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|Index||51 reviews in total|
Daniel Mann directed this emotionally bruising screen adaptation of the
William Inge play.
Shirley Booth recreated her stage performance opposite Burt Lancaster, as a dowdy housewife stuck in the past, who's so devoted to taking care of every single need of her alcoholic husband that she's forgotten she has a life of her own to live. A young college student (Terry Moore) the couple takes in as a boarder shakes up their domestic routine when she exposes them to a world of youth and vitality the two had forgotten existed.
Having had direct experience with an alcoholic and the family dynamic swirling around him, I can say that this film perfectly captures the attitudes and behavior of a classic enabler. The fact that Booth's doting wife goes on and on about how proud she is that her husband has remained sober for a year (even going as far as attending an AA meeting with him), and then keeping a bottle of alcohol in the kitchen cupboard and serving cocktails at a dinner party where her husband was an intended guest, struck me as painfully accurate.
The movie is quite surprisingly frank about some of the more unsavory "behind-closed-doors" topics that film as an art form wasn't yet comfortable in exploring as of 1952. In addition to the exploration of alcoholism and its abusive effects on both the user and those around him, the film delves into sex and the long-term -- and sometimes unexpectedly profound -- role it can play in shaping people's (and especially women's) lives.
Director Daniel Mann would go on to direct several films in his directorial career of note like The Last Angry Man, Butterfield 8, The Rose Tattoo, Our Man Flint and Williard but Come Back Little Sheba marked his directorial debut and he hit a home run his first time at the plate. This was nominated for three Academy Awards in Best Actress for Shirley Booth, Best Supporting Actress for Terry Moore and Best Editing. Booth, in also her very first film would win the best actress award as Lola Delany, a role she had previously played in the Broadway stage production of Come Back Little Sheba. She incredibly beat out Joan Crawford, Bette Davis, Susan Hayward and Julie Harris for the Oscar. Booth, equally incredibly would only make four movies in her career with three of those under the direction of Mann. Burt Lancaster turns in a great performance here as do Terry Moore and Richard Jaeckel who round out the cast. This film has a claustrophobic feel to it that highlights the tension and conflict with Doc and Lola's marriage and his battle with the bottle. This is a good film and I would give it an 8.5 on a scale of 10 and recommend it.
Wonderful "Little Film" about a complete mismatch - a sweet, loving, ditsy,
banal drudge and a dazed, frustrated, wasted, alcoholic husband. There's
love here, though it takes to the end of the story to understand how. This
is a kinder, gentler version of "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf".
One problem is the flawed cutting/continuity. And the editing was nominated for an Oscar! Oh well, one more example of a corrupt or stupid or both Motion Picture Academy. So, I took one point off the score of Ten.
Shirley Booth was so right for her part that she won the 1952 Oscar for best performance by an actress - and became type-cast for the rest of her career.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
'Come Back Little Sheba' is the story of a recovering alcoholic's
(Lancaster as 'Doc Delaney') falling off the wagon, then back on again.
His lapse is prompted by the appearance of a student lodger (Moore as
'Marie') whose flirting with a bad boy (Jaeckel as 'Turk') arouses
Doc's lust and jealousy. Presumably because this was 1952, there is a
lot of understatement of the passions that actually might be going on,
but the scenes of Turk assaulting Marie, and Doc spewing his bitterness
at Lola (Shirley Booth) are still powerful, and Burt's struggle not to
pick up the bottle is good.
Shirley Booth's performance is slightly over the top, and there's never any doubt that you're watching a stage performance, but it's a professional, consistent turn. The trouble is that Burt Lancaster's acting for the screen in a much more restrained way, and you do wonder what a cool, if wooden, dude like him is doing with a somewhat irritating frump like Lola (in spite of her implausibly being referred to as 'Pretty Lola' more than once). At first I was expecting Lola to be the one reaching for the booze as soon as Doc had gone to work, but alas there are no such twists or deconstructions in this movie. It's straight down the line, and the only suspense comes from wondering when Doc is going to reach for that Bourbon he's kept in the kitchen for a year. When he does, sparks fly gratifyingly enough.
The teen characters and their plot are straight out of a McGraw-Hill public information short, often forgetting to act properly (see Bruce in the dinner scene), and while Lola's phone call to her mother telling of her unhappiness is effective, Doc's return and the resumption of suburban bliss is very weak and relies on sentimentality.
'Come Back Little Sheba' portrays an abused woman's mundane heroism and does enough to get by, but whether you enjoy it will depend on whether you buy Shirley Booth's old-school performance. In 1952 it was probably quite moving; in 2012 it's a little bit grating.
I was so impressed with the middle-America authenticity of the setting
of this movie that the acting seemed secondary. That said, the acting
The mores of post-war America come through loud and clear. There's plenty of Victorian attitude and yet a strong undercurrent of changing standards. Male dominance permeates every aspect of daily life and all sides seem quite comfortable with that. It's reassuring and yet begs for a crusade. The images in this very simple set reminded of my grandparents' houses and the rush of emotion I'm sure contributed to my enjoyment of the movie.
I recommend this to anyone who enjoys Inge (writer of the play from which the screenplay was taken) or the state-of-the-art film production for the beginning of the second half of the twentieth century.
An emotionally remote recovering alcoholic (Burt Lancaster) and his
dowdy, unambitious wife (Shirley Booth) face a personal crisis when
they take in an attractive lodger.
