vacation with his brother Wick (Philip Terry), who is trying to discourage his drinking. When Don's girlfriend Helen (Jane Wyman) comes to see them off, she mentions that she has two tickets for a concert. Don suggests that he and Wick take a later train and that Wick go to the concert with Helen. They are suspicious of leaving Don alone, since they have already found a bottle hidden outside his window, but leave anyway. Since his hidden bottle had been poured down the drain by Wick, Don heads for Nat's Bar, using money Wick hid in the flat to pay the cleaning lady. Don intends to be back home in time to meet Wick and catch the later train, but he loses track of time due to his drinking. When he arrives home he sees Wick leaving and Helen saying she will stay and wait for Don, as she is worried about Don being left alone. Don avoids Helen and sneaks back into the flat to drink some cheap whisky he has bought.
On Friday, back at the bar, the owner, Nat (Howard Da Silva), criticizes Don for treating Helen so badly, and Don recalls how he first met her. It was due to a mix-up of cloakroom tickets at the opera-house, where he had to wait for the person who had been given his coat-check in error, as his coat contained a bottle of alcohol. This was Helen, with whom he strikes up a romance. He remains sober during this time, but when he is due to meet her parents for lunch at a hotel, he overhears them talking about how he doesn't have a job and wondering if he is good enough for their daughter. He loses his nerve and phones a message to her and then sneaks off. When she arrives at his flat, Wick tries to cover for him, but Don appears, confessing to her that he is two people: "Don the writer", whose fear of failure causes him to drink, and "Don the drunk" who always has to be bailed out by his brother. Still, Helen devotes herself to helping him in his plight. Back in the present day, Don has moved on to another bar, where he is caught stealing money from a woman's purse to pay his bill, and he is promptly thrown out of the establishment by its staff. Back in his flat, he finds a bottle he had stashed in a light fixture the previous night and drinks himself into a stupor.
On Saturday, Don is broke; despite telling Nat the day before that he was finally going to write a novel about his alcoholism, he decides to sell his typewriter for money so he can buy more alcohol. But all the pawnshops are closed for the Jewish holiday of Yom Kippur. At Nat's Bar, he is refused service. Desperate for money, he visits a girl who has had a long-held crush on him, but who he stood up during this latest binge. She gives him some money, but while leaving her flat he falls down the stairs and is knocked unconscious.
On Sunday, Don wakes up in an alcoholics' ward where "Bim" Nolan (Frank Faylen), a cynical male nurse, mocks him and other guests at "Hangover Plaza", but he offers to help cure his delirium tremens. Don refuses help and then manages to escape from the ward while the staff are occupied with a raving, violent patient.
On Monday, still broke, Don steals a bottle of whisky from a store and spends the day drinking. Suffering from an episode of delirium tremens, he hallucinates a nightmarish scene in which a bat flies in his window and kills a mouse, spilling its blood. Helen returns, alerted by a call from Don's landlady, who can hear his screams. Finding him collapsed and in a delirious state, she vows to look after him and stays overnight on his couch.
On Tuesday morning, Don slips out and pawns Helen's coat, the thing that had first brought them together. She trails him to the pawn shop, thinking that he sold her coat so he could buy more alcohol, but learns from the pawnbroker that he traded the coat for a gun he had pawned earlier. She races to Don's apartment and interrupts him just before he is about to shoot himself in the bathroom. He tells her their relationship is over as she catches a glimpse of the gun lying in the bathroom sink. Helen rushes to the sink, grabs the weapon, but he quickly pries it out of her hand. She reminds Don of her love for him, and her concern that he should stop drinking. Nat then arrives to return Don's portable typewriter, which the bartender says he found "floating around in the Nile" and warns him not to "hock her". After Nat leaves, Helen is finally able to convince him that "Don the writer" and "Don the drunk" are the same person. He finally commits to writing his novel The Bottle, dedicated to her, which will recount the events of the weekend. He drops a cigarette into a glass of whiskey to make it undrinkable, as evidence of his resolve.
Wilder was originally drawn to this material after having worked with Raymond Chandler on the screenplay for Double Indemnity. Chandler was a recovering alcoholic at the time, and the stress and tumultuous relationship with Wilder during the collaboration caused him to start drinking again. Wilder made the film, in part, to try to explain Chandler to himself.
Billy Wilder originally wanted Jose Ferrer for the role of Don, but he turned it down. Charles Brackett's first choice for playing Helen was Olivia de Havilland, but she was involved with a lawsuit that prevented her from being in any film at that time. It has been said that Katharine Hepburn and Jean Arthur were also considered for the role.
