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An artist turns to drink when his daughter dies suddenly.
Upon returning to the apartment he and his wife Ellen lived in ten years earlier, Jim Burton recalls their circumstances at that time: The couple hopes to escape Jim's past two years of chronic alcoholism, which began after the death of their young daughter. Jim, who has been unable to hold down work as a commercial artist, resists Ellen's advice to take his sketches to his former employer Hornsby, and instead drinks all night. He awakens in the police "drunk tank," where a fellow detainee, musician Harry Graham, offers to share his insights into how he used "spiritual guidance" to stop drinking for twenty months in a row. Caring only about another drink, Jim refuses the invitation, but pockets the card bearing the name of Harry's nightclub. Outside, Ellen is waiting to bring Jim to the office of Dr. Leon Karnes, who insists that he stay for a physical. After Leon discovers early signs of nerve damage, he warns that Jim must quit drinking or he will lose his mind. Although Ellen immediately makes an appointment at the hospital neuropsychiatric clinic, Jim convinces her first to give him one last chance to quit drinking. The next day, Jim accepts a job with Hornsby but by the afternoon is desperate for a drink. He asks a fellow employee for a sip from his bourbon bottle, and after the other man reveals that the bottle is a gag gift, Jim steals the bottle and pawns it. He drinks all night, at one point impressing a little girl with his cartoon graffiti, but he stumbles away from her, remembering his beloved daughter. Jim awakens in his own bed, to the news that Ellen and Leon are awaiting him at the hospital. He races there to beg Ellen not to commit him, and although the doctors remind him that alcoholism is an incurable disease, he bolts away, revolted by the ward patients suffering from dementia. Later, when he finally convinces someone to buy him a drink, his hands shake too much to hold the glass. That night in a church shelter, Jim is unable to sleep and discovers Harry's card in his pocket. Despairing, he wanders into the chapel and asks the janitor to help him pray, and together they recite The Lord's Prayer. In the morning, Jim searches for Harry, but cannot locate the musician and finally sits at a bar next to alcoholic Bill Tobin. Jim and Bill order drinks but then, while they discuss the misery of their illness, Jim is inspired to refuse his drink. He returns home, where Ellen is relieved to see him until she realizes that he has brought Bill to stay with them. She reluctantly allows Bill to pass out on the couch, especially after Jim reveals that Bill's companionship and understanding of alcoholism have given Jim the strength to stop drinking. She pulls away, however, when he tries to kiss her. Just then, Bill suffers a seizure, and Leon is called to tend to him. Leon speaks harshly to Jim about the healing properties of "spiritualism and talking to other drunks," but secretly hopes to challenge Jim into staying sober for six months. The next day, Jim buys back the gag bottle and brings it to Hornsby as an apology. Hornsby reprimands him in front of the other employees, prompting kind-hearted artist Liz to arrange a job for Jim painting murals for department store windows. At home, Bill, a former teacher, tutors the neighborhood children in return for a room in the basement of Jim's building. There, Bill introduces Jim to his young friend, Paul Cunningham, in the hopes that Paul will join Jim in his sobriety attempt. Over the next few days, Bill continues to drink but Paul seems to respond to Jim's sponsorship. One night, Ellen finds Jim working and apologizes for pulling away from him, and in response he kisses her passionately. Just then, Paul approaches them drunkenly, sorely disappointing Jim. Over the next days, Jim attempts to spread the word of his sobriety program around town, and although no one appears to listen, one day Paul approaches him and asks for another chance. Jim is encouraged, and soon gathers a small group of men and women at his apartment to exchange stories and support. Four weeks later, they meet to celebrate Paul's first month of sobriety, and while the group awaits Paul's arrival, Ellen comes home from work and is upset to find them in her living room. When one man stumbles into the kitchen slurring his words, Ellen runs into the bedroom to cry. Jim follows and urges her not to humiliate the group, who are barely managing to sustain their confidence. Just then, Paul's mother arrives and berates Jim for pushing Paul too hard, revealing that the boy has just tried to commit suicide. In response, Jim's group dissipates, causing Jim to despair until Bill reveals that he has secretly gone without a drink for weeks. Thrilled, Jim invites Leon over and introduces Bill as "the hope for drunken humanity." Later, Bill prepares to visit his daughter, whom he has not seen in years, but on the way to the train station becomes overwhelmed by Jim's faith in him and drinks until he is arrested. Ellen criticizes Jim, prompting him to declare that she preferred it when she had to take care of him. As he hunts through the apartment for money to buy a drink, Harry appears and, having heard about Jim's group, begs him to help him get through the night without a drink. When Jim throws him out, a desperate Ellen pulls out a gun, stating that if he cannot "be a man" she would rather he was dead. Jim easily takes the gun away and listens as she begs him to help Harry through just one night, after which he can help Jim through just one day. With new motivation, Jim finds Harry on the street. In the present, Ellen leads Jim into the meeting celebrating his tenth year of sobriety. To his surprise, Bill, Paul, Harry and Leon are there to honor him. Jim refuses to take credit for the success of his program, instead reciting, "God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change things I can and the wisdom to know the difference."
Cast & Crew
|MPAA Ratings:||Premiere Info:||New York opening: 13 Aug 1958|
|Release Date:||1958||Production Date:||
EBX; UNIV 16 mm, AFI
|Color/B&W:||Black and White||Distributions Co:||Universal Pictures Co., Inc.|
|Sound:||Mono||Production Co:||Universal-International Pictures Co., Inc.|
|Duration(mins):||102 or 105||Country:||United States|
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Judi gracia 2013-05-09
I only saw this movie once, many years ago, but I never forgot it. I thought Arthur O'Connell's performance was wonderful.
This is a Great Story
Dennis West 2007-07-29
An apparent fictionalization of the birth of the twelve step program, it speaks to anyone affected by chemical dependence (about one-third of...