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Sad end to the life of author Charles Jackson (The Lost Weekend)
gene-perr20 August 2006
In 1968, I was just 22 years old and driving a taxi part-time in Ft. Lee, New Jersey. One day, I drove Charles Jackson (author of "The Lost Weekend") from Englewood Cliffs, NJ to a run-down hotel in Times Square, New York City. I had seen and really liked the movie of the same name, starring Ray Milland, who did a wonderful job portraying an alcoholic on a weekend binge. The film was so realistic, I had a strong feeling that Charles Jackson had written the book based on his own life. I got up the nerve to ask him, and he told me that....yes, he indeed was the alcoholic portrayed in his book. We talked quite a bit about his life on the way into Times Square. He seemed like a very nice person, although he seemed quite depressed. However, it still came as quite a shock when, shortly after having him in my cab, I read in the papers that he had hung himself in his hotel room in NYC. That's an experience I will never forget!
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Powerful landmark film on alcoholism has lost none of its status...Ray Milland deserved his Oscar...
Doylenf16 April 2001
I take exception to previous comments that call the film "daring for its time" or "dated". It's still a very powerful film and there is nothing dated about the theme of a man who loses his soul to the bottle. It was a landmark film in its time and still is--there is no question about its holding power and the excellence of writing, acting and direction. Yes, even by today's standards! It outclasses more recent films dealing with alcoholism as it focuses on one man's problem with the bottle--a problem that affects all of the people whose lives he touches--particularly his loyal girlfriend (Jane Wyman in one of her best roles) and Philip Terry as his more conventional brother. The emotions are stark and real. The pity we feel for Milland's character is also mixed with disgust for his weakness. It's an accurate depiction of an alcoholic's struggle for the next fix--a never ending search for the next bottle. The pseudo-babble of a previous commentator attempts to inject disdain for the film as outdated and outclassed by more serious works. Nonsense! This was a stark and powerful film in 1945 and I have news for you--it is just as powerful and timely today! No other American film comes close to it. It is as searing an indictment of alcoholism as you are ever likely to see and Milland fully deserved his Oscar.
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"Before 'Weekend', alcoholism was treated as something funny. There were character actors who only played drunks, and always for laughs.There's nothing funny about a drunk."
Ford-kp21 April 2006
The often stated belief that alcoholism is a mere bodily addiction does not do the truth any justice. Alcoholism is more. It's a state of mind. It's addictive escapism for those who feel cheated by life, a way of avoiding fears and unhappiness, an illusionary method to make up for ones failures. Maybe that's why most therapies do not succeed. They solely concentrate on the illness, rather than on the cause of it. Of course, in many cases the cause cannot be helped...

In The Lost Weekend we accompany the failed writer Don Birnam (Ray Milland) surrendering to the self-destructive nature of his addiction. Despite being good-looking and intelligent, Don is a hopeless alcoholic filled with self-loathing ("The reason is me. What I am. Or rather what I am not.") The brand doesn't matter, the cheaper the better – to him it's all the same. Drinking seems to be his only way to escape from his misery and low self-esteem. "Suddenly I'm above the ordinary. I'm competent. I'm walking a tightrope over Niagara Falls. I'm one of the great ones. I'm Michaelangelo, molding the beard of Moses. I'm Van Gogh painting pure sunlight. [...]" That's what a drunk Don tells his favourite barkeeper Nat (Howard Da Silva).

Yet, in one aspect he is lucky. Unlike many of his fellow sufferers he is not alone. After years of abuse, his faithful girlfriend Helen (Jane Wyman) and his brother Wick (Phillip Terry) have still not deserted him. Compassionately they do their utmost to protect Don from himself by keeping him under close observation. With great effort they determined the most inventive hiding-places of his bottles and they even visited nearby liquor stores and bars, begging not to accept Don as a customer. There is nothing they haven't tried, but Don appears to be beyond salvation ("I am not a drinker. I'm a drunk." he tells them.). Just before the three of them are about to go on a weekend trip, Don devises a cunning plan to temporarily get rid of the two persons who care about him, giving him time to acquire the liquid he treasures the most. Soon he is stone drunk, staggering through the streets, always on the lookout for the next drink. For Don there will be no weekend trip. Only the bottle and the desperate humiliations connected with attaining it.

The Lost Weekend is a a drama of great emotional vehemence, lacking the light heartedness of Billy Wilder's later works. It gives unclouded insight into the darkest corners of alcoholism and depicts the powerlessness of the alcoholic over himself. Wilder created great controversy at that time by letting the lead actor succumb to his addiction. He didn't shy away from showing the addict's humiliations when begging for money or booze. Neither did he hesitate to point out the addict's loss of all self-respect when stealing and lying to pay for his one need. The horrifying hallucination scene only adds up to the disturbing decline of Don Birnam's humanity, proving that the greatest horrors lie within our imagination.

This is an excellent film of lasting relevance. It is technically brilliant and shines with great dialogue (which is typical for Wilder). Its storytelling (flashbacks) is superior. Furthermore Ray Millard (Dial M for Murder) gives a terrific and equally courageous performance as the the self-destructive alcoholic. You can see the desperate self-loathing and calculating slyness of a true addict written on his face.

