The Lost Weekend

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The Lost Weekend is a 1945 film about a four-day drinking bout in the desperate life of a chronic alcoholic.

Directed by Billy Wilder. Written by Charles Brackett and Billy Wilder, based on the novel by Charles R. Jackson.
The Screen Dares To Open The Strange And Savage Pages Of A Shocking Best-Seller! taglines

Don Birnam

  • I want to be alone for a couple of hours to kind of assemble myself. Is that such an extraordinary thing to want?
  • [when a hidden bottle is discovered] I didn't know it was there. Even if I had, I wouldn't have touched it. Do you think I wanted you out of the apartment because of the bottle? I resent that like the devil. If there's one more word of discussion, I don't leave on your blasted weekend.
  • You know what brand, Mr. Brophy. The cheapest. None of that twelve year old aged in wood - not for me.
  • [about the drink circles left on the bar] Don't wipe it away, Nat. Let me have my little vicious circle. You know, the circle is the perfect geometric figure. No end, no beginning.
  • What you don't understand, all of you, is that I've got to know it's around. That I can have it if I need it. I can't be cut off completely. That's the devil. That's what drives you crazy.
  • Come on, Nat. Join me - one little jigger of dreams, huh?
  • It shrinks my liver, doesn't it, Nat? It pickles my kidneys, yes. But what does it do to my mind? It tosses the sandbags overboard so the balloon can soar. Suddenly, I'm above the ordinary. I'm competent, supremely competent. I'm walking a tightrope over Niagara Falls. I'm one of the great ones. I'm Michelangelo, molding the beard of Moses. I'm Van Gogh, painting pure sunlight. I'm Horowitz, playing the Emperor Concerto. I'm John Barrymore before the movies got him by the throat. I'm Jesse James and his two brothers - all three of 'em. I'm W. Shakespeare. And out there it's not Third Avenue any longer - it's the Nile, Nat, the Nile - and down it moves the barge of Cleopatra. Come here...
  • That's my novel, Nat...I was to start writing it out in the country. Morbid stuff. Nothing for the Book-of-the-Month Club. A horror story! Confessions of a booze addict. The log book of an alcoholic...You know what I'm gonna call my novel? The Bottle. That's all, very simply, The Bottle. I've got it all here in my mind. Let me tell you the first chapter. It all starts one wet afternoon about three years ago. There was a matinee of La Traviata at the Metropolitan...
  • That's what's gonna be so hard to write. Love is the hardest thing in the world to write about. It's so simple. You've gotta catch it through details, like the early morning sunlight hitting the gray tin of the rose garden in front of her house, the ringing of a telephone that sounds like Beethoven's Pastorale, a letter scribbled on her office stationary that you carry around in your pocket because it smells like all the lilacs in Ohio....He thinks he's cured. If he could only get a job now, they could be married and that's that. But it's not, Nat, not quite. Because one day, one terrible see, this girl's been writing to her people in Toledo. They want to meet the young man. So they come to New York. They stay at the Hotel Manhattan. Their very first day, she's to introduce him to her parents, one o'clock, in the lobby of the hotel...
  • [about meeting Helen's parents] I couldn't face it...I couldn't face 'em, Wick, and all the questions they'd ask. I just couldn't do it, not cold. I had to have a drink first, just one - only the one didn't do anything to me.
  • But then there are the ones who can't take it and can't leave it either. What I'm trying to say is, I'm not a drinker - I'm a drunk. They ought to put me away once.
  • That was three years ago, Nat. That's a long time to keep fighting, to keep believing. She knows she's clutching a razor blade but she won't let go. Three years of it. I'm gonna do it now. It's all there, you heard it...That's why I didn't go away on that weekend, see, so I can be all alone up there and sit down at my typewriter. This time, I'm gonna do it, Nat! I'm gonna do it!...I'm going home. This time, I've got it. I'm gonna write.
  • [to a ringing telephone] Stop it, Helen, stop it, stop it. I'm all right. I just can't talk. Please stop it!
  • Come on, I need that liquor. I want it and I'm gonna get it. Do you understand? I'm gonna walk out of here with that quart of rye one way of another.
  • I'm gonna put this whole weekend down, minute by minute...The way I stood in there packing my suitcase, only my mind wasn't on the suitcase, and it wasn't on the weekend. Nor was it on the shirts I was putting in the suitcase either. My mind was hanging outside the window. It was suspended just about eighteen inches below. And out there in that great big concrete jungle, I wonder how many others that are like me. Poor bedeviled guys on fire with thirst. Such comical figures to the rest of the world as they stagger blindly towards another binge, another bender, another spree.


