Directed by Billy Wilder (Double Indemnity, Sunset Boulevard, Some Like It Hot), this gut-wrenching adaptation of Charles Jackson’s The Lost Weekend horrified its studio, was rejected by test audiences, and was lobbied by temperance groups, yet went on to huge success and became the awards sensation of its year.
Ray Milland stars as Don Birnam, a New York author struggling with years of alcoholism and writer’s block. Trying to keep him on the path to rehabilitation are his straight-laced brother Wick (Philip Terry) and devoted long-time girlfriend Helen (Jane Wyman). When Don absconds from a country excursion, he embarks on a four-day binge, spiralling towards rock bottom.
Winner of the Grand Prix at the first ever Cannes Film Festival, as well as Oscars for Best Picture, Director, Actor, and Screenplay, this brutal noir provided one of cinema’s first in-depth studies of addiction. —Eureka Entertainment
Originally planning to become a lawyer, Billy Wilder abandoned that career in favor of working as a reporter for a Viennese newspaper, using this experience to move to Berlin, where he worked for the city’s largest tabloid. He broke into films as a screenwriter in 1929, and wrote scripts for many German films until Adolf Hitler came to power in 1933. Wilder immediately realized his Jewish ancestry would cause problems, so he emigrated to Paris, then the US. Although he spoke no English when he arrived in Hollywood, Wilder was a fast learner, and thanks to contacts such as Peter Lorre (with whom he shared an apartment), he was able to break into American films. His partnership with Charles Brackett started in 1938 and the team was responsible for writing some of Hollywood’s classic comedies, including Ninotchka (1939) and Ball of Fire (1941). The partnership expanded into a producer-director one in 1942, with Brackett producing, and the two turned out such classics… read more
I'll always be amazed at this movie and the seriousness with which Ray Milland seems to have played this character. Like a little child, when Ray Milland is good in a role, he seems to be even better, because of some sort of determination we imagine inside him. It's worth watching and rewatching, suffering and resuffering, loving and admiring.
Absolutely fantastic. In imagery and in story. Ray Millard's performance is the worthiest performance in Oscar terms. He is unrivaled in this one. Billy Wilder has put out a few gems, but this one stands closest to the top. Brilliant filmmaking, screenwriting, and acting. A must-see.
Also: Best of 2011 from the San Francisco Bay Guardian, In Review Online and more. And 11-year-old Scorsese’s storyboards.