In the end it comes down to two choices. Don can give in to alcoholism and thereby give up on life. Or he can try to overcome his addiction and face his fears and discontentment. Although sheer will-power may not be enough to achieve the latter, it is essential for succeeding. And the cause isn't lost, for there is Helen to help and care for him. Don is not alone. May someone have mercy on those who are...
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9/10
This is on my list of 50 best of all time....
wisewebwoman28 December 2003
The script and score are superb and the acting flawless. Ray Milland is riveting in the role of a man who is as consumed by alcohol as it is consuming him. He lives and breathes for it and all around him become secondary including his long suffering girlfriend.

There is always a girl like this in the life of a good looking useless purposeless alcoholic kept afloat by either a wife or other family member, in this case a brother who pays the bills and tries to sober him up and dry him out periodically.

The score is relentless and highly avant Gard for its time, featuring music normally backing sci-fi flicks. Some of the scenes are profoundly frightening, his stay in the drunk tank with a sadistic feminine male nurse outlining all the horrors that await him and his DTs which feature a bat biting the head off a bird.

Very well done. I felt the ending was a little too pat, that would be my only fault with this.

9 out of 10. Excellent.
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10/10
Days of wine and Four Roses
jotix10020 January 2005
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.
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9/10
Feeling thirsty? Then have a cup of tea.
290554 January 1999
Seedy bars, pawnshops, and an array of elaborate hiding places are the overriding images from this film. The Lost Weekend is a grimly realistic account of four days in the life of a chronic alcoholic, played by Ray Milland. In films of this quality one always takes away unforgettable images. The most striking is Milland's drunken efforts to remember where in his apartment the last hiding place he used is. Degraded and thoroughly beaten by his addiction, his last refuge is to try and keep it a secret from those who still love him. Billy Wilder's direction and script is brilliant - sympathetic, but unpatronising in his handling of a delicate and rarely dealt with affliction. Not until Nicolas Cage's portrayal of a man determined to drink himself to death in Leaving Las Vegas, has alcoholism been dealt with so well. Milland's performance is first rate - no hammy shlurring of words - and the atmosphere is dark and seedy like the bars he frequents. The scene where he spends several hours trying to find an open pawnshop on a public holiday is both harrowing and dazzling - it is remeniscent of the filmic image of a parched man trying to cross the desert.
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9/10
Effective, Sobering Story
ccthemovieman-123 December 2005
Warning: Spoilers
This was a very sobering story, pun somewhat intended but not to make light of a serious problem. Stories about alcoholism can be really depressing but I found this simply a fascinating account of what an alcoholic goes through. I doubt if any film since this as been as effective in telling its sordid story, but not in a sordid manner.

The acting is excellent, led by Ray Milland's performance and complemented by memorable supporting turns by Howard da Silva, Doris Dowling, Frank Faylen, Phillip Terry and Jane Wyman.

I particularly enjoyed the characters played by Faylen, da Silva and Dowling. Faylen had only one scene, but it's a beauty. As a hospital aide, he gives Milland a short but riveting speech that still haunts me when I recall it. Dowling served up some great film noir-type dialog and was a sexy woman, at least in this picture, and da Silva was perfect as the bartender.

This is an involving story and has a few spots with some good cinematography, too. Another plus is the fact that it doesn't appear dated even though it is 60 years old. How many films can say that? The only flaw, I thought, was the ending. Anyone has hooked on booze to the degree Milland was in this film, would not be able to just quit like that....but happy-ending movies are usually what work.

Speaking of happy, what man wouldn't want a woman as loyal and supportive as Wyman's character was in here? In an age in which commitment and loyalty are not considered valuable character traits as they used to be, she was inspiring to watch

I hope this film's reputation encourages a few people who need to see and hear this message, to take a look. They don't have to worry about a boring, heavy- handed message. This is just plain interesting and always entertaining. It earned all the awards it received.
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10/10
Textbook drama about addiction powerfully told...
Don-1022 March 1999
From the first shot of a bottle hanging from a drunk's apartment, we realize we are about to see a clever addict and a weekend of his demented exploits. Ray Milland has an honest face, not unlike Jimmy Stewart's, however, with this character it is only skin-deep. The great thing about his performance and the film as a whole, is that his face will gradually change, becoming dark and chilly, just like Stewart's in IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE. Stewart had lost his life momentarily. Milland has lost his soul to the bottle and he will stop at nothing to quench his thirst.

This really is a textbook example of the alcoholic's lies and schemes, a precursor to LEAVING LAS VEGAS, although there are people in this film who care about the drinker from the beginning. He just can't stop and we start to lose whatever sympathy we had for him because of how he treats other people. This is a drunk with a sober man wanting to come out, but Wilder's script dives deeply into the unpredictable outcomes of most alcoholics.

