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The Lost Weekend(1945)

When Billy Wilder bought the rights to Charles R. Jackson’s novel about a writer burying his insecurities in drink, Hollywood had not yet dealt with alcoholism in a serious way. Wilder was partly inspired by his experience writing Double Indemnity (1944) with Raymond Chandler, who struggled with alcoholism, and hoped the film would help Wilder understand Chandler’s condition. It went further than that by educating returning veterans about the dangers of self-medicating with alcohol to deal with PTSD. To appease the Production Code, Wilder and co-writer Charles Brackett had to change the source of the protagonist’s drinking from repressed homosexuality to writer’s block. They gave the character a girlfriend, played by Jane Wyman who got her first chance to prove her chops as a dramatic actress. However, Ray Milland’s performance is the film’s highlight. Wilder wanted to cast stage star Jose Ferrer in the lead, but Paramount executives argued that audiences would only accept the film if it depicted a matinee idol like Milland in the throes of alcoholism. Milland’s wife convinced him that he could handle the role so he threw himself into it, gaining the proper gaunt look by starving himself and even checking into Bellevue Hospital to observe life in the “booze tank.” His performance earned him an Oscar for Best Actor and the film won Best Picture, Best Director and Best Screenplay. (d. Billy Wilder, 101m, Digital)

In attendance: KATE FLANNERY
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