Billy Wilder’s multi award winning The Lost Weekend was one of the first movies to tackle the pull of alcohol head on. The fantastic script details four days in the life of long time alcoholic Don Birnam (Ray Milland) who despite his best intentions to stay sober, ends up down an ever spiralling path of addiction. The winner of four Oscars and nominated for three more on top, The Lost Weekend was one of Wilder’s most lauded films and has lost little of its potency in the near seventy years since its release. Opening in the apartment which Birnam shares with his long suffering and devoted bother, Wick Birnam (Phillip Terry) is attempting to get his brother out of the city and away from the temptation of liquor for a few days. He hopes that the cold turkey approach will aid in his brother’s recovery and allow him the time and clear head to write – a career which Don attributes to himself with little evidence of success.
This first scene displays Don’s dependency through the use of the first of several hidden bottles of rye. Whilst packing, Don tries to slip into his case a bottle which he has attached to a rope swinging outside his window. This, unlike many other bottles is soon discovered but Don still manages to wriggle out of the booze free break and instead settles in for a weekend of petty criminality and hard drinking. Don’s first act of cruelty in the pursuit of his fix is to steal the $10 which his brother has left for the housekeeper. He lies to her that the money (her wage) isn’t waiting for her and purchases two bottles before heading to the bar for a drink. The look on Don’s face when he is presented with the short glass of light brown liquid tells us all we need to know about his addition. He’s like a child of Christmas Day, eager, excited, unable to wait. The first drink is downed and swiftly followed by several more.