LOST WEEKEND was innovative and was almost never released because test audiences could not take the film's realism. The hospital sequence retains its horror, and Milland's withdrawal-induced hallucination of a rat in the wall was like him looking in the mirror. See this movie and you will come away with a completely informed and scary anthology of the antics of a hopeless alcoholic. This is amazing considering it came out of the old Hollywood system.
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Risk-Taking Film-Making at Its Finest.
tfrizzell7 July 2002
Uncompromising, dark and definitely disturbing Best Picture Oscar winner from 1945 that deals with a writer's (Ray Milland in one of the very best performances ever shown on the silver which deservedly landed him his only Oscar) alcoholism and the effects that his problem has on himself, his work and those closest to him. The love of his life (Jane Wyman) and his very supportive brother (Phillip Terry) try to save Milland from a habit that has gotten terribly out-of-hand. Heart-wrenching flashbacks into Milland's demise are sometimes difficult sequences to get through. In the end it is not a sure thing if Milland can distance himself from his disease and return to a normal life. Billy Wilder's uncompromising direction and screenplay yielded him Oscars in this film that scared many studios away in the early-1940s due to its intense subject matter and the question of whether the film could create interest. Made during a time when patriotic movies and romantic comedic farces dominated the cinema, "The Lost Weekend" was truly unlike anything ever experienced before. A very well-made production that is first class all the way. A real classic in every sense of the term. 5 stars out of 5.
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9/10
'I'm not a drinker, I'm a drunk.'
Ham_and_Egger6 August 2005
Warning: Spoilers
***** SPOILER IN FIFTH PARAGRAPH ***** It's hard to imagine what people must have thought upon seeing this movie in 1945, depictions of alcoholism are so prevalent in our media today that it's practically a brand name. We have serious drunks, comical drunks, pathetic drunks, and all manner of drunks in-between. In many ways we may have progressed but I'm not sure I've ever seen a movie that treats alcoholism with the honesty it gets here.

But The Lost Weekend isn't just a message movie, it's superbly crafted as well, easily the equal of Billy Wilder's other films (Double Indemnity, Sunset Blvd., Stalag 17, Sabrina, etc.). According to the production notes Wilder read the novel by Charles R. Jackson and took it upon himself to convince his producers to let him make the film, knowing it would be a hit and win the leading man an Oscar. That's vision coupled with uncanny film-making skill.

Ray Milland never gave a finer performance, the progression of his character throughout the movie is extraordinary and a lesser actor simply wouldn't have been able to pull it off. I doubt he was Hollywood's first alcoholic would-be writer, but he certainly raised the bar for the many who'd follow in his footsteps. He never once resorts to stereotypical "drunk" stock-character. His eye movements and high-flown, self-delusional, speeches alone make the film worth watching.

While this film is imminently deserving of the four major Oscars it scooped up (Best Picture, Best Director, Best Screenplay, and Best Actor) it didn't win for Best Cinematography, which is a shame. John F. Seitz's black-and-white cinematography is a visual feast. Seitz was nominated for the Oscar seven times between 1930 and 1955 (including four Wilder pictures) but regrettably never won. In all he was the principal cinematographer for 159 films, including such other classics such as: Sullivan's Travels, This Gun for Hire, The Miracle of Morgan's Creek, The Big Clock, Night Has A Thousand Eyes, and When Worlds Collide.

***** DANGER! SPOILER AHEAD! ***** I'm not nearly so optimistic about Don's recovery as most other reviewers seem to be. Overtly the the Hollywood ending is all there; Don drops a cigarette into a glass of whiskey, he and Helen have the big kiss, he sits down to finally crank out his big book. Call it pessimism but I think it's all tied up so neatly that it can't help but unravel for him five minutes after the cameras leave. I see plenty of potential for more weekends just like this one, and I think that's the way Wilder wanted it.
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10/10
If you've experienced addiction, you know this movie's true
panquin13 April 2006
Warning: Spoilers
From the very first shot of a bottle dangling from a window, to the last shots of a (hallucinated) bat eating a mouse (with accompanying blood running down the wall, one of the most gruesome and horrifying things I've ever seen on film, and we're talking 1945 here!), TLW is as dark as it gets - and, happily, as smart as it gets, too. But this IS a Billy Wilder film, so dark/smart, though appreciated, aren't that much of a surprise.

This is one of those beautiful movies where everything makes sense, from the Academy Awards it received to the well-deserved mantle it rests upon in movie history. And it's not pretty, not in the slightest, dealing as it does in alcoholism's terrifying DTs, as well as basic addiction's I-can't-shake-you-I-can-only-think-of-you whiskey/heroin/cocaine/cigarettes (merely plug the drug of choice into the movie's template and you have flaming, righteous addict's Hell for your spellbound perusal).

I was fascinated by the fact that TLW operates as a kind of corrective to the typical 20s, 30s and 40s depiction of alcohol as social lubricant - you know, "Hey, how's it going, glad you could come by, want a drink?" And that could be at noon, 3 in the afternoon, whenever...sometimes, even the morning. TLW grabs you by throat and drags you through the gutter with Ray Milland, stooping to the lowest human levels imaginable to wet his lips and come alive - and it's there, in the fleshing-out of the addict's "coming alive, feeling great" post-drug-use bliss-begotten rush, that TLW really gets it, and I say that as someone who knows. The detail of Milland being a writer who doesn't write, and who can't even THINK of writing before liquor's in his system, is spot-on, absolutely true. It truly gives the lie to the romantic ideal of, say, Raymond Chandler, or the myth of the alcoholic writer in general. Many, many, many writers have shriveled their livers via Milland's character's route, and the fact they may have been more prolific and functional doesn't really matter, once said livers are analyzed...really, pretty sad.

See this movie. Own it. It's crucial.
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10/10
Once Upon A Time There Was A Bat And A Mouse
bkoganbing29 July 2006
The Lost Weekend for 1945 was a pretty grim and realistic look at the problem of alcoholism. We've seen some pretty good films since like I'll Cry Tomorrow right up to Barfly, but The Lost Weekend still has the power to hold the audiences attention 61 years after it came out.

