Monday, January 26, 2009

1/22/09: The Lost Weekend (1945)

I suppose I reached for this multi-Oscar winner to cleanse myself after viewing yesterday's garbage. Although I find alcohol itself distasteful, for some reason I've always had a taste for alcoholism stories. (Two of my favorite books are Jack B. Weiner's The Morning After and Charles Webb's Booze.) So it was a cinch that I'd take to this movie like its protagonist takes to rye whiskey. Ray Milland is Don Birnam, a would-be novelist whose binges have begun to alarm his brother and girlfriend, who are encouraging him to stay on the wagon. But Birnam keeps boozing, and the movie shows us how quickly and horrifically he sinks to the bottom—in fact, at times it actually does resemble a horror movie.

The film version of Charles R. Jackson's acclaimed book is said to be the first honest depiction of the ravages of alcoholism, which Hollywood had previously treated as one big joke. The movie's in black and white, but Milland's self-hatred and pathos comes across in full color. I found it very entertaining, although the musical soundtrack at times is overly melodramatic. Jane Wyman (who was married to Ronald Reagan, her third of five husbands, at the time of this picture) is quite fetching. Rating: 4/5.

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