The Bottom of the Bottle


1h 28m 1956

Brief Synopsis

Patrick Martin (Joseph Cotten), known as P.M., is a wealthy attorney and rancher big-man-in-town in the border town of Nogales, Arizona. He returns home to find his brother Donald (Van Johnson)hiding in his garage. A former drunkard, Donald had been sent to the penitentiary five years previously for killing a man in a barroom brawl. It was in self-defense but P.M. hadn't defended his brother and he was convicted. Donald has escaped and wants his brother to help him across the Santa Cruz River into the Mexico-side Nogales, where his wife (Shirley Patterson as Shawn Smith)and children (Kim Charney and Sandy Deschler) are in dire straits. The straits get even dier when P.M. tells him the river is flooded and it will be days before anyone can cross. And P.M. is all a'twitter because his wife Nora (Ruth Roman), whom he married after Donald had gone to prison, doesn't know about his jail-bird brother. He introduces Donald to Nora and the rest of his Cadillac Cowboy and ranch society friends as an old friend, and is kept busy trying to make sure old Donald doesn't find anything harder that ginger ale to drink. Donald gets a telephone call telling him that his family has gone from dire straits to destitution and when P.M. won't get some money to them through his contacts in the Mexico side of Nogales, Donald knocks him down and grabs a couple of bottles of whiskey and dashes out of the house into the rain.

Film Details

Also Known As
The Other Man
Release Date
Jan 1956
Premiere Information
not available
Production Company
Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corp.
Distribution Company
Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corp.
Country
United States
Location
Santa Cruz River, Arizona, United States; Santa Cruz River,Mexico
Screenplay Information
Based on the novel La Fond de la bouteille by Georges Simenon (Paris, 1949).

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 28m
Sound
Mono
Color
Color (DeLuxe)
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
2.35 : 1

Synopsis

As a storm rages in the border town of Nogales, Arizona, sending the Santa Cruz River surging over its banks, lawyer-cum rancher Pat "P.M." Martin arrives at his palatial spread to find his fugitive brother Donald waiting for him. Donald, who has just escaped from prison in Illinois, is desperate to reach his wife Mildred and three children across the border in Mexico, and implores his brother to help him. The prosperous P.M., who holds his misfit brother in contempt, states that the river is impassable. Soon after, P.M.'s wife Nora comes home with the Breckenridges, Millers and Cadys, her inebriated, rich rancher friends, and embarrassed by his brother, P.M. introduces Donald as Eric Bell, an old childhood companion. The next day, Lil Breckenridge finds P.M. staring at the river's edge and insists that he bring his friend to a party at her ranch that night. Worried that his brother, a former alcoholic, will fall off the wagon, P.M. warns her that "Eric" is mentally unbalanced and therefore unable to drink. Liz, intrigued, returns home to spread the news that "Eric" is a time bomb who may entertain them by exploding. Nora, unaware that Donald is her husband's brother, questions him about P.M.'s childhood, and Donald speaks of P.M. with a mixture of admiration and respect. Later, Nora confides that she drinks to compensate for her unhappy marriage, which is filled with material possessions but devoid of children and genuine feeling. At the Breckenridges' party that evening, Donald disappoints the crowd by sticking to ginger ale. After Donald and P.M.'s sister Emily phones from Denver with news that Mildred is in trouble, Donald insists on contacting his wife, and the brothers return to P.M.'s ranch to place the phone call. When Donald discovers that Mildred is destitute and unable to pay the rent and his son has been forced to shine shoes on the streets, Donald slams down the phone and pours himself a stiff drink. P.M. refuses to risk his reputation by helping his sister-in-law, and Donald, seething with resentment, recalls five years earlier, when P.M. was too busy to come to his aid after he was charged with murder while acting in self-defense, then sarcastically congratulates his brother for becoming a "gutless success." When Donald threatens to ask P.M.'s friends for money, the brothers argue and Donald slams P.M. to the floor and then runs out of the house, bottle in hand. Later, several border patrolmen find Donald drunkenly clinging to the river bank and take him to the Breckenridge party, where he becomes belligerent. Nora, worried about P.M., returns home and Hal Breckenridge, concerned that Donald may have harmed P.M., tries to detain him at the ranch. Crazed and paranoid, Donald lashes out at Hal with a fireplace poker and then flees. At the Martin ranch, Nora questions P.M. about his relationship with Donald, and he finally confesses that Donald is his escaped convict brother. Upon learning of Donald's desperate circumstances, Nora insists on helping him and his family, but P.M. worries that he will be charged with aiding and abetting a felon. Retorting that Mildred's welfare is more important than P.M.'s reputation, Nora calls a friend across the border to pay the overdue rent. P.M. then scours the countryside for his missing brother, and returns with the information that Mildred has received the money and that the river will soon recede. Still angry, Nora recriminates P.M. for never allowing her to have children, but he ignores her and goes to bed. Soon after, Luis Romero, a poor Mexican farmer whom P.M. has helped, comes to the ranch with news that Donald has broken into a store and stolen a gun and liquor, and that the border patrol has been notified. As Hal and his bloodthirsty friends form a posse to hunt down Donald, Nora implores P.M. to help his brother. Finally accepting that he is his "brother's keeper," P.M. reconciles with Nora and then rides with Luis in search of Donald. After Luis tracks Donald into the hills, P.M. insists on continuing on alone and Luis tells him the safest place to cross the river. Donald is at first wary of his brother's motives until P.M. declares that he would like to meet Donald's children one day. As Hal's dogs bay in the distance, the brothers mount their horses and plunge into the raging water. Donald makes it safely to the other side, but when P.M. is knocked off his horse, he returns and risks his own life to save his brother. After the brothers reconcile, the posse arrives and Donald surrenders. Although Donald asserts that P.M. was just acting as his lawyer, P.M., no longer ashamed, proudly proclaims that Donald is his brother.

Film Details

Also Known As
The Other Man
Release Date
Jan 1956
Premiere Information
not available
Production Company
Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corp.
Distribution Company
Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corp.
Country
United States
Location
Santa Cruz River, Arizona, United States; Santa Cruz River,Mexico
Screenplay Information
Based on the novel La Fond de la bouteille by Georges Simenon (Paris, 1949).

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 28m
Sound
Mono
Color
Color (DeLuxe)
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
2.35 : 1

Quotes

Trivia

Notes

The working title of this film was The Other Man. Actor Pedro Gonzalez Gonzalez, who was frequently billed as Gonzalez Gonzalez, was listed in the onscreen credits as "Gonzales-Gonzales." According to a May 1955 Daily Variety news item, Gregory Peck was considered for a lead role. Studio publicity contained in the film's production files at the AMPAS Library notes that many of the river scenes were shot on location at the Santa Cruz River on the Arizona/Mexico border. The Variety review mistakenly spells actor Orlando Beltran's name as "Beltram."

Miscellaneous Notes

Released in United States Winter January 1956

CinemaScope

Released in United States Winter January 1956