Billy Wilder Blogathon: The Lost Weekend

I’m stepping out of the format for this blog to participate in a blogathon for Once Upon a Screen. Aurora has invited us to post in any way we would like on a Billy Wilder film. I was lucky in that no one had yet selected Wilder’s first Oscar winning project, “The Lost Weekend”. Maybe the reason that it had not been chosen yet is that unlike “Double Indemnity” which came out the year before, “The Lost Weekend” has not aged well. It does not fit into a well loved genre like “Double Indemnity” and “Sunset Blvd.”, it is not a beloved comedy featuring another Jack Lemmon performance, and it is as straight forward a drama as you might expect from any other film maker rather than Wilder. There are some very nice elements to it but it but it is also over the top and melodramatic and it sells out at the end, these are not characteristics of a Wilder film.

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The previous film that Wilder wrote and directed was the film noir featuring Barbara Stanwyck and Fred MacMurray. At the end of that picture, both of the protagonists are dead and the film is bleak. In “The Lost Weekend” we are shown how miserable and devastating alcoholism can be. Ray Milland gets to act his ass off because there are sequences that are truly harrowing. When the end comes, and the gun is in his hand and the bullets are in the gun, Wilder pulls back and and gives us an exit from the bleakness. Maybe that’s how the book that this is based on ends, I don’t know, I never read it, but it sure feels like an ending that would come from studio notes rather than following naturally from what we spent the earlier hundred minutes contemplating. Continue reading