It was a breakthrough film for its star Ray Milland. Previously someone who had done light leading man roles, Milland plumbed some real hidden demons in the role of Don Birnam. A guy much like the characters Ray Milland played on screen, Birnam is a charming fellow and would be writer who can't leave the alcohol alone.

Billy Wilder was going to originally cast an unknown character actor in the lead role. However Paramount producer Buddy DeSylva said that in this part you wanted a likable leading man so the audiences had a rooting interest. Wilder who usually did not suffer interference from the front office with any grace, took DeSylva's advice and got Ray Milland with whom he'd worked with in The Major and the Minor.

Milland prepared for this part by spending a couple of nights in an alcoholic ward. Certainly showed in his performance. You will not forget Milland and his reaction to seeing the bat and the mouse while in delirium tremors.

Jane Wyman was Wilder's third choice after not getting Katharine Hepburn or Jean Arthur. She came over to Paramount from Warner Brothers on a loan out and got her first really good notices for a serious acting role as Milland's long suffering girl friend.

A recent biography of Billy Wilder said that The Lost Weekend was timed perfectly for an audience that swelled up with returning servicemen some of whom developed alcoholic problems after being through the horror of a World War. After being panned in previews with a little editing it opened to rave reviews on release.

It did good at the box office too and it won Oscars for Best Picture, Best Actor for Milland, Best Screenplay for Billy Wilder and Charles Brackett and Best Director for Wilder. After this triumph Wilder and Brackett both had their pick of good film properties.

I'm surprised that someone like Robert DeNiro, Dustin Hoffman or Al Pacino has never tried to remake this one. Seems like just the kind of film for them.

Milland's character is a writer and a key sequence is when he attempts to pawn his typewriter for a bottle of booze. Can you imagine doing that today with a laptop computer which is not only the tool he uses, but also has a memory of all the attempts the protagonist has made to write.

Might even be more powerful today.
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8/10
"Most men lead lives of quiet desperation."
ackstasis24 January 2008
Warning: Spoilers
With every glass of whisky that Don Birnam drinks, a little part of him dies. This ever-expanding rift in his soul only increases his thirst, as though only through alcohol can he recover the parts of himself that he abandoned a long time ago. Drinking is his means of escaping reality, of creating a debilitating illusion of happiness and satisfaction; "it tosses the sandbags overboard so the balloon can soar. Suddenly I'm above the ordinary. I'm competent. I'm walking a tightrope over Niagara Falls. I'm one of the great ones…" Similarly, Ray Milland's portrayal of a chronic alcoholic, in Billy Wilder's Oscar-winning 'The Lost Weekend (1945),' is one of the great performances of its era, and the film itself is one five-day-long nightmare of obsession and desperation. Prior to 1945, Hollywood had shied away from confronting alcohol addiction in a serious light, more content with exploiting the issue for comedic effect {take Nick Charles of 'The Thin Man' series, for example, or any movie featuring the stereotypical, clumsy and amusing drunkard}. It took a promising newcomer in Billy Wilder {fresh from the classic film-noir 'Double Indemnity (1944)} to finally bring alcoholism into the open for all to see.

'The Lost Weekend' was adapted {by Wilder and Charles Brackett} from Charles R. Jackson's novel of the same name, itself a rather daring and provocative piece of literature. The film follows alcoholic Don Birnam throughout a torturous five-day long weekend, as he futilely battles his addiction to the bottle and suffers the consequences of his excessive drinking. The film borrows a thing or two from German Expressionism, and much of the film has a peculiar, dream-like atmosphere to it, accentuated by stark lighting and shadows, beautifully shot by cinematographer John F. Seitz. This hazy, otherworldly ambiance is further emphasised by the inspired decision to film some scenes through glass liquor bottles, and Miklós Rózsa's eerie soundtrack, which made extensive use of the oscillating wail of the theremin {nowadays mostly associated with films dealing with extraterrestrials and UFOs}. One particular hallucinatory sequence, featuring a mouse and a bat, has undoubtedly left its mark on all who watch the film, and Birnam's frenzied scream of absolute horror will continue to resonate in your eardrums long after it's all over.

Along with Stanley Kubrick's 'The Shining (1980)' and the Coen Brothers' 'Barton Fink (1991),' 'The Lost Weekend' is probably the most disturbing film about writer's block that I've seen, a genuinely unsettling profile of a troubled and mentally-ill man. The film doesn't merely present us with Don Birnam, but takes us into his world, where slipping your fingers around that next shot of whisky is a matter of life or death. Though the Production Code forced Wilder to supply a more optimistic ending than I think he would have liked, he nonetheless manages to slip some ambiguity into the final moments, and, on second look, the conclusion isn't perhaps as hopeful as we might initially have presumed. In an earlier scene, Birnam refers to his alcohol addiction as "my little vicious circle… no end, no beginning." Indeed, throughout the weekend, he experiences a continuous sequence of cycles, circulating between debilitating drunkenness, an attempt at recovery and a frantic search for more alcohol. The film opens with a left-to-right slow pan from the New York cityscape to Birnam's apartment; it closes with an identical pan in the opposite direction. Despite his apparent resolve to finally emerge from his rut and complete "The Bottle," it appears that Birnam is simply trapped in a vicious cycle from which he may never escape, except perhaps in death.
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10/10
more than just a simple "message" movie, Wilder tries to make addiction as human a crisis as possible
Quinoa198425 October 2005
Although in some respects some of the conditions and dialog from the Lost Weekend have become dated, the performances and the ideas behind it- plus the heightened style of it- make it work many years down the line. Oscar winning director Billy Wilder makes Don Birnem's struggle something that is unmistakable, especially if you've been around these kinds of people. Most of us have seen the drunk at the end of the bar with grandiose ideas and romanticized visions amid that need (nevermind enjoyment) of the booze. But the film is successful if only because it makes this obsession with the flailing writer Don as his major internal conflict, and that it goes deeper to something that is in many of us, even if we don't drink.

