The Lost Weekend (film): Wikis


Note: Many of our articles have direct quotes from sources you can cite, within the Wikipedia article! This article doesn't yet, but we're working on it! See more info or our list of citable articles.


From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The Lost Weekend

Theatrical release poster
Directed by Billy Wilder
Produced by Charles Brackett
Written by Story:
Charles R. Jackson
Charles Brackett
Billy Wilder
Starring Ray Milland
Jane Wyman
Music by Miklós Rózsa
Cinematography John F. Seitz
Distributed by Paramount Pictures
Release date(s) November 16, 1945 (1945-11-16)
Running time 101 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $1,250,000 (est.)

The Lost Weekend is a 1945 American drama film directed by Billy Wilder and starring Ray Milland and Jane Wyman. The film was based on a novel of the same title by Charles R. Jackson about a writer who drinks heavily out of frustration over the accusation that he had an affair with one of his buddies while in college. The reference to the homosexual affair is removed in the film, and the main character's descent into an alcoholic binge is blamed on personal frustration and more general doubts about his identity.

The film's musical score was among the first to use the theremin, which was used to create the pathos of the disease of alcoholism. This movie also made famous the "character walking toward the camera as neon signs pass by" camera effect. Rights to the film are currently held by Universal Studios as they own the pre-1950 Paramount sound feature film library.



The film recounts the life of an alcoholic New York writer, Don Birnam (Milland), over the last half of a six year period, and in particular on a weekend alcoholic binge.

Moving from a shot of the Manhattan skyline to an apartment, with a whiskey bottle hung outside a window, Don and Wick are packing for a weekend vacation. Don, a supposed recovering alcoholic, has been on the wagon for ten days Wick believes. After Don's girlfriend Helen St. James (Wyman) arrives, Don urges his brother to agree to taking a later train, and urges him to go to a Barbirolli concert with Helen, while he collects his thoughts at home. Wick (Phillip Terry), having disposed of his brother's hidden supply of drink, reluctantly agrees, despite seeing Helen as his brother's 'girl'. Helen, slightly mockingly, claims to be trying not to love Don while he is trying not to drink. On their way out of the building, Wick reassures Helen he has found Don's hidden supply of alcohol, and points out Don is broke. A few minutes later, the cleaning lady arrives for work, but Don cons her out of her wages, and sends her away.

Don misses the later train he is meant to catch by overstaying at his favorite watering hole — Nat's Bar on Third Avenue, based on the legendary P. J. Clarke's. Now effectively rejecting his brother, Wick intends to leave without him, though Helen is wary of leaving Don alone for four days; she is currently very busy with her work at Time magazine. While Wick is leaving the building, he urges Helen to give herself a chance by dropping Don, but Helen waits; Don sneaks into his apartment to drink and hide the cheap whiskey he has bought. The following morning he finds a message from Helen pinned to his front door, urging him to call her.

While drinking back at Nat's Bar, Don recounts his history to Nat (Howard Da Silva), who is reluctant to fuel Don's habit, though he easily gives way. Don met Helen three years earlier at the Metropolitan Opera after a matinee performance of La Traviata thanks to mislabeled coats. In his mind, during "Libiamo ne' lieti calici" ("the drinking song") in the first act, the singers on the stage are converted into a row of raincoats identical to Don's; his contains a bottle of rye whiskey. He leaves the performance early, and on collecting his coat is presented with a woman's leopardskin coat. After the performance ends, he waits until everyone has claimed their coat until he is able to exchange coats with Helen; they had sat in neighboring seats, but evidently did not speak. She finds him rude, but they quickly develop a rapport, especially after the bottle falls out of his coat pocket (allegedly intended for a friend), and he accepts her invitation to a cocktail party. In the event, he drinks tomato juice and avoids alcohol for weeks.

Things become serious. One day he is due to meet Helen's parents, visiting from Toledo, Ohio, whom he overhears taking apart his perceived character in the hotel lobby; his anxiety overpowering, he escapes into the phone booth as Helen arrives and, while clandestinely observing her, asks her to go ahead with dinner without him. This incident was responsible for his return to drink. Later, after Wick attempts to cover for his intoxicated absence, Don comes out of hiding and confesses his problem with alcohol to Helen. He recognizes himself as two people: 'Don the writer' and 'Don the drunk', who is dependent on his brother. (Repeatedly in this scene, the London version of Sunflowers by Vincent van Gogh is shown on Don's living room wall.) Don explains that he dropped out of college (earlier revealed to be Cornell) because he was convinced he was already a Hemingway, a 'great writer', but as doubts over his capabilities grew in his mind, he found drink offered a release. Don says he can only gain ideas as a writer while drunk, but forgets them when sober. Don suggests Helen drop him, but his words only strengthen her resolve to help him.

