Days of Wine and Roses (film)

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Days of Wine and Roses
Days of Wine and Roses (1962 poster).jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byBlake Edwards
Produced byMartin Manulis
Screenplay byJP Miller
Based onDays of Wine and Roses by JP Miller
StarringJack Lemmon
Lee Remick
Charles Bickford
Jack Klugman
Alan Hewitt
Music byHenry Mancini
CinematographyPhilip H. Lathrop
Edited byPatrick McCormack
Jalem Productions
Distributed byWarner Bros.
Release date
  • December 26, 1962 (1962-12-26) (United States)
Running time
117 minutes
CountryUnited States
Box office$8,123,077[1]

Days of Wine and Roses is a 1962 American drama film directed by Blake Edwards with a screenplay by JP Miller adapted from his own 1958 Playhouse 90 teleplay of the same name. The film was produced by Martin Manulis, with music by Henry Mancini, and features Jack Lemmon, Lee Remick, Charles Bickford and Jack Klugman.[2] The film depicts the downward spiral of two average Americans who succumb to alcoholism and attempt to deal with their problems.

An Academy Award went to the film's theme music, composed by Mancini with lyrics by Johnny Mercer. The film received four other Oscar nominations, including Best Actor and Best Actress. In 2018, Days of Wine and Roses was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry as being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant." [3][4]


San Francisco public relations executive Joe Clay (Jack Lemmon) meets secretary Kirsten Arnesen (Lee Remick). Considering her to be brash and disrespectful at first, he eventually begins dating her. Kirsten is a teetotaler until Joe introduces her to social drinking. She is reluctant at first, but after her first few Brandy Alexanders, she admits that having a drink "made me feel good." Despite the misgivings of Kirsten's father (Charles Bickford), who runs a San Mateo landscaping business, they marry and have a daughter, Debbie.

Joe and Kirsten slowly go from the "two-martini lunch" to full-blown alcoholism. Joe is demoted due to poor performance, and is sent out of town to work on a minor account. Kirsten is alone all day, and finds drinking the best way to pass the time. While drunk one afternoon she causes a fire in their apartment that almost kills her and Debbie. Eventually Joe gets fired and spends the next several years going from job to job.

One day, Joe walks by a bar, sees his reflection in the window, and realizes in horror that he hardly knows his own face. He goes home and tells Kirsten that they must stop drinking, and she reluctantly agrees. Seeking escape from their addiction, Joe and Kirsten work together in Mr. Arnesen's business and stay sober for two months. But the urge is too strong, and after a late-night drinking binge, Joe destroys his father-in-law's greenhouse and plants while looking for a stashed liquor bottle.

Joe is committed to a sanitarium where he suffers from delirium tremens while confined in a straitjacket. After his release, Joe finally gets sober for a while with the help of Alcoholics Anonymous, a dedicated sponsor named Jim Hungerford (Jack Klugman), and regular AA meetings. He explains to Joe how alcoholics often demonstrate obsessive behavior, pointing out that Kirsten's previous love of chocolate may have been the first sign of an addictive personality, and counsels him that most drinkers hate to drink alone or in the company of sober people.

Meanwhile, Kirsten's drinking persists, and she disappears for several days without contacting Joe. She is eventually located at a nearby motel, drunk, but when Joe tries to help her, he instead ends up drinking again. When their supply runs out, Joe happens upon a liquor store that closed for the night, breaks in, and steals a bottle, resulting in another trip to the sanitarium stripped down and tied to a treatment table. Hungerford appears at his side and warns him that he must keep sober no matter what, even if that means staying away from Kirsten.

Joe finally gets sober, becomes a responsible father to Debbie, and holds down a steady job. He tries to make amends with his father-in-law by offering him payment for past debts and wrongs, but Mr. Arnesen accuses him of being indirectly responsible for Kirsten's alcoholism. After calming down, Arnesen says that Kirsten has been disappearing for long stretches of time and picking up strangers in bars.

One night after Debbie is asleep, Kirsten, shakily sober for two days, comes to Joe's apartment to attempt a reconciliation. Joe replies that she is welcome back anytime, but only if she stops drinking. Kirsten refuses to admit she's an alcoholic, but does acknowledge that without alcohol, she "can't get over how dirty everything looks." Kirsten sadly advises Joe to give up on her, and leaves. Joe fights the urge to go after her, and looks through the window down the dark street as she walks away, in the vicinity of a bar. Again, Joe looks down the street, the bar's flashing sign reflecting in his window.




JP Miller found his title in the 1896 poem "Vitae Summa Brevis Spem Nos Vetat Incohare Longam" by the English writer Ernest Dowson (1867–1900):[5] It also inspired the title song devised by Henry Mancini and Johnny Mercer.

They are not long, the weeping and the laughter,
Love and desire and hate;
I think they have no portion in us after
We pass the gate.
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.

Johnny Mercer had also written the lyrics for the theme from Laura, a 1944 film in which Dowson's poem is quoted in its entirety.