Basically, Don wants to get off alcohol so he can write his great book. Despite some advice from the "friendly enemy" (as I would call one) local bartender, and the girl Gloria, there is little hope for him it seems. He goes on a four-day bender, looking frantically all over the apartment when it's not in easy reach. This all leads up to going clean, which involves a truly paranoid-filmed sequence by Wilder (one of his very best).

It is almost all harrowing drama, and only in the minute moments when Don is completely unsympathetic does the film lose some of its momentum. But really, the film is as much about the psychology of this man, of the writer in desperation (though never wanting to admit it), and Ray Milland's performance (at least for the time) was daring enough to show as much as could be shown at the time. The film probes just enough into the subject matter to not become very preachy (I don't think Wilder's message is to never drink ever as much as one of keeping control of one's life and system), and at the core is just entertaining drama.
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9/10
The first great film on alcoholism.
Huron9 January 1999
As a recovering alcoholic (14 years sober) this remains as the first great film dealing with alcoholism. Ray Milland"s great performance shows realistically the insanity of drinking and the struggles. The promises and hidden bottles will ring true to anyone who has dealt with the problem. Billy Wilder's career was noted for his comedies but he showed in "Lost Weekend" that he knew how to deal with serious matter as well. The ending shot is a classic and will be memorable for anyone seeing the film. Check out "Days of Wine & Roses" as well.
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8/10
"I'm not a drinker; I'm a drunk."
elvircorhodzic11 July 2016
LOST WEEKEND is a film about the state of life of any man. In general, every life is full of ups and downs. Alcoholism, as a kind of escape from his own life is more than stable. Lack of self-confidence, poverty and lack of understanding are just some factors with which the main character struggles. Alcohol is a deadly rescue. The story is quite realistic and morbid. The main protagonist is a split personality. We get to know him through the illustration of a drunk and writer in the attempt. I have to admit that this movie at first viewing fascinating.

I have to admit that the minor characters have been pretty naive. I have the impression that the main protagonist and bottles of alcohol tell a story, while minor characters just go and get lost. Practically everything is told in a couple of days where we can see how a man touches a human and moral bottom. Unwritten parts of the novel through flashbacks working perfectly

Ray Milland as Don Birnam is simply brilliant. He revealed the ugly nature of man, through the degradation of life, weakness and shame.

Jane Wyman as Helen St. James had the demanding role of loyal girls. In this case, love knows no boundaries. The lack of emotion is so obvious and I her character can not imagine as a kind of salvation or the voice of reason.

Other characters are "stations" on the road to environmental ruin. Caring and exemplary brother who miraculously evaporate at the beginning of the film. Ironic and gritty bartender, sadistic medic or girl in love at the bar.

Lost Weekend is a very honest and disturbing drama. The musical score perfectly corresponded to the theme of the film. I must say that I am not satisfied with the contrived happy ending. The main protagonist in 5 minutes free his life of suffering. It's all in the decision, but the decision came suddenly and utterly illogical.
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9/10
Billy Wilder's lost film
The_Void18 November 2004
When people talk about Billy Wilder, it's always films like Sunset Blvd, Double Indemnity and The Apartment that get the praise. There is a good reason for this, as these films are out and out masterpieces; but The Lost Weekend is at least on par with them. The Lost Weekend is a film about addiction and it's tribulations; shown through the story of an alcoholic. Through a fantastic screenplay, Wilder is able to make the audience feel all the stress and pain of the central characters; which makes for a very powerful film to watch. It's even uncomfortable at times. Wilder presents the central character of Don Birnam as a likable character; he's a talented writer and he comes across as being funny and charismatic, the only problem is that he has a drink problem, and the problem consumes him. The character is flawed, but he's not flawed due to his personality; the flaw is in the addiction, and that's the key to this film. By differentiating between the two, we can like the character, but we hate the problem; thus allowing the potency of the film's premise to be increased by our empathy for the character.

Billy Wilder is well known for great screenplays; his films are some of the most well rounded ever made, and that trademark is more than evident in this film. Every scene serves some importance and lets us delve deeper into the character and his situation. Some scenes really stand out, such as the sequence that sees Birnam and his girlfriend to be, Helen St James, meeting after mistakenly picking up each other's coats. The scene that set's up the pair's relationship is simple, but believable and also very funny. The acting in the film is truly first rate, especially that coming from Ray Milland in the lead role. Millard is sublime in the role of an alcoholic; his every word and mannerism are perfectly suited to the character of a drunk. Wilder tends to get the best from his actors, and that is definitely true of this film. I dare say that if you put Milland next to an actual alcoholic, you'd have trouble telling who is and who isn't the true addict.

