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One Too Many

One Too Many(1951)

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In Central City one morning, Eagle Gazette reporter Bob Mason and photographer Bill Leighton are assigned to cover a disgraceful brawl between local mayoral candidate Frank Emery and another patron at Sully's bar. The newspaper's publisher, Simes, a staunch prohibitionist, insists on running the story on the front page, even though it will destroy the politician's career. That night, after Bob's wife Helen plays the piano and sings her daughter Ginger to sleep, she takes a drink to forget the depressing memories that occupy her. Bob returns home later to find Helen passed out in the kitchen. The next morning, although Helen is shaking and admits she had too much to drink, she begins to scour the house looking for another bottle. When Ginger runs home from school crying because her classmates have said Helen is a drunk, Helen becomes distraught and prompts Bob to seek the help of local bartender Michael H. "Sully" Sullivan, a recovering alcoholic. After Helen admits that she has a problem, Sully explains this is the first step in Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), a program that immediately helps at least fifty percent of those who enroll. Bob agrees to take the next step in the program by asking Dr. Foster for help and accepting Mrs. Sullivan offer to watch over Helen as she goes through withdrawal. Sully explains to Bob that he met his wife in AA and that, although there is no cure for alcoholism, Sully and his wife have managed to build a life together by living from day to day. Sometime later, Helen has achieved sobriety and, convinced that she is cured, Bob tells Sully that Helen will not embarrass herself by attending AA meetings. Sully then wonders if it is Bob and not Helen who is embarrassed by his wife's condition. Meanwhile at home, Helen, frustrated by her daily routine and her daughter's need for attention, mixes herself a drink from a hidden bottle of alcohol. That night, Helen meets her old friend, band leader Walt Williams, at the nearby Trocadero nightclub, and becomes increasingly drunk. When Walt reminisces about her great talent as a pianist, Helen refuses to admit that she misses performing. Walt reminds her that she did not drink when she was playing regularly. That evening at the newspaper offices, after Simes gives Bob a raise, a drunken Helen suddenly stumbles into the office and shamelessly insults Simes. Bob is then forced to admit Helen to the New Hope Institute for rehabilitation. Days later, Walt visits with Ginger and tries to cheer her up by accompanying her on the piano as she sings a song. Bob interviews a doctor at the hospital about alcoholism and discovers that though moderate drinking is acceptable, alcoholism is a great societal problem and a disease. After Helen is discharged from the hospital, Bob drives her home in his car. When he stops at a gas station along the way, however, Helen, bitter about her treatment, runs away. Meanwhile, Jack, having lost the election in a record landslide, becomes drunk and belligerent and kills himself. When Simes finds out that Bob was too busy with his alcoholic wife to cover the suicide, he fires both Bob and Leighton. Meanwhile, Helen returns to the house drunk and disheveled, takes Ginger and the child's piggy bank and drives off to buy more alcohol, but passes out at the wheel, nearly killing herself and her daughter. When Helen is committed to the psychiatric ward, Bob begins a campaign to convince Simes to publish articles about alcoholism and gathers a distinguished group of religious, business and community leaders to aid him. At first Simes refuses, claiming that he does not want to help a "bunch of drunks," but when Mrs. Adams, the temperance society president, states that it is a public responsibility to provide adequate care for alcoholics, Simes finally agrees to help. Mrs. Sullivan visits Helen at the hospital to remind her that faith in a higher power will help her in her time of need. Although Helen is reluctant to espouse any religion, when she returns home, she is moved to find Ginger praying to God to give her mother strength. Helen then asks Sully to take her to an AA meeting. Weeks later, at a campaign benefit, Walt encourages Helen to play a piano recital to follow Ginger's tap routine and performances by The Harmonaires. Helen agrees to perform and, when Walt introduces her to the Central City audience as a great concert pianist, her talent surprises everyone, especially Simes. While Helen happily plays, Ginger tells her father, "Hasn't God been good to us."