With Ray Milland, Jane Wyman, Philip Terry, Howard Da Silva, Doris Dowling
Co-Written and Directed by Billy Wilder
Black and White
Reviewed by JB

Hocked his Metrocard for booze      Looking for something to read on a trip, director Billy Wilder picked up The Lost Weekend by Charles R. Jackson, along with several other novels.  By the time he finished the book, Wilder knew he had the subject for his next movie.  Paramount initially balked, thinking the subject of alcoholism would be box-office poison, but on the strength of Wilder's reputation as a writer and director, they purchased the rights to the book.  The film eventually won four Academy Awards:  Best Picture, Actor, Director and Writer.

      Directed with more stylistic flair than usual by Wilder, and featuring a haunting score (featuring the theremin, later to be a staple of 1950s sci-fi films) by Miklos Rozsa, THE LOST WEEKEND may have been the first movie to expose the debilitating nature of alcoholism to a movie-going audience used to the tipsy antics of W. C. Fields, Jack Norton and Arthur Housman.  The story of a writer (Ray Milland) whose writer's block is tied to his fear of failure and lack of self-worth, THE LOST WEEKEND literally becomes a horror film on par with the best of Universal, as Milland falls deeper and deeper under the spell of the bottle over an extended weekend.  Location filming in New York City (sometimes with hidden cameras), the theremin score and the camerawork of Wilder and  cinematographer John F. Seitz all support a brilliant, unrelentingly desperate performance by Ray Milland.  Milland put himself on a strict diet to lose weight and spent a night at Bellevue's alcoholism ward to make sure his portrayal of the ravages of chronic drunkenness would ring true.  He was rewarded on Oscar night with a well-deserved Best Actor trophy. 4½ - JB

Billy Wilder    The Stuff You Gotta Watch


"Don't wipe it away, Nat. Let me have my little vicious circle. You know, the circle is the perfect geometric figure. No end, no beginning."



    In the thirties and forties, if you were a big star in Hollywood, it was almost inevitable that you would be caricatured in an animated cartoon by Disney, Warners or Fleischers.  In Friz Freling's Slick Hare (1947), an animated Ray Milland is shown paying for his drink at a nightclub with his typewriter (in The Lost Weekend, Milland's alcoholic writer has a history of hocking his typewriter for liquor money).  In the cartoon, Milland receives his change... in the form of several mini-typewriters!

Stuff You Gotta Watch
Copyright © 2010 John V. Brennan, John Larrabee