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Come Back, Little Sheba

Come Back, Little Sheba(1953)

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One morning, dowdy, middle-aged housewife Lola Delaney eagerly shows Marie Buckholder, an art student at the nearby college, the upstairs bedroom she hopes to let in her two-story house. Marie is noncommital about the room, and after she leaves, Lola's husband "Doc" comes down for breakfast and is put out when Lola mentions that she is looking for a lodger. The soft-spoken, refined Doc, a chiropractor, reminds Lola that despite a year of sobriety through Alcoholics Anonymous, he still is vulnerable to stress and does not want a boarder. Doc changes his mind, however, when the effervescent Marie returns and arranges to turn Lola's sunny downstairs sewing room into a live-in studio. Later, Lola attends an AA meeting with Doc, whom she calls "Daddy," and watches with pride as he celebrates his one-year anniversary with the group. At home, after Marie excitedly tells Lola about the letter she received from her boyfriend Bruce, Doc asks his wife not to mention his alcoholism to Marie. As they retire to bed, Lola describes a dream she had about her little dog Sheba, who disappeared some months before. Although the patient Doc reminds her that Sheba was old and had a good life, Lola still yearns for her pet. The next morning, Lola asks Doc to take her to a movie that night, but he demurs, saying that he has needy alcoholics to help. When Lola reveals that Marie has a date with college athlete Turk Fisher, Doc dismisses Turk as a cad. While walking to his office with Marie, Doc admits that he attended a prestigious medical school but was forced to drop out before receiving his degree. Later, at the Delaney house, Lola chats with hard-working neighbor Mrs. Coffman, who advises her to get busy and forget Sheba. Lonely, Lola visits with the mailman, then listens to the radio until Marie and Turk burst in. Lola relinquishes the living room so that Marie can draw Turk in his skimpy track uniform for a poster contest. Once alone, Turk grabs Marie, and she makes a half-hearted attempt to resist his advances. When Doc returns home and sees the half-dressed Turk, he complains to Lola, but she defends Turk and Marie's relationship as harmless. Confused and upset, Doc escapes to the bathroom and sniffs Marie's lilac-scented bath powders. Later, Turk invites Marie to go dancing, prompting Lola to reminisce with Doc about their youth. Lola happily recalls her popularity in high school and the first time the shy and proper Doc kissed her, then asks him if he regrets that he had to marry her and leave school because she got pregnant. Doc reassures Lola, who lost the baby and could not have more, noting that because of his drinking, he missed many opportunities to improve their lot. After Doc drives off with fellow recovered alcoholics Elmo Huston and Ed Anderson, Lola calls plaintively for Sheba. Sometime later, Lola cleans the house in anticipation of a visit from Bruce and persuades Doc to dance with her in the living room. Once again, Turk and Marie interrupt, claiming they need to study, and Doc leaves the room, seething. Turk and Marie begin to kiss, while upstairs, Doc criticizes Lola for admitting that she sometimes "watches" the young couple. Doc leaves on AA business, and Turk, who senses the older man's hostility, insists to Marie that he is jealous. Marie, however, dismisses Turk's concerns and agrees to come back to the house with him after the Delaneys have gone to bed. When they do return, they fail to notice Doc, who was come in through the kitchen door and is observing them in the dark. Marie soon has second thoughts about the tryst and resists Turk's aggressive advances, while Doc, unnerved, retreats to the kitchen, staring longingly at the whiskey bottle that Lola keeps for special occasions. Though tempted, Doc goes to bed in a sweat, unaware that Turk has exited through Marie's window in frustrated disgust. The next morning, while setting the dining room table for that night's dinner with Bruce, Lola tells Marie about her overly strict father, who disowned her after she married Doc. His anxiety unabated, Doc then leaves for work with the whiskey bottle tucked under his raincoat. Just before Bruce arrives, Marie confides in Lola, who has gotten dressed up and prepared a fancy meal, that she has decided to marry him. When Lola goes to fix a cocktail for Bruce, she discovers the missing whiskey and quietly panics. After calling Ed for help and making excuses for Doc's absence, Lola serves the young couple dinner. Hours later, Doc stumbles back home, drunk, and replaces the whiskey bottle. Lola confronts him, but he denies he has been drinking and asks about Marie. When Lola reveals that Marie has been out all night with Bruce, Doc explodes, calling Marie and Lola "sluts." Unleashing his pent-up rage, Doc accuses Lola of being fat and lazy and threatens her with a knife. Doc then starts to choke Lola, but passes out just as Mrs. Coffman arrives with Ed and Elmo, who take Doc to the hospital to dry out. At the hospital the next day, Lola hears a delirious Doc muttering the words "pretty Lola" and cries with shame. Back at home, Lola telephones her mother and tearfully asks to visit, but is refused by her father. When Doc finally is discharged, Lola greets him lovingly and tells him that Bruce and Marie have married. Moved, Doc begs for forgiveness and compliments Lola on the improvements she has made to the kitchen. After assuring him that she intends to be a better wife, Lola fixes his breakfast and recalls the "crazy dream" she had. At the end of the dream, she says, she discovered Sheba dead and now realizes that she has to go on with life. Doc concurs, stating, "It's good to be home."