Film / Days of Wine and Roses

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From Blake Edwards — creator of (future) comedy classics like The Pink Panther, The Great Race and, The Party — comes this heartbreaking 1962 drama about the destructive nature of alcohol addiction. Days of Wine and Roses was adapted from a 1958 Playhouse 90 teleplay and it stars Jack Lemmon and Lee Remick.

Joe Clay (Lemmon), a public-relations executive and "social drinker", meets Kirsten Arnesen (Remick), his boss's secretary. At first they don't get along very well, but after a date where Joe introduces the teetotaler Kirsten to alcohol, they find themselves falling for each other. Eventually they get married, have a daughter and a supposedly comfortable life. Supposedly, because the stress in their lives prompts them to start drinking more frequently and is slowly beginning to affect their lives and everyone who is emotionally attached to them, including Kirsten's stern-but-loving father (Charles Bickford). Things start to go downhill from here.

Before Requiem for a Dream became a hit by depicting substance abuse in a very disturbing way, Days of Wine and Roses already did it almost 40 years earlier though with less Surreal Horror.

This is also the film that made Jack Lemmon, emblematic protagonist of the hilarious Some Like It Hot and the heartwarming The Apartment, an acting force to be reckoned with in heavy drama as well as comedy.


Days of Wine and Roses contains examples of:

  • Addiction Displacement: When Joe becomes sober after the greenhouse scene, he smokes a lot to appeal his addiction. Also, several attendants of the Alcoholics Anonymous are seen smoking for the very same reasons.
  • The Alcoholic: The main theme of the movie. Both Kirsten and Joe become unable to function without a steady supply of alcohol.
  • Belligerent Sexual Tension: Joe and Kirsten, when they first meet.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Bordering on a Downer Ending. Joe eventually gets sober, but Kirsten doesn't, and they break up.
  • Descent into Addiction: Joe arguably had a head start on Kirsten, but both deteriorate to the point that the only thing that matters is alcohol. Joe gets past it, but Kirsten doesn't.
  • Dramatic Thunder: Accompanies the scene where Joe trashes the greenhouse looking for a hidden bottle.
  • Drowning My Sorrows: At the end of the film, Kirsten admits that she "can't get over how dirty everything looks" without alcohol.
  • Literary Allusion Title: From Ernest Dowson's 1896 poem "Vitae Summa Brevis" (which Kirsten recites in-universe):
    They are not long, the days of wine and roses:
    Out of a misty dream
    Our path emerges for a while, then closes
    Within a dream.
  • Mistaken for Prostitute: When Joe first meets Kirsten he mistakes her for part of the hired female "entertainment" at a client's yacht party.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: Joe introduces a reluctant Kirsten to alcohol using chocolate, her favorite food. Had he not done it, he could have avoided the future Hell they would be living.
  • Off the Wagon: Joe and Kirsten try to quit alcohol while working for Kirsten's father, but late one night, in one of the film's more harrowing sequences, Joe gives in to temptation and ransacks a greenhouse looking for a hidden bottle of booze.
  • Title Theme Tune: Composed by frequent Blake Edwards collaborator Henry Mancini and with lyrics by Johnny Mercer, it won the Academy Award for Best Original Song.
  • Tropaholics Anonymous: The film was one of the first to show an alcoholic getting help with addiction through Alcoholics Anonymous.
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