In the present, Don cannot find a hidden bottle of whiskey, but discovers the name of a bar he has not visited before on a pack of matches. In order to pay his bill at Harry & Joe's, he removes a woman's handbag, and in the men's room, succeeds in retrieving a sufficient amount to pay his bill. The woman though has recognized the theft, and he is identified as the culprit; he admits to the money he has taken. The woman takes pity on his drunken state and does not press charges. He is thrown out, after being told not to return.

The next day, Saturday, the phone rings repeatedly. Don supposes it is Helen, but ignores his caller. Later, he fails to pawn his typewriter; all the Third Avenue pawnshops are closed because of the Yom Kippur (day of atonement) holiday (which dates the weekend to late September or early October). Nat finally refuses to serve him. Don visits another habitué of Nat's Bar, Gloria (Doris Dowling), who he had half-seriously propositioned at the bar after she had fobbed off the janitor of his building (as it later emerges), but who has admitted being attracted to him. She is now angry over his broken dates, but after he kisses her in desperation, she gives in and hands over a little money. He then falls down the stairs and is knocked unconscious. Coming around in the alcoholics ward of a hospital on Sunday, he is confronted by 'Bim' Nolan (Frank Faylen) who mockingly recounts the histories of other patients at 'Hangover Plaza', though he admits admissions were more numerous during prohibition, and offers him a solution to counteract the effects of the DTs, which Don refuses. At the second attempt, during the night, Don succeeds in escaping from the ward while the staff are occupied with a more disturbed and violent patient, and the hospital by early morning, despite only wearing a stolen coat over his pajamas.

Meanwhile, Helen sleeps on the stairs outside his apartment. Don always ignores his delivered milk and newspaper, but Helen is woken by the milkman. Don's unsympathetic landlady assumes he is on one of his benders, and because of his drinking, tells Helen she would be better off if he were dead. Elsewhere, Don snatches a cheap bottle of whiskey from an assistant at a liquor store just opening for the day. He returns home: he ignores the phone. Later, while inebriated, he imagines a mouse appearing out of a crack in the wall and a bat flying around his living room; 'Bim' had explained earlier that alcoholics usually imagine seeing small animals rather than 'pink elephants'. Helen returns, alerted over the phone by Don's landlady who can hear his screams, and finding him in a delirious state, vows to look after him, spending the night for reasons of propriety (and the Production code) on Don's couch.

In the morning, Tuesday, Don is again absent. Helen finds out that Don has pawned her coat (the one which brought them together) for his gun. Once more, Helen returns to Don's apartment: he is eager to get rid of her, though she asks for, and is loaned his raincoat, and Don claims their relationship is at an end. Helen though spots the gun concealed in the wash basin in the bathroom, via a reflection in a mirror, and offers him drink as a distraction. Quickly, she is able to retrieve the gun, and reiterates her love for him.

Nat returns Don's typewriter, which he lost at Gloria's home during his fall. After Helen persuades him that 'Don the writer' and 'Don the drunk' are the same person, Don finally commits to writing his novel The Bottle, dedicated to Helen, recounting the events of the weekend. He drops a cigarette into a glass of whisky, rather than drinking it. Recalling, while packing for his lost weekend, that his mind was on a bottle suspended just outside his window, he ponders, over a reversal of the opening shot, how many other people are in the same position as himself in New York City.

Awards and honors

Academy Awards

At the 18th Academy Awards, The Lost Weekend received seven nominations, from which it won four awards.

Cannes Film Festival

This film also shared the 1945 Grand Prix du Festival International du Film at the first Cannes Film Festival and Milland was awarded Best Actor. To date, The Lost Weekend and Marty (1955) are the only films ever to win both the Academy Award for Best Picture and the highest award at the Cannes Film Festival. (Marty received the Palme d'Or (Golden Palm), which, beginning at the 1955 festival, replaced the Grand Prix du Festival International du Film as the highest award.)

Adaptations to Other Media

The Lost Weekend was adapted as a radio play on the January 7, 1946 broadcast of The Screen Guild Theater, starring Ray Milland, Jane Wyman, and Frankie Faylen in their original film roles.

