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The Lost Weekend (1945)

Not Rated  |   |  Drama  |  16 November 1945 (USA)
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Ratings: 8.0/10 from 23,067 users  
Reviews: 131 user | 91 critic

The desperate life of a chronic alcoholic is followed through a four day drinking bout.



(from the novel by), (screen play), 1 more credit »
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Won 4 Oscars. Another 12 wins & 3 nominations. See more awards »



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Complete credited cast:
Phillip Terry ...
Howard Da Silva ...
Mary Young ...
Mrs. Deveridge
Anita Sharp-Bolster ...
Mrs. Foley (as Anita Bolster)
Lilian Fontaine ...
Mrs. St. James
Frank Orth ...
Opera Cloak Room Attendant
Lewis L. Russell ...
Mr. St. James


Don Birnam, long-time alcoholic, has been "on the wagon" for ten days and seems to be over the worst; but his craving has just become more insidious. Evading a country weekend planned by his brother Wick and girlfriend Helen, he begins a four-day bender. In flashbacks we see past events, all gone wrong because of the bottle. But this bout looks like being his way or the other. Written by Rod Crawford <>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


How daring can the screen dare to be? No adult man or woman can risk missing the startling frankness of The Lost Weekend! See more »




Not Rated | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:





Release Date:

16 November 1945 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Días sin huella  »

Box Office


$1,250,000 (estimated)

Company Credits

Production Co:

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

(Western Electric Recording)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


Ray Milland actually checked himself into Bellevue Hospital with the help of resident doctors, in order to experience the horror of a drunk ward. Milland was given an iron bed and he was locked inside the "booze tank." That night, a new arrival came into the ward screaming, an entrance which ignited the whole ward into hysteria. With the ward falling into bedlam, a robed and barefooted Milland escaped while the door was ajar and slipped out onto 34th Street where he tried to hail a cab. When a suspicious cop spotted him, Milland tried to explain, but the cop didn't believe him, especially after he noticed the Bellevue insignia on his robe. The actor was dragged back to Bellevue where it took him a half-hour to explain his situation to the authorities before he was finally released. See more »


When Helen pours whiskey for Don near the end then divides it into two glasses, it is nowhere near a quarter of the way up the glass. When Don chooses not to drink it moments later, and drops his cigarette in the glass, it is more than half-way full. See more »


Don Birnam: [to Wick and Heln] Most men lead lives of quiet desperation. I can't take quiet desperation!
See more »


Referenced in Frasier: The Two Hundredth (2001) See more »


It Was So Beautiful (and You Were Mine)
(1932) (uncredited)
Music by Harry Barris
Lyrics by Arthur Freed
Played on piano and sung by Harry Barris at Harry and Joe's
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

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User Reviews

Days of wine and Four Roses
20 January 2005 | by (New York) – See all my reviews

The American cinema can count itself lucky with the wave of arrival of the best European talent in the days prior to World War II. Among the most distinguished directors that came to Hollywood was Billy Wilder who left a legacy, not only as a director, but in the many screen plays he wrote. One of his great works was "The Lost Week-end". Written with Charles Brackett, one of his most frequent collaborators, this is a film that dared to talk about a thing that no one dared to speak before: alcoholism.

If you haven't seen the film, please stop reading now.

On the opening scene of the picture we watch Don Birman, and his brother Wick packing suitcases for a long weekend in the country. We realize not everything is all right as we watch a bottle tied with a piece of string hanging out of a window. It's clear to see what was wrong with that picture, Don is an alcoholic! Wick, having enough common sense, wants to keep his brother near him, in order to control the situation.

Things get complicated with the arrival of Helen, the woman in love with Don. Helen St. James has been in a relationship with Don that has gone nowhere because of his drinking problem. Helen, as well as Wick, don't have the courage to have him committed to have him cured of his addiction. In fact, both are to blame about the condition affecting Don, but neither realize how deep is the problem.

In 1945 themes involving addiction were never told to the movie going public. Alcoholism was a vice that affected a lot of people in the country, but those were the days where people with drinking problems stayed in the closet, not daring to recognize how their lives were being ruined by the heavy use of alcohol.

We watch in horror as Don spends a weekend in hell going from one scheme to the next trying to get money to support his nasty habit. We also see Don Birman experience the worst night of his life when he is taken to a hospital, after falling down from a staircase. There, he sees first hand the horrors his addictions will bring to him. In a way, the exposure to the men in the hospital is a wake up call for Don, who decides to end it all because drinking has taken over his life. The movie should be seen by anyone suffering from this terrible social disease.

Ray Milland transforms himself into this troubled man. He gives an incredible performance. Mr. Milland has to be given credit in undertaking the portrayal of this lost soul in such a convincing fashion. By Hollywood standards, Ray Milland, an actor better known for his work in comedies, transforms himself into this Don Birman.

The supporting cast was excellent as well. Jane Wyman as Helen St. James is seen in one of her better roles of her career. Phillip Terry, as Wick, the kind brother is also good. Howard DaSilva, the bartender Nat, makes an impressive appearance in the film. Doris Dowling, as Gloria the friendly prostitute is equally effective.

Of course, this is a movie that shows Billy Wilder at his best. By filming on location in Manhattan, a rich texture is added. From Nat's bar we can watch the trams that circulated on Third Ave. at that time, as well as the 3rd. Av. El. The excellent black and white cinematography of John Seitz looks as good today, as it must have looked in 1945, when the film was released. The music score by the great Milos Rozsa is haunting without being too obvious.

This is, without a doubt, one of Billy Wilder's best movies, one that endures the passing of time. Mr. Wilder dared to speak out loud about something no one wanted to talk about.

40 of 46 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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