Wilder's direction, like his screenplay, is magnificent. The cinematography is superb and really captures the seedy atmosphere of a drunken man's city. Wilder's use of music is superb; he has opted for a theme that sounds almost like something that would be played in a Sci-Fi film when the flying saucers come down. This music might sound like it would be out of place in a film of this nature, but it actually works brilliantly. Never doubt a decision made by Billy Wilder; the music creates a foreboding and apprehensive atmosphere, and coupled with Birnam's drunkenness; the two come together to great effect.

Don't pass this film over; despite it's lack of recognition, this is one of Wilder's best films. A masterpiece.
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9/10
One of the great ones - dark, depressing, bleak, uncompromising and an important statement on alcoholism.
MovieAddict201622 September 2005
I can't imagine how this got greenlit back in 1945. It's almost impossible to imagine a film like this being made back then - the era where women weren't allowed to have their dresses crease around their buttocks and "show the shape of their behinds" (as Carl Reiner put it on commentary for the Dick Van Dyke show).

Seen sixty (!) years later, it still holds up amazingly well. A great deal of films from the 1940s and '50s seem outdated today, but the issue of alcoholism will probably never die... and as long as it exists, this movie will remain prescient.

Ray Milland delivers a powerful performance as Don Birnem, a recovering alcoholic whose girlfriend Helen (Jane Wyman) and brother Wick (Phillip Terry) have planned a weekend getaway to the country, to take his mind off the booze.

Don makes up an excuse not to go - he says he wants to be alone. His brother is suspicious of his decision, but nevertheless leaves without him. After the two leave, Don pulls a bottle of alcohol through his window, which was tied to a string by the window sill, hidden from view outside the apartment.

Don makes his daily visit to the bar where Nat (Da Silva) the Bartender serves his drinks. The more he drinks, the more Don spirals downwards into a hellish nightmare, complete with flashbacks to his past where he is reminded of the destructive patterns of his addiction.

I bought this movie a few months ago out of curiosity, mainly because I saw it had been directed by Billy Wilder. Wilder is most commonly known for his comedies like "The Apartment" and "Some Like It Hot," but here he shows he has a great eye for drama.

This is a superb film on all levels. The themes are gripping and important, the acting is totally uncompromising and the direction is top notch. I'd say it's one of the best and most underrated films of the 1940s; I had personally never heard of it before... I'm glad I stumbled across it.
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10/10
Somebody Stole the Purse - for some booze!
theowinthrop30 July 2006
Up to THE LOST WEEKEND, Billy Wilder was a talented script writer from Austria, who had done (after some noise and badgering) several movies that he and Charles Brackett wrote the scripts for, but the way he felt they were intended. So Paramount let him go ahead and produce and direct their own films, and he proved the studio was wise to do so.

By 1945 Wilder had done a wacky comedy, THE MAJOR AND THE MINOR about a military academy. The film was a box office success. It was followed by FIVE GRAVES TO CAIRO, which gave a fictional account of the war in North Africa, and gave a stunningly good performance by Eric Von Stroheim as General Erwin Rommel. But Wilder and Brackett wanted to tackle a "message" picture. They found one in the best selling novel THE LOST WEEKEND by Charles Jackson. It tackled the issue of alcoholism.

Alcoholism had actually been noted in motion pictures almost from the start, usually in comedies where a character (possibly the star, like Chaplin in ONE A.M.) would do his or her business while tanked. The 19th Century drama, THE DRUNKARD, was used by W.C. Fields in THE OLD FASHIONED WAY as the play Fields' troop is putting on. Another version of THE DRUNKARD was made into a full movie in 1940 called THE VILLAIN STILL PURSUES HER, with Alan Mowbray and Buster Keaton.

Now and then a more serious problem would be shown. D.W.Griffith made his last film in 1931 about alcoholism, THE STRUGGLE (which was a flop). In SADIE MCGEE, Joan Crawford marries Edward Arnold who is an alcoholic (she eventually helps on this problem). Aside from Griffith's flop nobody made a serious film about the disease. Wilder and Brackett turned in a good screenplay that did just that.

Don Birnan is a young man who claims to be a writer, but has published very little. Three people are aware of his weakness: Don's older brother Wic, the local bartender Nat, and Don's girlfriend Helen.

The crisis occurs the last weekend of the summer. Don is to go with Wic and work on his novel. But he disappears when he is supposed to be ready to leave. Wic has rearranged his own life for Don and is fed up. He leaves to go to the country house alone. He tells Helen not to waste her own life with Don, as Don is so far gone that he is not worth it. Helen (more troubled than Wic) does make herself scarce too. So Don, when he gets home, finds that he is really all alone on that long weekend.

Well not totally alone - he's inventive, our Don. He hides bottles of liquor all over the house (the old joke about the whiskey bottle hidden in a chandelier comes from this film). Wic does try to find the hiding places, but Don comes up with new ones (including suspending a bottle from a window by a string. However even this is of little use, as Don's demons drive him deeper and deeper into drinking. He has little money left, and soon is out of credit at Nat's (who hates to give him credit for drink because it's harmful to Don). He even steals a purse at one point. He tries to hock his typewriter. All for the money for a drink. And then he ends up in Bellevue's "Drunk Tank" where he meets the cynical nurse Bim, who has heard all the remorseful stories of reform from Don and his ilk forever.