On March 10, 1946 -- three days after winning the Academy Award -- Ray Milland appeared as a guest on a radio broadcast of The Jack Benny Show. In a spoof of The Lost Weekend, Ray and Jack Benny played alchoholic twin brothers. Phil Harris -- who normally played Jack Benny's hard-drinking bandleader on the show -- played the brother who tried to convince Ray and Jack to give up liquor. ("Ladies and gentlemen," said an announcer, "the opinions expressed by Mr. Harris are written in the script and are not necessarily his own.") In the alchoholic ward scene, smart-aleck Frank Nelson played the ward attendant who promised Ray and Jack that they would soon start seeing DT visions of strange animals. When the DT visions appeared (with Mel Blanc providing pig squeals, monkey chatters, and other animal sound effects), Ray chased them off. "Ray, they're gone!" Benny shouted. "What did you do?" Milland replied, "I threw my Oscar at them!"

In popular culture

  • In the 1947 Bugs Bunny cartoon Slick Hare, a caricatured Ray Milland is shown sitting at a bar and paying for his drink with a typewriter — getting small typewriters as his 'change'.
  • In Tex Avery's 1947 cartoon King-Size Canary, a mouse character is shown reading a book called "The Lost Squeak-end".
  • Tribute was paid to the film in the Simpsons episode "A Star Is Burns": Barney Gumble's short film "Puke-a-Hontas" recreates several of the iconic images such as the main character lying on his bed surrounded by the detritus of his addiction.
  • In The Simpsons season 11 episode Pygmoelian, the entrance sign to 'Duff Days' (a festival sponsored by Duff Brewery) billed the festival as "A Lost Weekend for the Whole Family"
  • In the Stephen Fry novel The Liar, the main character, Adrian, quotes The Lost Weekend talking about alcohol when he is expressing his love for a fellow boy at his public school to a friend.
  • Some of the scenes of Don Birnam wandering the streets in search of an open shop to pawn his typewriter were used in the ending credits of the Roseanne episode "One For the Road". In said episode, 14-year-old Becky gets drunk while her parents are out of town.
  • Elements of the movie were incorporated into Steve Martin's noir-parody film Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid.
  • In Jack Kerouac and William S. Burroughs' collaborative novel, And the Hippos Were Boiled in Their Tanks, characters, Phillip and Ryko, were in a bar said by Phillip to be the same bar where Don Birnam drank in 1945 movie, The Lost Weekend

External links

Awards and achievements
Preceded by
Going My Way
Academy Award for Best Picture
Succeeded by
The Best Years of Our Lives


Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiquote

The Lost Weekend is a 1945 film about a four-day drinking bout in the desperate life of a chronic alcoholic.

Directed by Billy Wilder. Written by Charles Brackett and Billy Wilder, based on the novel by Charles R. Jackson.
The Screen Dares To Open The Strange And Savage Pages Of A Shocking Best-Seller! taglines


Don Birnam

  • It shrinks my liver, doesn't it, Nat? It pickles my kidneys, yes. But what does it do to my mind? It tosses the sandbags overboard so the balloon can soar. Suddenly, I'm above the ordinary. I'm competent, supremely competent. I'm walking a tightrope over Niagara Falls. I'm one of the great ones. I'm Michelangelo, molding the beard of Moses. I'm Van Gogh, painting pure sunlight. I'm Horowitz, playing the Emperor Concerto. I'm John Barrymore before the movies got him by the throat. I'm Jesse James and his two brothers — all three of 'em. I'm W. Shakespeare. And out there it's not Third Avenue any longer: it's the Nile, Nat, the Nile — and down it moves the barge of Cleopatra.

"Bim" Nolan

  • If we let you guys go home alone, a lot of you don't go home. You just hit the nearest bar and bounce right back again. What we call the quick ricochet... This department is sort of a halfway hospital, halfway jail... Listen, I can pick an alkie with one eye shut. You're an alkie. You'll come back. They all do. [gesturing toward other patients] Him, for instance. He shows up every month — just like the gas bill. And the one there with the glasses — another repeater. This is his forty-fifth trip. A big executive in the advertising business. A lovely fellow. Been coming here since 1927 — good ol' Prohibition days. Say, you should have seen the joint then. This is nothing. Back then, we really had a turn-over. Standing-room only. Prohibition. That's what started most of these guys off. Whoopee!
  • There'll happen to be a little floor show later on around here. It might get on your nerves... Ever have the DT's?... You will, brother... After all, you're just a freshman. Wait'll you're a sophomore. That's when you start seeing the little animals. You know that stuff about pink elephants? That's the bunk. It's little animals! Little tiny turkeys in straw hats. Midget monkeys coming through the keyholes. See that guy over there? With him it's beetles. Come the night, he sees beetles crawling all over him. Has to be dark though. It's like the doctor was just telling me: delirium is a disease of the night. Good night.