  • [to Don, seeing him back in the bar] Happy to have you back with the organization.
  • I live right on the corner house - you know, where the antique shop is, the one with the wooden Indian outside? They got the Indian sign on me, I always say...Second floor front.
  • [to Don] Save your saliva. I've had enough of you...What do you think I am? I break a business date. I buy me an evening purse, a facial, and new hairdo, and maybe you can do that to your ritzy friends, but you can't to me, understand? ...I waited half the night like it was the first date I ever had. The other half I was crying. ...You do like me a little, don't ya, honey?

'Bim' Nolan

  • The management insists. If we let you guys go home alone, a lot of you don't go home. You just hit the nearest bar and bounce right back again. What we call the quick ricochet...This department is sort of a half-way hospital, half-way jail...Listen, I can pick an alky with one eye shut. You're an alky. You'll come back. They all do. [gesturing toward other patients] Him, for instance. He shows up every month - just like the gas bill. And the one there with the glasses - another repeater. This is his forty-fifth trip. A big executive in the advertising business. A lovely fellow. Been coming here since 1927, good ol' Prohibition days. Say, you should have seen the joint then. This is nothing. Back then, we really had a turn-over. Standing-room only. Prohibition. That's what started most of these guys off - whoopee!
  • They'll happen to be a little floor show later on around here. It might get on your nerves...Ever have the DT's?...You will, brother...After all, you're just a freshman. Wait'll you're a sophomore. That's when you start seeing the little animals. You know that stuff about pink elephants? That's the bunk. It's little animals! Little tiny turkeys in straw hats. Midget monkeys coming through the keyholes. See that guy over there? With him it's beetles. Come the night, he sees beetles crawling all over him. Has to be dark though. It's like the doctor was just telling me - delirium is a disease of the night. Good night.


  • Wick Birnam: There isn't a store or a bar that will give him five cents worth of credit...I went over the apartment with a fine-tooth comb - the places he can figure out!
  • Old Lady: That's the nice young man who drinks.
  • Mrs. St. James: [about Don] A writer. What did he write? I never heard his name.
  • Mrs. Deveridge: I know what goes on in this house. I know Mr. Don Birnam. I knew all about him the first week they moved here five years ago. Heard those bottles rattle in the garbage can. I know all about you. You're Helen St. James, you're working on the Time Magazine, and you're his best girl. I also know he's not staying with any friends in Long Island. He's off on another toot and you know I'm darned right...I could have kicked him out fifty times - the last when two taxi drivers dumped him into the entrance hall out cold on the floor. With all my tenants going in and out and children leaving for school!...Well, I didn't put him out. Not as long as his brother could pay the rent. You couldn't help liking him anyway. He was so good-looking. He had such nice manners.


Don: Let me work it out my way, I'm trying. I'm trying!
Helen: I know you're trying, Don. We're both trying. You're trying not to drink and I'm trying not to love you.

Don: Shall we dance?
Gloria: You're awfully pretty, Mr. Birnam.
Don: I'll bet you tell that to all the boys.
Gloria: Why natch! Only with you, it's on the level.

Helen: If he's left alone, anything can happen. And I'm tied up at the office every minute, all Saturday, all Sunday, I can't look out for him. You know how he gets. He'll be run over by a car, he'll be arrested. He doesn't know what he's doing. A cigarette might fall from his mouth and he'll burn in bed.
Wick: If it happens, it happens and I hope it does. I've had six years of this. I've had my bellyfull...Who are we fooling? We've tried everything, haven't we? We've reasoned with him. We've baited him. We've watched him like a hawk. We've tried trusting him. How often have you cried? How often have I beaten him up? Scrape him out of a gutter and pump some kind of self-respect into him and back he falls, back in every time.
Helen: He's a sick person. It's as though there was something wrong with his heart or his lungs. You wouldn't walk out on him if he had an attack. He needs our help.
Wick: He won't accept our help. Not Don, he hates us. He wants to be alone with that bottle of his. It's all he gives a hang about. Why kid ourselves? He's a hopeless alcoholic. Let go of him, Helen. Give yourself a chance.

Nat: Why don't you cut it short?
Don: I can't cut it short. I'm on that merry-go-round. You gotta ride it all the way. Round and round until that blasted music wears itself out and the thing dies down and comes to a stop...At night, the stuff's a drink. In the morning, it's medicine....It's a terrifying problem, Nat, because if it's dawn, you're dead. The bars are closed and the liquor stores don't open until nine o'clock and you can't last until nine o'clock. Or maybe Sunday, that's the worst. No liquor stores at all, and you guys wouldn't open a bar, not until one o'clock. Why? WHY, Nat?