The majority of the film was shot at Paramount studios in Hollywood. Wilder, however, insisted they shoot part of the film on location in New York City to create a distinct sense of realism. On October 1, 1944, Wilder and his small crew began filming in New York, mostly along Third Avenue on the Upper East Side. To further create a realistic atmosphere, Wilder and his crew implemented hidden cameras, placing them behind boxes or in the back of trucks, and capturing Milland as he walked up 3rd Avenue among actual pedestrians who were unaware a film was being made. The production also had the unprecedented permission to film inside Bellevue Hospital in the alcoholic ward, a request that would be denied to future films. After completing filming in New York, the cast and crew returned to California to resume principal photography, where they recreated several New York locations, including a replica of P.J. Clarke's, a tavern often frequented by author Charles Jackson.
The film also made famous the "character walking toward the camera in a daze as time passes" camera effect.
Once The Lost Weekend was completed, it was shown to a preview audience, who laughed at what they considered Milland's overwrought performance, and the studio actually considered shelving the film. Part of the problem was that the print shown at the preview didn't have Miklós Rózsa's original musical soundtrack, but instead had a temporary track containing upbeat jazz music. However, once the Rózsa score was in place, along with a re-shoot of the last scene, audiences and critics reacted favorably. The film's musical score was among the first to feature the theremin, which was used to create the pathos of alcoholism.
The film differs significantly from the book by leaving out the novel's noted homosexual overtones, namely the strong implication that Don Birnam (as was the book's author, Charles Jackson) is a closeted homosexual.
The liquor industry launched a campaign to undermine the film even before its release. Allied Liquor Industries, a national trade organization, wrote an open letter to Paramount warning that anti-drinking groups would use the film to reinstate prohibition. Liquor interests allegedly enlisted gangster Frank Costello to offer Paramount $5 million to buy the film's negative in order to burn it. Wilder quipped that if they’d offered him $5 million, “I would have [burned the negative].”
In 2011, The Lost Weekend was deemed "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant" by the United States Library of Congress and selected for preservation in the National Film Registry. The Registry said the film was "an uncompromising look at the devastating effects of alcoholism" and that it "melded an expressionistic film-noir style with documentary realism to immerse viewers in the harrowing experiences of an aspiring New York writer willing to do almost anything for a drink."
At the 18th Academy Awards in May 1946, The Lost Weekend received seven nominations and won in four categories.
|Best Picture||Charles Brackett||Won||N/A|
|Best Director||Billy Wilder||Won||N/A|
|Best Actor||Ray Milland||Won||N/A|
|Best Adapted Screenplay||Billy Wilder and Charles Brackett||Won||N/A|
|Best Cinematography||John F. Seitz||Nominated||Lost to Harry Stradling for The Picture of Dorian Gray|
|Best Original Score||Miklós Rózsa||Nominated||Lost to Miklós Rózsa for Spellbound|
|Best Film Editing||Doane Harrison||Nominated||Lost to Robert J. Kern for National Velvet|
This film also shared the 1946 Grand Prix du Festival International du Film at the first Cannes Film Festival and Milland was awarded Best Actor. To date, The Lost Weekend and Marty (1955) are the only films ever to win both the Academy Award for Best Picture and the highest award at the Cannes Film Festival. (Marty received the Palme d'Or (Golden Palm), which, beginning at the 1955 festival, replaced the Grand Prix du Festival International du Film as the highest award.)
The Lost Weekend was adapted as a radio play on the January 7, 1946 broadcast of The Screen Guild Theater, starring Milland, Wyman, and Faylen in their original film roles.
On March 10, 1946, three days after winning the Academy Award, Milland appeared as a guest on a radio broadcast of The Jack Benny Show. In a spoof of The Lost Weekend, Milland and Jack Benny played alcoholic twin brothers. Phil Harris, who normally played Jack Benny's hard-drinking bandleader on the show, played the brother who tried to convince Ray and Jack to give up liquor. ("Ladies and gentlemen," said an announcer, "the opinions expressed by Mr. Harris are written in the script and are not necessarily his own.") In the alcoholic ward scene, smart-aleck Frank Nelson played the ward attendant who promised Ray and Jack that they would soon start seeing DT visions of strange animals. When the DT visions appeared (with Mel Blanc providing pig squeals, monkey chatters, and other animal sound effects), Ray chased them off. "Ray, they're gone!" Benny shouted. "What did you do?" Milland replied, "I threw my Oscar at them!"
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