There is far more to the screenplay than this synopsis suggests. Don's behavior is centered only on getting the sauce into him - and he does not care who is "inconvenienced" along the way, so that he finds himself quite isolated by the conclusion of the film. The movie's ending is hopeful, but just vaguely that. Somehow Don is such a weak character we can not be sure if he will ever turn his life around again.

Wilder used Ray Milland in this film, and it is usually pointed out that Milland was normally in comedies like EASY LIVING, SKYLARK, or Wilder's own THE MAJOR AND THE MINOR. But he had played serious parts, most notably in BEAU GESTE, I WANTED WINGS, and (more recently) THE MINISTRY OF FEAR and THE UNINVITED. But Don Birnan was the first three dimensional figure he tackled, and he did splendidly in it. His Oscar guaranteed a decade of stardom, and a really interesting career afterward in directing and character parts. Jane Wyman plays Helen as a character who struggles to recall the man she loves up to the conclusion of the film - his weakness constantly threatening the relationship. Philip Terry's Wic is equally good, putting on the best face possible, until the straw breaks the camel's back. As Bim, Frank Faylen is understandably fed up with his ward charges at Bellevue - all claiming they aren't ill, but quite evidently recurring so. And Howard Da Silva, normally playing villains in the 1940s, played the understanding Nat as harsh but compassionate - he wants Don to straighten up and write as he claims he can.

How real is the story here? There is an anecdote that Milland mentions in WILD EYED IN BABYLON, where he and Da Silva were in the set of the bar rehearsing a scene. They were interrupted by a bowler hatted little man with a familiar face, who came in and ordered a shot of whiskey. He paid for it, gulped it down before the two actors, and left the bar. They watched him go and did not say a word. It was Robert Benchley, working on another picture at Paramount at the next set. And Benchley had his own alcohol problems too.
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6/10
groundbreaking in its day, hopelessly inaccurate now
MartinHafer14 July 2005
Warning: Spoilers
Up until The Lost Weekend, alcoholism was seldom seriously addressed by Hollywood. So, in that sense, it is an important groundbreaking film. Also, unlike past portrayals of drinking (such as W. C. Fields) in films, this is much more realistic and gritty--particularly when they show people in the hospital going through the agonies of withdrawal. This is the BEST aspect of the movie, along with all the broken promises and games Milland plays with those around him.

Unfortunately, the movie HAD to slap a pat ending on the film, as movies seldom were allowed to end on a sour or indefinite note in the 1940s. Don't get me wrong, I LOVE cinema of the 1940s (far more than recent movies), but this was one serious shortcoming films of that era had--the Hollywood ending even when it was not realistic or sometimes compromised the integrity of the film (as in this case). Milland, after a long weekend bender, announces he's now "got it licked" and everything is peachy! Give me a break--this sure sounds like the phony self-serving thinking I so often encountered when I worked with addicts in a substance abuse program!! This is only the first step in a long, difficult road to recovery.

For an even better film about alcoholism, try Days of Wine and Roses.
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10/10
The Insanities of an Alcoholic Writer in a Weekend in 1945
claudio_carvalho28 July 2003
Don Birnam (Ray Milland, in an outstanding performance) is an alcoholic writer spending a weekend in New York without the presence of his controller brother Wick Birnam (Phillip Terry) and escaping from his fiancée Helen St. James (Jane Wyman). This Billy Wilder's movie is a great and touching movie, since the first long distance shot of New York approaching Don Birnam 's room (and the Rye whiskey bottle hanging on the window) to the end of the plot. Wonderful performance of an inspired cast, marvelous black & white photography, a fantastic direction and screenplay makes this movie a masterpiece. Even the moralist end is acceptable for such an excellent movie. My vote is ten.

Title (Brazil): "Farrapo Humano" ("Human Rag")
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10/10
Delirium is a disease that only comes at night.,
Spikeopath4 March 2008
Don Birnham is not a drinker, he is in fact a drunk, he is left alone for the weekend by those who love him under the proviso that he gets stuck into his writing, thus the hope is that he stays away from the booze that is killing his life and the loving foundation that his life is built on.

Billy Wilder directs this with brilliant hands, he pulls his first masterstroke by casting Ray Milland in the lead role of Don Birnham, at the time Milland was better known for light and airy roles, so for audiences of the time it was quite something to see someone so normally affable descend into a real dark shadow of their perceived persona. It was a formula that Blake Edwards would repeat some 17 years later with Days Of Wine And Roses, there, comedy great Jack Lemmon would wow the viewers with his own descent into alcoholic hell.

It's no different here in 1945, Milland (and Wilder) drag us into an airy, almost jaunty first reel, and the foundation is set here for us to firmly stand by Don as he spirals thru a series of nightmares that is acted with genuine brilliance from the leading man. The journey has us rapidly trying to hock a typewriter if only we could just find a pawnbrokers open, we will beg in touchingly heart breaking fashion for a drink from the trusted barkeep, we will find ourselves in a dry out ward where the night terrors take over, we will be terrified by the delirium as sobriety threatens to unhinge this vile addiction....