Gloria: A fella called me up about him. Wants me to show him the town.
Nat: Like Grant's Tomb, for instance?
Gloria: But death.
Nat: Ain't it amazin' how many guys come down from Albany just to see Grant's Tomb?
Gloria: [To Don] Sometimes I wish you came from Albany.
Don: Yeah? Where would you take me?
Gloria: Lots of places. The Music Hall, then The New Yorker roof, maybe.
Don: There is now being presented in the theatre on Forty-Fourth Street the uncut version of Hamlet. Now I see us as heading out for that. Do you know Hamlet?
Gloria: I know Forty-Fourth Street.
Don: I'd like to get your interpretation of Hamlet's character.
Gloria: I'd like to give it to you.

Don: Pour it softly, pour it gently, and pour it to the brim.
Nat: There are a lot of bars on Third Avenue. Do me a favor, will ya? Get out of here and buy it somewhere else...I don't like you much. What's the idea of pullin' her [Gloria's] leg? You know you're not going to take her out...You're drunk and you're just makin' with the mouth...I know the dame, the lady, I mean. I don't like what you're doin' to her, either...You should have seen her come in here last night looking for ya. Her eyes all rainy, and her mascara all washed away...That's an awful high-class young lady...How the heck did she ever get mixed up with a guy who sops it up like you do?

Don: Goodbye.
Helen: Oh, oh, just a minute. [She holds out his derby hat. He takes it from her and begins walking off] My umbrella, if you don't mind?
Don: Catch. [He tosses it in her general direction and it falls on the floor at her feet]
Helen: Thank you very much.
Don: I'm terribly sorry.
Helen: You're the rudest person I've ever seen. What's the matter with you?
Don: Oh, just rude, I guess.
Helen: Really, somebody should talk to your mother.
Don: They've tried, Miss St. John.
Helen: My name's not St. John.
Don: St. Joseph, then.
Helen: St. James.
Don: First name Hilda or Helen or Harriett maybe?
Helen: Helen.
Don: All right, Helen.

Don: I'm a writer. I just started a novel. As a matter of fact, I've started several but I never seem to finish one.
Helen: Well, in that case, why don't you write short stories?
Don: Oh, I have some of those - first paragraphs. And there's one half of the opening scene of a play which takes place in the leaning tower of Pisa that attempts to explain why it leans and why all sensible buildings should lean.
Helen: They'll love that in Toledo.

Wick: You might as well hear the family scandal. I drink. Don thinks I drink too much. I had to promise him to go on the wagon.
Don: Thanks very much for your Philadelphia story, Wick, nice try.

Helen: ...they could be worse. After all, you're not an embezzler or a murderer. You drink too much and that's not fatal...There must be a reason why you drink, Don. The right doctor could find it.
Don: Look, I'm way ahead of the right doctor. I know the reason. The reason is me - what I am, or rather what I'm not. What I wanted to become and didn't.
Helen: What is it you want to be so much that you're not?
Don: A writer. It's silly, isn't it? You know, in college, I passed for a genius. They couldn't get out the college magazine without one of my stories. Boy, was I hot! Hemingway stuff. I reached my peak when I was nineteen. Sold a piece to The Atlantic Monthly. Reprinted in the Reader's Digest...My mother bought me a brand-new typewriter and I moved right in on New York. Well, the first thing I wrote - that didn't quite come off. And the second I dropped - the public wasn't ready for that. I started a third and a fourth, only by then, somebody began to look over my shoulder and whisper in a thin, clear voice like the E string on a violin. 'Don Birnam,' he whispered, 'It's not good enough, not that way. How about a couple of drinks just to set it on its feet, huh?' So I had a couple. Oh what a great idea that was! That made all the difference. Suddenly, I could see the whole thing. The tragic sweep of the great novel beautifully proportioned. But before I could really grab it and throw it down on paper, the drinks would wear off and everything would be gone like a mirage. Then there was despair, and a drink to counter-balance despair, and then one to counter-balance the counter-balance. I'd sit in front of that typewriter trying to squeeze out one page that was half-way decent and that guy would pop up again...the other Don Birnam. There are two of us, you know. Don the drunk and Don the writer. And the drunk would say to the writer, 'Come on, you idiot. Let's get some good out of that portable. Let's hock it. Let's take it to that pawn shop over on Third Avenue. It's always good for ten dollars.' Another drink, another binge, another bender, another spree. Such humorous words. I've tried to break away from that guy a lot of times, but no good. You know, once I even got myself a gun and some bullets. I was gonna do it on my thirtieth birthday. Here are the bullets. The gun went for three quarts of whiskey. That other Don wanted us to have a drink first. He always wants us to have a drink first. The flop suicide of a flop writer.
Wick: All right, maybe you're not a writer. Why don't you do something else?
Don: Sure, take a nice job, public accountant, real estate salesman. I haven't the guts, Helen. Most men lead lives of quiet desperation. I can't take 'quiet desperation.'
Helen: But you are a writer. You have every quality for it - imagination, wit, pity.
Don: Come on, let's face reality. I'm thirty-three. I'm living on the charity of my brother. Room and board free. Fifty cents a week for cigarettes and an occasional ticket to a show or a concert - all out of the bigness of his heart. And it is a big heart and a patient one...I've never done anything, I'm not doing anything, I never will do anything. Zero, zero, zero! Look Helen, do yourself a favor. Go on, clear out.
Helen: I'm gonna fight, and fight and fight...

