Lost Weekend (Full Screen)
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The Best Picture of 1945 has lost none of its bite or power in this uncompromising look at the devastating effects of alcoholism. Ironically, this brilliant Billy Wilder film was almost never released because of poor reaction by preview audiences unaccustomed to such stark realism from Hollywood, but the film has since gone on to be regarded as one of the all-time great dramas in movie history. Ray Milland's haunting portrayal of a would-be writer's dissatisfaction with his life leads him on a self-destructive three-day binge. Filled with riveting imagery, the multiple Academy Award-winner offers an unforgettable view of life on the edge.
"I'm not a drinker--I'm a drunk." These words, and the serious message behind them, were still potent enough in 1945 to shock audiences flocking to The Lost Weekend. The speaker is Don Birnam (Ray Milland), a handsome, talented, articulate alcoholic. The writing team of producer Charles Brackett and director Billy Wilder pull no punches in their depiction of Birnam's massive weekend bender, a tailspin that finds him reeling from his favorite watering hole to Bellevue Hospital. Location shooting in New York helps the street-level atmosphere, especially a sequence in which Birnam, a budding writer, tries to hock his typewriter for booze money. He desperately staggers past shuttered storefronts--it's Yom Kippur, and the pawnshops are closed. Milland, previously known as a lightweight leading man (he'd starred in Wilder's hilarious The Major and the Minor three years earlier), burrows convincingly under the skin of the character, whether waxing poetic about the escape of drinking or screaming his lungs out in the D.T.'s sequence. Wilder, having just made the ultra-noir Double Indemnity, brought a new kind of frankness and darkness to Hollywood's treatment of a social problem. At first the film may have seemed too bold; Paramount Pictures nearly killed the release of the picture after it tested poorly with preview audiences. But once in release, The Lost Weekend became a substantial hit, and won four Oscars: for picture, director, screenplay, and actor. --Robert Horton --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Top Customer Reviews
Ray Milland (an actor who starred in several schlockfests at the end of his career, such as "Frogs") plays Don Birnam, a painfully insecure writer who just can't make his life work. Birnam quickly learned that the soothing balm of alcohol took the edge off his various phobias, but he just as quickly learned that drinking took the edge off his talent, too. For years, Birnam never wandered far from the neighborhood bar or the liquor store, secure in the knowledge that a bottle of rye was always within reach. His brother Wick not only financially supports his boozy sibling; he also covers for him when the drinking causes problems. Of course, Don doesn't care much about his brother one way or the other as long as he gets his shot of whisky when he needs it.Read more ›
The story starts as Don is about to go off with his brother to spend the weekend in a cottage somewhere.Don is an unemployed writer who has lived off the avails of his brother for years now.A brilliant and promising student in his younger days,he slipped into his alcoholism early on when his stories and his rejections started to get the best of him.Three years earlier he met his current girlfriend Helen while attending the opera La Traviata.One day she found out that Don was a drinker when his brother tried to unsuccessfully cover up for him.However,instead of leaving him for good,as he suggested,she stood by him.Three long and struggling years pass with no discernible progress to kick the habit.Then comes this fateful weekend and as he and brother are about to leave and Don asks his brother to postpone leaving and take Helen out to a show.He makes the excuse that he doesn't like opera anyways.In reality he can't wait for them to leave as Don has a bottle of whiskey dangling from a string outside the apartment window.Helen has flicked a cigarette towards that same open window but it landed on the ledge.Don's brother sees it and goes over to throw it off.Instead he finds the liquor bottle.This is the last straw,his brother cannot take it anymore and leaves him for good.
Don goes from his apartment to the local to drink and back.We watch as his actions become more and more desperate.Read more ›
There is little stigma attached to the problem today as compared to the self-loathing Milland felt & the repugnance the neighborhood & even his favorite bartender felt towards him. In fact, the long, fairly one-sided conversations with Nat the bartender, played by Howard de Silva, are some of the best scenes in the movie.
Brakett & Wilder took some chances in this ground-breaking movie. They fought the Hollywood studios who probably wanted it watered down & rendered more palatable. They didn't give in &, as a result, this was the best movie of the the year 1945. It was well deserved. Ray Milland also got an Oscar & he was never better. Jane Wyman does a fine job as his long suffering girl friend, Helen.
It is unbelievable that that kind of woman, a real lady, would put up with a loser like that for so long. But after all, this is a movie. A pat ending that doesn't matter at all. The combination of gritty, street level scenes of New York City, the noir atmosphere & black & white filming all combine to make this one of the best aging movies, still relavent, I've seen in a long time.
Billy Wilder's film adaptation of the novel by Charles Jackson does a fine job of detailing what happens to someone in the grips of alcoholism: the desparate need, the hallucinations, the blackouts, etc. Ray Milland delivers one of the finest screen performances as Don, giving the impression that you are living every moment with Don, suffering his hallucinations and withdrawal, and thirsting for alcohol. This performance also earned him the Best Actor Academy Award. Jane Wyman is wonderful as Don's girlfriend Helen, who wants to see him through this terrible ordeal. Phillip Terry also gives a strong performance as Don's brother Wick, who wants to help Don by being the strong one, but always caves in, feeding Don's dependency.
For anyone who has read the book, certain aspects from the story have been removed and altered, but this in no way detracts from this portrait of a man in the throes of alcoholism. It's still a very potent and powerful film dealing with an almost taboo subject at the time. Highly recommended.
Most recent customer reviews
This movie appealed to me because of Milland's awesome use of the English language. He is a writer who, although spends most of the movie in turmoil, really has a way with words. Read morePublished on Oct. 17 2011 by Amazon User
Alcoholism is a disease, and no other film before Billy Wilder's The Lost Weekend portrayed it as such. Read morePublished on Aug. 17 2007 by Nolene-Patricia Dougan
This movie which won 4 academy awards including best picture stars Ray Milland as a debonair drunk who hides alcohol in his apartment and cares more about booze than girls. Read morePublished on Jan. 15 2004 by Dorion Sagan
I can understand why the studio did not want to release "The Lost Weekend" in 1945: it's a gritty and realistic (sometimes horrifyingly so) account of an alcoholic's... Read morePublished on Feb. 6 2003 by Jennifer M.
Billy Wilder electrified the film world in 1944 with his brutally realistic film about lust and greed, "Double Indemnity. Read morePublished on Dec 19 2002 by William Hare
It's hard to believe that this movie was produced in 1945, a year which introduced Americans to the twin horrors of the Nazi concentration camps and the effects of the atomic bomb. Read morePublished on July 6 2002 by Greg McDowell
The best being the 'Days of Wine and Roses'. However this movie is a great movie about the relationship of a person and their alcohol. It is like a love affair. Read morePublished on July 5 2002 by Gregory R Waldrop
Alcoholism has been seen on movies for a very long time. Many people just haven't realized it because it was never something to care much for. Read morePublished on May 15 2002