Don: Let me work it out my way, I'm trying. I'm trying!
Helen: I know you're trying, Don. We're both trying. You're trying not to drink and I'm trying not to love you.

Helen: If he's left alone, anything can happen. And I'm tied up at the office every minute, all Saturday, all Sunday. I can't look out for him. You know how he gets. He'll be run over by a car. He'll be arrested. He doesn't know what he's doing. A cigarette might fall from his mouth and he'll burn in bed.
Wick: If it happens, it happens, and I hope it does. I've had six years of this. I've had my bellyfull... Who are we fooling? We've tried everything, haven't we? We've reasoned with him. We've baited him. We've watched him like a hawk. We've tried trusting him. How often have you cried? How often have I beaten him up? Scrape him out of a gutter and pump some kind of self-respect into him and back he falls, back in every time.
Helen: He's a sick person. It's as though there was something wrong with his heart or his lungs. You wouldn't walk out on him if he had an attack. He needs our help.
Wick: He won't accept our help. Not Don. He hates us. He wants to be alone with that bottle of his. It's all he gives a hang about. Why kid ourselves? He's a hopeless alcoholic. Let go of him, Helen. Give yourself a chance.

Nat: Why don't you cut it short?
Don: I can't cut it short. I'm on that merry-go-round. You gotta ride it all the way. Round and round until that blasted music wears itself out and the thing dies down and comes to a stop... At night, the stuff's a drink. In the morning, it's medicine... It's a terrifying problem, Nat, because if it's dawn, you're dead. The bars are closed and the liquor stores don't open until nine o'clock and you can't last until nine o'clock. Or maybe Sunday, that's the worst. No liquor stores at all, and you guys wouldn't open a bar, not until one o'clock. Why? WHY, Nat?

Don: I'm a writer. I just started a novel. As a matter of fact, I've started several but I never seem to finish one.
Helen: Well, in that case, why don't you write short stories?
Don: Oh, I have some of those — first paragraphs. And there's one half of the opening scene of a play which takes place in the leaning tower of Pisa that attempts to explain why it leans and why all sensible buildings should lean.
Helen: They'll love that in Toledo.

Helen: What is it you want to be so much that you're not?
Don: A writer. It's silly, isn't it? You know, in college, I passed for a genius. They couldn't get out the college magazine without one of my stories. Boy, was I hot! Hemingway stuff. I reached my peak when I was nineteen. Sold a piece to The Atlantic Monthly. Reprinted in the Reader's Digest... My mother bought me a brand-new typewriter and I moved right in on New York. Well, the first thing I wrote, that didn't quite come off. And the second I dropped — the public wasn't ready for that. I started a third and a fourth. Only by then, somebody began to look over my shoulder and whisper in a thin, clear voice like the E string on a violin. "Don Birnam," he whispered, "It's not good enough, not that way. How about a couple of drinks just to set it on its feet, huh?" So I had a couple. Oh, what a great idea that was! That made all the difference. Suddenly I could see the whole thing. The tragic sweep of the great novel beautifully proportioned. But before I could really grab it and throw it down on paper, the drinks would wear off and everything would be gone like a mirage. Then there was despair, and a drink to counter-balance despair, and then one to counter-balance the counter-balance. I'd sit in front of that typewriter trying to squeeze out one page that was halfway decent and that guy would pop up again... the other Don Birnam. There are two of us, you know. Don the drunk and Don the writer. And the drunk would say to the writer, "Come on, you idiot. Let's get some good out of that portable. Let's hock it. Let's take it to that pawn shop over on Third Avenue. It's always good for ten dollars." Another drink, another binge, another bender, another spree. Such humorous words. I've tried to break away from that guy a lot of times, but no good. You know, once I even got myself a gun and some bullets. I was gonna do it on my thirtieth birthday. Here are the bullets. The gun went for three quarts of whiskey. That other Don wanted us to have a drink first. He always wants us to have a drink first. The flop suicide of a flop writer.


  • The Screen Dares To Open The Strange And Savage Pages Of A Shocking Best-Seller!
  • How daring can the screen dare to be? No adult man or woman can risk missing the startling frankness of The Lost Weekend.


External links

Wikipedia has an article about:

Got something to say? Make a comment.
Your name
Your email address