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Weekend’s Best Bet Continued…

In running through TCM’s lineup for this weekend, I came across far too many good flicks to list in my regular viewing recommendations in the left column. Not only are there a number of gems showing this weekend, but I have already written about them. So click on the links below to learn more about the movies and consider checking them out yourself this weekend. P.S. All times are Eastern Standard Time and on the U.S. programming schedule.

Beware, My Lovely
6:30 pm Friday on TCM
Ida Lupino, Robert Ryan

The Lost Weekend
10 pm Friday on TCM
Ray Milland, Jane Wyman

Sunrise
8 pm Saturday on TCM
Janet Gaynor, George O’Brien

The Great Race
1 pm Sunday on TCM
Tony Curtis, Jack Lemmon

Butterfield 8
10 pm Sunday on TCM
Elizabeth Taylor, Laurence Harvey

 

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It’s a Great Feeling

Gasser

It's a Great Feeling (1949)

     I’ve never really been sold on Doris Day as an actress; however my vocabulary on the subject is limited. I would not say that It’s a Great Feeling –her third film– really showed her in the best light, but the flick itself is somewhat intriguing. Self reflexive pictures are not much of a rarity, with many titles from the thirties and forties showing us the backstage drama of theater and movie production. This movie, however, takes it to a new level.

     With the exception of some side characters and the producer role, Day is the only character who does not play herself. It’s a Great Feeling depicts the efforts of two actors —Jack Carson and Dennis Morgan— to convince the producer of their picture to hire an unknown actress/singer looking for a break. Besides screen tests, the story involves no actual filming of their feature, “Mademoiselle Fifi”. Instead, the duo try to have producer Arthur Trent (Bill Goodwin) discover Day’s character on his own by planting her as an elevator operator, cabbie, optometrist’s assistant, etc. Each time she comes into contact with the man, however, she flutters her eyes, quivers her smiling lips and emits a bizarre squeaking sound. Trent gradually loses his mind as he cannot understand why he keeps seeing the same woman everywhere he glances and fails to pick her up as a potential actress. Meanwhile Carson and Morgan are unsuccessfully vying for the protagonist’s affections.

     The story is a bit scatter-brained as the trio endeavor to force discovery of the young unknown onto their producer, instead of just offering her up themselves (Carson is directing the picture). The songs are pretty good, made better by Day’s lovely singing voice, but the best entertainment the flick offers is in its cameos. Not only does the film’s director David Butler show up to decline directing “Mademoiselle Fifi,” but so do King Vidor, Michael Curtiz and Raoul Walsh. Because the film is set primarily on the Warner Bros. lot, we are entreated to a variety of the studio’s stars at the time: Ronald Reagan, Gary Cooper, Jane Wyman and the prettiest and youngest Patricia Neal I have ever seen, and the list goes on. I particularly enjoyed Joan Crawford‘s spot during which she starts an uproar that concludes with her slapping both Carson and Morgan. In response to “what was that all about,” she says “I do that in all my pictures.”

The Lost Weekend

Ring a Ding Ding

The Lost Weekend (1945)

     Alcohol was ever-present in old movies as were people going on the occasional bender and the familiar drunk character. Never before, however, have I seen a classic film tackle the subject of alcoholism, let alone use that term. The Lost Weekend depicts the dark existence of a man addicted to alcohol and the four-day weekend that seems to turn things around.

    The film never supposes that the events occurring within are in any way more extreme than what Don Birnam (Ray Milland) has played out over the past six years of his addiction, yet at the film’s close we are left thinking this will be the time he breaks free. Birnam is a failed writer who turned to alcohol after promising early career prospects marked the peak in a since-dwindling talent. He lives by the good graces of his brother, Wick, played by Phillip Terry. The film opens with a great moving shot of New York City that pulls us toward a particular brick building, zooming in on a window from which a bottle of rye hangs by a rope. Inside Don and Wick are packing for a four-day or more weekend at “the farm,” where Don can recover from “what he’s been through”. The man is supposedly back on the wagon and intends to take his typewriter with him to work on a novel, but while his brother digs in a closet for the device, Don tries unsuccessfully to detach the rye from its rope.

     Don’s girlfriend Helen (Jane Wyman) arrives to wish them well, but Don persuades his brother that they can take a later train so that Helen has a parter with which to attend the symphony. That partner is not Don, however; it’s Wick. Assuring the pair that he will remain in the apartment and stay off the stuff, Don instead hits the liquor store and his favorite bar after tracking down $10 in the apartment meant for the cleaning lady. Although he asks the bartender to remind him to leave by a certain time to meet his brother for the train, Don is long past drunk by the time he is late and his brother goes to the farm without him. Helen waits but Don sneaks past her into the apartment where he finishes one of the two bottles.

     A number of events ensue over the next several days. When his money runs out Don goes to pawn his typewriter, but being Yom Kippur, no hock shop is open. He visits a bar regular at her apartment (after having stood her up for a date) and begs for money. On his way out he falls down some stairs and wakes up in the alcoholic ward of the hospital. There he learns about the delusions his peers suffer. After escaping from the hospital he returns home with a new bottle, discovers the imaginary “tiny animals” himself and begins screaming. Helen comes to the rescue and tries to clean up her man. Instead, he takes off with her leopard coat and pawns it in exchange for his old gun.

     The Lost Weekend is brimming with one impactful event after another. Director Billy Wilder adapted the tale from the novel by Charles R. Jackson. Wilder had picked up the book when stopping in Chicago in the midst of a Hollywood-to-New York train trip. By the time he reached the Big Apple, he was calling studios about acquiring the film rights. Wilder knew the movie would bring the lead actor an Oscar, which it did, but he might not have guessed that it would win Best Picture, Best Director and Best Screenplay. Miland truly deserves his award. With his facial expressions alone the man shares paranoia, fear, relief, hatred and anguish with the audience. It is difficult to know what an alcoholic experiences without being one, but Miland truly does make the viewer understand how it might feel. A grand picture all around.

  • The Lost Weekend is set for noon ET Jan. 30 and 10 a.m. ET Feb. 28 on TCM.
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