Film notes: The Lost Weekend (1945) directed by Billy Wider


US / 99 min / b&w / Paramount Pictures (as Paramount Pictures, Inc.)  Dir: Billy Wilder Pro: Charles Brackett Scr: Charles Brackett and Billy Wilder, based on the novel by Charles R. Jackson Cine: John F. Seitz Mus: Miklós Rózsa Cast: Ray Milland (Don Birnam), Jane Wyman (Helen St. James), Phillip Terry (Wick Birnam), Howard Da Silva (Nat), Doris Dowling (Gloria), Frank Faylen (‘Bim’ Nolan),  Mary Young (Mrs. Deveridge), Anita Bolster (Mrs. Foley), Lilian Fontaine (Mrs. St. James), Frank Orth (Opera cloak room attendant), and Lewis L. Russell (Mr. St. James) Plot Summary: Adapted from the 1944 novel of the same name by Charles Jackson, The Lost Weekend recounts the life of a writer in New York over the last half of a six year period and particularly during an alcoholic binge of almost 5 days. He has a severe alcohol problem and the movie pulls no punches in depicting it. (Source: Hollywood’s Golden age) Release Date: 16 November 1945 (USA), 14 February 1948 (Spain) Spanish title: Días sin huella IMDb Rating: 8.0

In summer 1946, with the war ended and American films once again appearing on Paris movie screens, several French critics became immediately attracted to certain dark movies with arresting visuals and a focus on psychology. French writers figured out what to call them. Nino Frank, writing for a French film journal, dubbed the movies film noir. The term was deliberately analogous to roman noir used to describe American “hard boiled” fiction. (Série noire was the title of a popular series of “hard-boiled” books first put out in ’45. The most popular were translations of English and American crime novels including James M. Cain’s Double Indemnity and W. R. Burnett’s Little Caesar) The five films mentioned in Frank’s August 1946 article about “film noir” were The Maltese Falcon; Double Indemnity; Laura; Murder, My Sweet; and The Lost Weekend. Citizen Kane was also listed but was rightly put in a category by itself. American film noir was an immediate hit amongst film critics and movie goers in France. It would be years before the term was used in America. The Lost Weekend today isn’t categorized as a noir by most but I think it probably should be. The film fits nicely between Wilder’s Double Indemnity and Sunset Blvd. (A note from the editor of Film Noir of the Week)

At the 18th Academy Awards in May 1946, The Lost Weekend received seven nominations and won in four categories (Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor and Best Screenplay). In 2011, The Lost Weekend was deemed “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant” by the United States Library of Congress and selected for preservation in the National Film Registry. The Registry said the film was “an uncompromising look at the devastating effects of alcoholism” and that it “melded an expressionistic film-noir style with documentary realism to immerse viewers in the harrowing experiences of an aspiring New York writer willing to do almost anything for a drink.” (Source: Wikipedia)

The Lost Weekend at American Film Institute

The Lost Weekend at IMDb

The Lost Weekend at Wikipedia

The Lost Weekend Film Site Movie Review

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