Some have called this the definitive film about alcoholism. Maybe. I personally prefer "Lost Weekend", but this is really all the more tragic. Doc Delaney is bitter towards life. His wife is trapped and faces occasional abuse. And we see how the tiniest slip can be a tragedy.
What hit me, maybe even more than the presentation of violent drunkenness, was how vulgar the language was. There are no "f bombs", but by the standards of 1952, I thought it was pushing the envelope. And I don't mean the word "pooped", which I thought was sort of funny.
I saw this movie on TV when I was like 13 or 14 years old (the Big Show
in the afternoons on ABC New York, I think)...It left a big impression
on me as a kid...I don't know why, really, but it solidified my
impression that Burt Lancaster was a great actor, and hero of
mine...Shirley Booth was absolutely amazing, no doubt knew the role by
rote from the stage...Anyway, I can never can forget this movie, and
the moral conflicts it conjured up in my mind as a young
teenager...Truly an emotional movie that I remember to this day...
Shirley Booth went on to play Hazel, the all knowing maid, in a TV sitcom of the same name...It ran for a while and was work and money, I'm sure, but kind of beneath an actress of that talent, in my opinion...
Burt Lancaster, what can I say...One of the greats, and one of my heroes as a kid (Jim Thorpe, All American)...He certainly didn't shy away from certain roles that may have been atypical to his ordinary stereotype...
Daniel Mann's director debut, a screen adaptation of William Inge's
eponymous play debuted in 1950, stage thespian Shirley Booth reprises
her Tony-winning role in the movie, which not only marks her screen
debut at the age of 54, but wins her a coveted BEST LEADING ACTRESS
Lola Delaney (Booth) is a middle-aged housewife, her life seems to be on the right track except that her little puppy Sheba has disappeared several months ago, his husband Doc (Lancaster), a former alcoholic, has been sober for a whole year, which is something worth celebrating in the AA meeting, and now she finds a new boarder, an attractive college student Marie Buckholder (Moore), who seems to be quite open-faced and spirited to move in immediately. The Delaneys have no child, although later it will reveal that they had a stillborn baby years ago, thus the presence of Mary instantly gingers up their quiet life, Lola grows maternal towards her, and is more than happy to condone Mary's flirtation with the jock Turk Fisher (Jaeckel), although she has a fiancé; but for Doc, the youthful Mary becomes a pernicious symbol of temptation, he disparages Turk and struggles with his own impulse towards her, even though the latter only views him as an avuncular elder.
We all know at one point, Doc will have a relapse of his addiction for his sexual frustration, but the set-up of the climax, where Doc whisks away a bottle of Whiskey surreptitiously, then returns with another bottle to cover it, is a cheap move, considering there is no hurdles for him to access liquor, why he has to take the only bottle in their home, instead of buying one outside? The only purpose is to let Lola discover the fact that the bottle is missing, hence it ruins the big day for her, she is organising a home dinner for Mary and her fiancé, that's a script loophole which could be avoided if the screenwriter were more considerate. But, the climax is a hallmark collision of two engrossing performers.
Booth is such an unforced and compelling actor, her portrayal of Lola as the salt of the earth, is so full of vigour, accuracy and sympathy-inducing, a good-hearted woman who is whole-heartedly devoted to her husband, kind to everybody else, occasionally enjoys a little dancing on the radio, a little concerned about her past and doesn't minces words about her real feelings and thoughts. Although she has a very traditional view on how to be a competent wife, when she comments that women must pose naked but men don't have to for life class, she is certainly not a dyed-in-the- wool conservative. It is so extraordinary that a woman in her age can be granted with such a richly written role to play, where in sharp comparison, nowadays, few paymasters are willing to green- light a project focused on the kitchen-sink drama of an ordinary woman over 50.
Lancaster, who is 15-years younger than Booth, does seem to be an odd choice to play Doc, he maximally downplays his discernible charisma and charges a poignant gravitas entrapped in his own misery and weakness, but in our eyes, he is much dapper than the ostentatious Turk to win the attention of Mary. Terry Moore, whose private life is far more splendid than her acting career, is the lucky one to be nominated for an Oscar, where her part merely functions as an unwitting stimulus to trigger the declining of Doc's state, and most of the time, she is too dumb to know what she really wants.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Look Carefully at the scenes involving the automobile, in some scenes
the passenger side front windshield is missing to allow for better
filming without glare.
Beyond this, the movie is a fine example of real film making. Shirley Booth is incredible. At the ambassador east hotel in chicago, they named all the booths after famous celebrities. One of the booths is simply named: SHIRLEY.
I seem to recall that DOC is actually a chiropractor though he wanted to be a medical doctor.
There is a non musical version of "HELLO DOLLY" called, "THE MATCHMAKER" and Shirley Booth is wonderful in this film too. Far better than Barbara Streisand in the musical version.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
an unnecessary addition, but i had to add my voice.
i saw this movie as a young girl on TV and i never forgot it. it still haunts me, for similar reasons listed by others here. (i went to add it to my "wishlist" and found out ms. booth is not even listed on T*Vo!). i don't think i ever saw it again, but I can still picture many of the scenes in my mind.
the portrayal of lives of quiet desperation is so poignantly matched by the "scenery" that i would suggest you see the film in the original (non-colorized) version if possible. even over 50 years later, the subject matter is still fresh because almost all of us know people like this, whether they are married to each other or not.
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