Greatest Film Scenes
and Moments

The Lost Weekend (1945)


Written by Tim Dirks

Title Screen
Movie Title/Year and Scene Descriptions

The Lost Weekend (1945)

In Billy Wilder's social problem film about alcohol addiction:

  • the opening scene with a hidden half-full bottle of whiskey dangling out the window of NY wanna-be writer Don Birnam (Oscar-winning Ray Milland) who was struggling with writer's block, and packing for a short five-day vacation when his devoted brother Wick (Phillip Terry) discovered the bottle and emptied it in the bathroom sink, while Don falsely vowed: ("I didn't know it was there. Even if I had, I wouldn't have touched it")
  • the memorable dialogue between Birnam and his favorite bartender Nat (Howard da Silva) in a Third Avenue bar near 42nd Street - and his delusion about how drinking improved his mind: ("It shrinks my liver, doesn't it, Nat? It pickles my kidneys. Yes. But what does it do to my mind? It tosses the sandbags overboard so the balloon can soar. Suddenly, I'm above the ordinary. I'm confident, supremely confident. I'm walking a tightrope over Niagara Falls. I'm one of the great ones. I'm Michelangelo molding the beard of Moses. I'm Van Gogh painting pure sunlight. I'm Horowitz playing the Emperor Concerto. I'm John Barrymore before the movies got him by the throat. I'm Jesse James and his two brothers. All three of 'em. I'm W. Shakespeare. And out there, it's not Third Avenue any longer. It's the Nile, Nat - the Nile, and down it floats the barge of Cleopatra. Come here")
  • the scene of aspiring writer Birnam's confession of his drinking problem to girlfriend Helen St. James (Jane Wyman), about how his soaring, creative juices flowed with just a few drinks, but then spiraled down into despair and agony when the booze wore off - he described how he was helplessly and schizophrenically divided between Don the Drunk and Don the Writer: ("That made all the difference. Suddenly, I could see the whole thing. The tragic sweep of the great novel beautifully proportioned. But before I could really grab it and throw it down on paper, the drinks would wear off and everything would be gone like a mirage. Then there was despair, and I'd drink to counter-balance despair. And then one to counter-balance the counter-balance. And I'd sit in front of that typewriter trying to squeeze out one page that was half-way decent...")
  • believing that he was a terminal drunk and a "zero" person who lived off his brother Wick's charity, 33 year-old Don challenged Helen to leave him: ("Look Helen, do yourself a favor. Go on, clear out"), but she lovingly refused to admit that either of them were defeated: "I'm gonna fight, and fight and fight..."
Confession of His Drinking Problem
to Girlfriend Helen (Jane Wyman)
  • the shadowy outline of a whiskey bottle in his overhead light fixture
  • the scene of alcoholic Birnam's pitiful attempt to sell his typewriter and his desperate search from one closed pawn shop to another along Third Avenue on the Jewish holiday of Yom Kippur
  • his psychiatric incarceration in the alcoholic ward of Bellevue Hospital where he was mocked by cynical male nurse 'Bim' Nolan (Frank Faylen) and warned of the DT's when detoxifying: ("They'll happen to be a little floor show later on around here. It might get on your nerves...Ever have the DT's?...You will, brother...After all, you're just a freshman. Wait'll you're a sophomore. That's when you start seeing the little animals. You know that stuff about pink elephants? That's the bunk. It's little animals! Little tiny turkeys in straw hats. Midget monkeys coming through the keyholes. See that guy over there? With him it's beetles. Come the night, he sees beetles crawling all over him. Has to be dark though. It's like the doctor was just telling me - delirium is a disease of the night. Good night")
In Bellevue Hospital - Warned of the DTs
  • his nightmarish hallucinations of a bat and a mouse in his apartment (accompanied by the first major (and effective) use of the spooky-sounding theremin during this and other nightmare sequences)
  • in the final scene, Birnam's rescue by Helen from suicide (he wrote a suicide note and was planning to shoot himself in his bathroom)

Whiskey Bottle Dangling From Window

The Delusionary Birnam Speaking to Third Avenue Bartender Nat

Shadow of Whiskey Bottle Hidden in Overhead Lamp Fixture

Attempt to Pawn Off His Typewriter on Third Avenue on a Holiday

Hallucinatory Effects of Alcoholism - Bats Flying

Suicide Note


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