Starring: Ray Milland, Jane Wyman, Phillip Terry
Director: Billy Wilder
Four days in the city, in the life of an alcoholic as he tries to quit, and then tries anything to get his hands on a drink. A strong indictment of alcoholism and addiction at it’s worst.
Ray Birnum (Milland) is a writer living in New York, with his whole life ahead of him, a man with talent, but his alcoholism has broken him, leaving him barely able to function. This weekend, he plans on getting clean, with the support of his brother and girlfriend, but he soon succumbs to the need to drink.
A shocking subject at the time, the film did not have the confidence of the studios, and it was vilified by the alcohol industry for demonising drink, and also by the teetotalers for promoting drinking. However, on it’s release, the film did very well, earning accolades at both Cannes and the Academy Awards.
Why Is It A Must See? A highly unusual film, the story is about addiction in a time when no one really talked about alcoholism as a disease. Most drunks were kind of cute in films, a subject of humour. Here they are taken to hospital to suffer through the screaming horrors of withdrawal.
It also looks into the depravity of the main character being willing to do anything to get a drink, breaking the hearts of his brother, his long suffering girlfriend, and suffering the shame of being caught stealing and begging for a drink on credit. The film puts it all there up front for you to see, and it pulls no punches.
So many films about addiction pay a little homage to this one, and it’s influence on cinema is felt today.
See It If: you like your classic films with a bit of grit and vice, a really good drama.