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The original theatrical poster for Days of Wine and Roses (1962) had the freakshow pitch of a carnie with its exploitive tagline of "It is different. It is daring. Most of all, in its own terrifying way, it is a love story." Yet, the film was truly controversial in nature due to its realistic treatment of a young urban couple destroyed by their growing addiction to alcohol. It was also the first time moviegoers had seen Jack Lemmon, normally cast in comedies, in such an intensely dramatic role.
Days of Wine and Roses originally aired as a TV play by J. P. Miller on Playhouse 90 and starred Cliff Robertson and Piper Laurie in the lead roles. 20th-Century-Fox purchased the property but soon dropped it from their film slate due to the heavy costs incurred by the studio's production of Cleopatra (1963). They sold it to Warner Brothers who wanted a bigger box office name than Robertson for the lead character of Joe Clay, an ambitious public relations man who introduces his young bride, Kirsten, to social drinking. Robertson was just a year away from becoming a well known star, thanks to his role as John F. Kennedy in the true-life war drama, PT-109 (1963) but Jack Lemmon was offered the part instead. Likewise, Lee Remick replaced Piper Laurie as Kirsten, Clay's wife. Charles Bickford, in the role of Kirsten's father, was the only cast member to star in both the television and film versions.
While preparing for their roles, both Lemmon and Remick attended Alcoholics Anonymous meetings numerous times. Lemmon even spent several evenings at the Lincoln Heights jail where he observed inmates in the drunk tank and the dry-out rooms. He later said, "It was frightening, watching those poor souls tortured by delirium tremens. As a result of what I saw we changed several scenes. For instance, we used a dry-out table where you are strapped down, rather than having the guy just wake up in a cell."
Because Days of Wine and Roses dealt with such a serious issue, Warner studio executives were concerned about the film's commercial prospects and held a preview screening. To their horror about forty couples walked out on the film during its showing which was a record for the studio. Later they discovered that the preview ad had failed to mention that it was a drama and not the expected Jack Lemmon comedy. When Days of Wine and Roses went into national release, it earned unanimous critical acclaim and positive word-of-mouth that helped increase its box-office take. The film also earned five Academy Award nominations including Best Actor (Lemmon), Best Actress (Remick), Best Art Direction, Best Costume Design, and Best Song (by Johnny Mercer and Henry Mancini) which won the Oscar in its category.
Director: Blake Edwards
Producer: Martin Manulis
Screenwriter: J.P. Miller
Cinematographer: Philip H. Lathrop
Composer: Henry Mancini
Editor: Patrick McCormack
Songwriter: Johnny Mercer
Costumer Designer: Don Feld
Art Director: Joseph Wright
Cast: Jack Lemmon (Joe Clay), Lee Remick (Kirsten Anderson), Charles Bickford (Ellis Arnesen), Jack Klugman (Jim Hungerford), Alan Hewitt ("Red" Leland), Jack Albertson (Traynor).
BW-118m. Letterboxed. Closed captioning.
by Jeff Stafford