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Days of Wine and Roses (film)

Days of Wine and Roses (1962) is a film directed by Blake Edwards with a screenplay by JP Miller adapted from his own critically acclaimed 1958 teleplay for Playhouse 90 of the same name (see: Days of Wine and Roses, 1958 TV drama). The movie was produced by Martin Manulis with Henry Mancini music, and features Jack Lemmon, Lee Remick, Charles Bickford and Jack Klugman.

The film depicts the insidious nature of addiction in modern life, following the downward spiral of two average Americans who succumb to alcoholism and attempt to deal with their problem.


Joe Clay (Jack Lemmon) meets and falls in love with Kirsten Arnesen (Lee Remick), a bright and non-drinking secretary. They marry, conceive a child and make a home for themselves.

Joe introduces Kirsten to social drinking and its pleasures. Reluctant at first, and after her first few Brandy Alexanders, she admits that having a drink "made me feel good."

Joe is a business man who slowly goes from the "two-martini lunch" to alcoholism and in due time both succumb to the pleasures and pain of alcohol addiction.

At one point Joe walks by a bar and sees his reflection in the window he goes home and says to his wife:

"I walked by Union Square Bar. I was going to go in. Then I saw myself, my reflection in the window, and I thought, 'I wonder who that bum is'? And then I saw it was me. Now look at me. I'm a bum. Look at me! Look at you. You're a bum. Look at you. And look at us. Look at us. C'mon look at us! See? A couple of bums."

Later, when Joe is demoted due to poor performance brought on by too much drink, he is sent out of town on business. Kirsten finds the best way to pass the time is to drink, and drink a lot. While drunk one afternoon she sets fire to their apartment and almost kills herself and their child.

When Joe finally gets sober for a while, with the help of Alcoholics Anonymous and their meetings, he tries to convince his wife to go dry. Joe explains to Kirsten:

"You remember how it really was? You and me and booze--a threesome. You and I were a couple of drunks on the sea of booze, and the boat sank. I got hold of something that kept me from going under, and I'm not going to let go of it. Not for you. Not for anyone. If you want to grab on, grab on. But there's just room for you and me--no threesome."

The film pulls no punches and by the end of the film it offers hope to viewers wishing to recover from the ravages of "King Alcohol" via the self-help group Alcoholics Anonymous.


JP Miller found his title in the 1896 poem "Vitae Summa Brevis Spem Nos Vetet Incohare Longam" by the English writer Ernest Dowson (1867-1900):
They are not long, the weeping and the laughter,
Love and desire and hate;
I think they have no portion in us after
We pass the gate.

They are not long, the days of wine and roses:
Out of a misty dream
Our path emerges for a while, then closes
Within a dream.

Miller's teleplay for Playhouse 90, also titled Days of Wine and Roses, had received favorable critical attention and was nominated for an Emmy in the category "Best Writing of a Single Dramatic Program - One Hour or Longer." Manulis, a Playhouse 90 producer, decided the material was ideal for a groundbreaking movie. Some critics observed that the movie lacked the impact of the original television production. In an article written for DVD Journal, critic D.K. Holm noted numerous changes that altered the original considerably when the material was filmed. He cites as an example the hiring of Jack Lemmon. With his participation "little remained of the founding teleplay, except for actor Charles Bickford reprising his role.

The film's Northern California locations included San Francisco, Albany and the Golden Gate Fields racetrack. The Oscar-winning song had music by Henry Mancini and lyrics by Johnny Mercer.

Edwards became a non-drinker a year after completing the film and went into substance recovery. He said that he and Jack Lemmon were heavy drinkers while making the film. Edwards used the theme of alcohol abuse often in his films, including: 10 (1979), Blind Date (1987), and Skin Deep (1989). Both Lemmon and Remick sought help from Alcoholics Anonymous long after they had completed the film. Lemmon revealed to James Lipton on Inside the Actors Studio his past drinking problems and his recovery. The film had a lasting effect in helping alcoholics deal with their problem. Today Days of Wine and Roses is required viewing in many alcoholic and drug rehabilitation clinics across America.



The producers used the following ironic tagline to market the film:
This, in its own terrifying way, is a love story.

The picture was released in the United States on a wide basis on December 26, 1962. The box office receipts for the film were good given the numbers reported are in 1962 dollars. Total sales were $8,123,077.


A DVD of the film was released on January 6, 2001 by Warner Home Video. The DVD contains an extra commentary track by director Blake Edwards, and an interview with Jack Lemmon. A laserdisc was released in 1990.

Critical reception

New York Times film critic, Bosley Crowther, liked the film and the acting but was disappointed in the way the story was written because the characters do not seem to overcome their problem. He wrote, "[It] is a commanding picture, and it is extremely well played by Mr. Lemmon and Miss Remick, who spare themselves none of the shameful, painful scenes. But for all their brilliant performing and the taut direction of Blake Edwards, they do not bring two pitiful characters to complete and overpowering life.

The staff at Variety magazine liked the film, especially the acting, writing, "Miller's grueling drama illustrates how the unquenchable lure of alcohol can supersede even love, and how marital communication cannot exist in a house divided by one-sided boozing...Lemmon gives a dynamic and chilling performance. Scenes of his collapse, particularly in the violent ward, are brutally realistic and terrifying. Remick, too, is effective, and there is solid featured work from Charles Bickford and Jack Klugman and a number of fine supporting performances.

In a review of the DVD critic Gary W. Tooze lauded Edward's direction and the acting, writing, "Blake Edwards's powerful adaptation of J.P. Miller's Playhouse 90 story, starring Jack Lemmon and Lee Remick in career performances, remains a variation in his body of work largely devoted to comedy...Lemmon is at his best and ditto for Remick in this harrowing tale of people consumed by their mutual addiction. This turns to an honest and heartbreaking portrayal of alcoholism as deftly done as any film I can remember.

Margaret Parsons, film curator at the National Gallery of Art, said, "[The film] remains one of the most gut-wrenching dramas of alcohol-related ruin and recovery ever captured on film...and it's also one of the pioneering films of the genre.

The review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes reported that 100% of critics gave the film a positive review, based on 7 reviews.


Academy Awards Wins (1963)

Academy Awards Nominations (1963)

Other wins

  • San Sebastián International Film Festival: OCIC Award Blake Edwards; Prize San Sebastián, Best Actor, Jack Lemmon; Best Actress, Lee Remick; 1963.
  • Fotogramas de Plata, Spain: Fotogramas de Plata; Best Foreign Performer, Jack Lemmon; 1964.

Other Nominations

  • Golden Globes: Golden Globe; Best Motion Drama Picture; Best Motion Drama Picture Actor, Jack Lemmon; Best Motion Drama Picture Actress, Lee Remick; Best Motion Picture Director, Blake Edwards; 1963.
  • British Academy of Film and Television Arts: BAFTA Film Award; Best Film from any Source, USA; Best Foreign Actor, Jack Lemmon; Best Foreign Actress, Lee Remick; 1964.

Other honors

Notable quotes

  • Joe: My name is Joe Clay. I'm an alcoholic.
  • Kirsten: Thanks for the compliment, but I know how I look. This is the way I look when I'm sober. It's enough to make a person drink, wouldn't you say? You see, the world looks so dirty to me when I'm not drinking. Joe, remember Fisherman's Wharf? The water when you looked too close? That's the way the world looks to me when I'm not drinking.



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