Film and Food

Movies reviews with matching food – eat, watch, enjoy

Best Picture – The Lost Weekend (1945)

Starring Ray Milland & Jane Wyman

Rating 7/10

Once again we find ourselves in the big apple, New York City. This time we follow the life and times of a writer, doing it tough due to his addiction to alcohol and self-pity.

Don Birnam (Milland) is a lost little puppy indulging himself in a ‘lost weekend’ which includes reflecting on his sad, sorry little life and what could have been. He feels his writing is at its best when he is intoxicated, saying that he gets the best ideas but forgets them when he is sober. Perhaps he should write it down in the moment? If he can see, that is! His weekend bender begins when his brother, Wick (Phillip Terry) arrives to take him away for the weekend. To get out of ‘dodge’ and remain firmly on the wagon.

With the arrival of his girlfriend, Helen (Wyman), Don suggests they take the later train and that his brother takes his girlfriend to a concert while he wallows at home. Warning, warning, danger!!! Wick agrees, though he thinks it odd as we all do. Off they totter to the concert and things go downhill from there. Don misses the later train and walks around NYC begging, stealing every drop of alcohol he can get his greedy little hands on. Helen is urged by all wise people around him to drop him and drop him hard but, loyal thing, she hangs in there with the slobbery Don and inspires him to sober up and write his story. A light goes on in his head, perhaps he’s not alone, perhaps instead of wallowing he can actually help other people! Hooray happy ending!

This film was ground breaking in many ways. It was the first time Hollywood tackled a real and serious topic with gritty reality. In the past, drunks had been the clowns in films and it was never depicted as a disease in any real way. The Lost Weekend was also one of the first films to use the Theremin, an electronic musical instrument, to create a depressing, emotive atmosphere.

At the time, the audience found this film to be quite confronting in its realism. It was heavily censored however, with no bedroom scenes (Helen slept on the couch when she had a sleep over with Don). The original novel revealed that the source of Don’s depression was a homosexual affair he’d had with one of his buddies in college many moons ago, the shame of this driving him mad.

Overall, this was a brave film for the time. Instead of providing audiences with a fake, saccharine storyline to make them feel good, The Lost Weekend served up a cautionary tale of alcoholism and the devastating effects it has on society.

The Lost Weekend Trivia:

  • Budget – $1.25 million
  • Reportedly, the alcohol industry offered Director, Billy Wilder, $5 million not to release the film.
  • The song playing in Don’s flashback to La Traviata is the drinking song.
  • Cary Grant turned down the lead for this movie, was it too controversial for the straight laced Grant?

From a depressing New York City writer to a bunch of returned servicemen. Join us next time when we look at The Best Years of our Lives, starring Fredric March and Myrna Loy.

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2 comments on “Best Picture – The Lost Weekend (1945)

  1. you know me
    January 27, 2011

    very interesting movie,funny how the alcohol industry didn’t want it to be shown,can you get it from video stores at all? Or just online:)

    • oscarclub
      January 27, 2011

      It’s pretty hard to track down. I only found it on eBay!

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