Don: Let me have one, Nat. I'm dying. Just one.
Nat: No credit and you know it. Yeah, one. One's too many, and a hundred's not enough. That's all...Now go, go away...I mean it, get out of here.

Helen: Don't you want a drink, Don?
Don: What are you up to?
Helen: Nothing. I'm just ashamed of the way I talk to you - like a narrow-minded, insensitive, small-town teetotaler.
Don: I told you, I don't feel like a drink. Not now.
Helen: Oh come on, Don, just one. I'll have one with you. I'm in no hurry. This is my easy day at the office.
Don: Look Helen, there are a few things I want to put in order before Wick comes.
Helen: Let me stay. Please!
Don: No! I don't want to sound rude, but I'm afraid you'll have to leave now.
Helen: Here, Don. [She hands him a drink glass]
Don: You're very sweet. Goodbye...
Helen: You need this, Don. Drink it. I want you to drink it. I'll get you some more. I'll get you all you want.
Don: What kind of talk is that?
Helen: It's just that I'd rather have you drunk than dead.
Don: Who wants to be dead?
Helen: Stop lying to me.
[He wrestles the gun from her]
Don: 'Cause it's best all around for everybody. For you, for Wick, and for me...Look at it this way, Helen: this business is just a formality. Don Birnam is dead already. He died over this weekend...of a lot of things - of alcohol, of moral anemia, of fear, shame, DT's.
Helen: There were two Dons. You told me so yourself. Don the Drunk and Don the Writer.
Don: Let's not go back to a fancy figure of speech. There's only one Don. He's through...I'm all right. I still have enough strength left.
Helen: I know you have. I can see it. Don't waste it by pulling a trigger, Don.
Don: Oh, let me get it over with. Or do you want me to give you another one of my promises that I never keep?
Helen: I don't want you to give me your promise. I don't want you to give your promise to anybody but Don Birnam.
Don: It's too late. I wouldn't know how to start.
Helen: The only way to start is to stop. There is no cure besides just stopping.
Don: Can't be done.
Helen: Other people have stopped.
Don: People with a purpose, with something to do.
Helen: You've got talent and ambition.
Don: Talent, ambition. That's dead long ago. That's drowned. That's drifting around in the bloated belly of a lake of alcohol.
Helen: No, it isn't. You still have it.
Don: Quit trying to stall me, Helen, it's too late. There's no more writing left in me. It's gone. What do you expect - a miracle?
Helen: Yes, yes, yes - if I could just make you...
[the buzzer sounds]
Wick: I found this floating around on the Nile. She writes pretty good. I oiled her up a little. And I didn't oil her up so you can hock her.
Helen: Someone somewhere sent it back - why? Because he means you to stay alive. Because he wants you to write. I didn't ask for a big miracle.

Don: [describing his book] About a messed-up life, about a man and a woman and a bottle. About nightmares, horrors, humiliations, all the things I want to forget.
Helen: Put it all down on paper. Get rid of it that way. Tell it all to whom it may concern. And it concerns so many people, Don...Of course, you couldn't write the beginning 'cause you didn't know the ending. Only now - only now you know the ending.


  • The Screen Dares To Open The Strange And Savage Pages Of A Shocking Best-Seller!
  • How daring can the screen dare to be? No adult man or woman can risk missing the startling frankness of The Lost Weekend.


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