We will be part of this film for it's simply magnetic in how it draws you in, it's not just Milland's quite stunning show, Wilder the crafty sod uses deep focus to emphasise anything that will steer us to the demon drink, be it escalating water rings as each shot of Rye is consumed, or shots thru the bottles themselves, Wilder doesn't let up with knowing reminders of the core subject. The score is just terrific, Miklos Roza scores it to perfection because the music leads you into a swirling nightmare as Don's functional mind gives way to the haven of numbness, in short, the work on the film is incredible.

The back story to this now revered masterpiece is somewhat hilarious, Paramount didn't want to release the film after temperance groups protested the film championed drinking (lol). One strong arm group even offered 5 Million Dollars to have the films negative destroyed, Wilder stood by his guns and thankfully the movie watching world still has a dark and poignant classic to view with resonance in any decade. 10/10
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9/10
Best of its kind
faraaj-16 October 2006
Writer-director Billy Wilder has worked in a number of genres and produced certified classics in each. The sheer number of great films this man made in diverse genres - war (Stalag 17), comedy (Some Like it Hot), noir (Double Indemnity), court-room drama (Witness for the Prosecution) and The Lost Weekend, the definitive film on alcoholism. Forget Days of Wine and Roses, Trainspotting and Leaving Las Vegas. This is the best film on addiction and the most watchable as well.

Ray Milland is superb as the drunken failure Don Birnam and won a well-deserved Oscar for a career best performance. He is actually two people - an unpleasant and rude writer, and a jovial, friendly drunk. You can see his eyes gleam and his tongue loosen every time he sits down in the bar. But when not drinking, he is rude and unpleasant. His entire mentality is geared towards having some 'stock' handy in case he needs it - and he always needs it. He confesses early on in the picture that its easy to stop drinking, but not forever. And that is essentially his dilemma. Birnam is the centre piece of the film and there in most frames. The bulk of the action takes place in Birnam's flat or in the bar where he can still get a drink.

A very intelligent script is only slightly marred by a production code forced ending but till that point this entire film is decades ahead of its time.
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10/10
Stunning Screen Depiction Of Alcoholism
jem13225 May 2006
Warning: Spoilers
A landmark film at it's time of release for it's stark depiction of alcoholism, 'The Lost Weekend' has been somewhat forgotten over the years, even labelled 'dated'. My theory is that every film becomes dated after it's first day of release- nothing ever stays the same. 'The Lost Weekend' is hardly an old relic from a bygone era, though. Alcoholism is still a major problem for many 'ordinary folk' out there. Milland's stunning performance and Wilder's assured directorial skills combine to make a film that is as relevant today as it was back in 1945.

It's relevant because Milland's dive into the depths of drinking hell is treated so carefully, so earnestly. Every scene has a realistic feel-the alcoholics ward at the hospital and Milland's desperate search for a drink could have been played up to add to the drama, but they are kept in measure instead. While 'Days Of Wine and Roses' thrusts the problem in our faces somewhat, Wilder's film asks the viewer to think and make their own judgement.

It was a revolutionary film at the time of it's release for the portrayal of the alcoholic writer, Don Birnam (Milland). Before this film, alcoholics on screen were usually one of two sorts: 1. Dirty, slovenly, lecherous layabouts 2. Jovial, hefty old men who took a swing always in a merry and gregarious manner Birnam shatters the myth. This man could be your next-door neighbour, your brother, your college chum, because he feels so REAL. He's a talented guy (We hear how he was touted as being the next Hemingway), but he's ultimately an ordinary guy, the "nice young man who drinks". Milland is rather like James Stewart here, both in looks and acting style. He's the everyman, which makes his downfall even more painful and harrowing to watch.

There is a nice contrast here between the boozy romanticism of addiction and the awful aftermath. Birnam tells how he has delusions of grandeur when he drinks- he's confident, assured, ready to take on the whole world. We are drawn into Don's hazy, alcoholic dreams- until the morning after, when he is slumped, broken and unable to function. Both sides of the coin are being shown, which makes it easier to empathise with Don's position.

Don's drinking is not presented as his largest problem here- it is his lack of self-esteem, his inability to believe in himself and his own self-worth that make him turn to drink. So we look at the causes of alcoholism here also, not just the results.

Wilder maintains an appropriately gloomy, moody atmosphere throughout with some very nice camera work. Note the foggy haze that envelops the screen when Birnam sinks into despair, the use of superimposition with the coats and bottle etc. The 'mouse and bat' scene is painful to watch, as is Milland's reaction. Wilder's view of life on the edge is enough to turn anyone off alcohol, to see the bigger picture.

Milland gives one of the best male acting performances you'll ever see as Don Birnam. He deservedly won the Academy Award for Best Actor for an amazing turn. Wyman is also great as Don's sympathetic girlfriend Helen, who has more faith and determination that anyone I've seen. To some she may seem a forceful character, very cliché and sentimental, but the role and Wyman's performance is one of the things I just love about this film. Fine supporting work from Phillip Terry, Howard Da Silva and Doris Dowling round out the cast. Dowling's Gloria is obviously a call-girl, but with the Production Code in place this is skirted around.

Excellent film 10/10.
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10/10
BILLY WILDER'S DIVERSITY
WalterFrith25 January 1999
No director in film history is as successful at making extreme dramas like 'The Lost Weekend' and roaring comedies like 'Some Like It Hot' (1959). Billy Wilder's searing and intimate exploration of alcoholism was adult ground breaking material which was one of the pioneering elements for audiences today to enjoy films that continue to push the envelope.
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