Miller's teleplay for Playhouse 90, also titled Days of Wine and Roses, had received favorable critical attention and was nominated for an Emmy Award in the category Best Writing of a Single Dramatic Program - One Hour or Longer. Manulis, a Playhouse 90 producer, decided the material was ideal for a movie. Some critics observed that the movie lacked the impact of the original television production, which starred Cliff Robertson as Joe and Piper Laurie as Kirsten. In an article written for DVD Journal, critic D.K. Holm noted numerous changes that altered the original considerably when the material was filmed. He cites as an example the hiring of Jack Lemmon. With his participation "little remained of the founding teleplay, except for actor Charles Bickford reprising his role."[6]


The film's locations included San Francisco, Albany, California, and the Golden Gate Fields race track. The Oscar-winning title song had music by Henry Mancini and lyrics by Johnny Mercer. Single records by Andy Williams and the Henry Mancini chorus made the Billboard Top 40.

Director Blake Edwards became a non-drinker a year after completing the film and went into substance-abuse recovery. He said that he and Jack Lemmon were heavy drinkers while making the film.[7] Edwards used the theme of alcohol abuse often in his films, including 10 (1979), Blind Date (1987) and Skin Deep (1989). Both Lemmon and Remick sought help from Alcoholics Anonymous long after they had completed the film. Lemmon revealed to James Lipton on Inside the Actors Studio his past drinking problems and his recovery. The film had a lasting effect in reinforcing the growing social acceptance of Alcoholics Anonymous.[8]

In the interview on Inside the Actors Studio, Lemmon stated that there was pressure by the studio to change the ending. To preserve the integrity of the movie, scenes were filmed in the same order as they appeared in the script, with the last scene filmed last. This is in contrast with the standard practice of filming different scenes together that take place in the same location, which reduces expenses, shortens the schedule, and aids with scheduling the actors' time on set. Immediately following the completion of filming, Lemmon left for Europe and remained out of communication so that the studio would be forced to release the movie without changing the story.


Box office and release[edit]

The producers used the following ironic tagline to market the film:

This, in its own terrifying way, is a love story.

The picture opened in wide release in the United States on December 26, 1962. The box-office receipts for the film were good, given the numbers reported are in 1962 dollars. It earned $4 million in United States theatrical rentals,[9] ranking it 14th among high-grossing films of the year. The total domestic sales were $8,123,077.[1]

Critical response[edit]

The film became one of Blake Edwards' better-regarded films, opening to praise from the critics and audiences alike. Bosley Crowther, film critic for The New York Times, wrote "[It] is a commanding picture, and it is extremely well played by Mr. Lemmon and Miss Remick, who spare themselves none of the shameful, painful scenes. But for all their brilliant performing and the taut direction of Blake Edwards, they do not bring two pitiful characters to complete and overpowering life."[10]

The staff at Variety liked the film, especially the acting and writing: "Miller's grueling drama illustrates how the unquenchable lure of alcohol can supersede even love, and how marital communication cannot exist in a house divided by one-sided boozing ... Lemmon gives a dynamic and chilling performance. Scenes of his collapse, particularly in the violent ward, are brutally realistic and terrifying. Remick, too, is effective, and there is solid featured work from Charles Bickford and Jack Klugman in fine supporting performances."[11]

In a review of the DVD, critic Gary W. Tooze lauded Edwards' direction: "Blake Edwards's powerful adaptation of J.P. Miller's Playhouse 90 story, starring Jack Lemmon and Lee Remick in career performances, remains a variation in his body of work largely devoted to comedy... Lemmon is at his best and ditto for Remick in this harrowing tale of people consumed by their mutual addiction. This turns to an honest and heartbreaking portrayal of alcoholism as deftly done as any film I can remember."[12]

Margaret Parsons, film curator at the National Gallery of Art, stated "[The film] remains one of the most gut-wrenching dramas of alcohol-related ruin and recovery ever captured on film...and it's also one of the pioneering films of the genre."[13]

Rotten Tomatoes reported that 100% of critics gave the film a positive review, based on seven reviews.[14]

Awards and nominations[edit]

Award Category Nominee(s) Result
Academy Awards[15] Best Actor Jack Lemmon Nominated
Best Actress Lee Remick Nominated
Best Art Direction – Black-and-White Joseph C. Wright and George James Hopkins Nominated
Best Costume Design – Black-and-White Don Feld Nominated
Best Song "Days of Wine and Roses" – Henry Mancini and Johnny Mercer Won
British Academy Film Awards Best Film from any Source Days of Wine and Roses Nominated
Best Foreign Actor Jack Lemmon Nominated
Best Foreign Actress Lee Remick Nominated
Fotogramas de Plata Best Foreign Performer Jack Lemmon Won
Golden Globe Awards Best Motion Picture – Drama Days of Wine and Roses Nominated
Best Actor in a Motion Picture – Drama Jack Lemmon Nominated
Best Actress in a Motion Picture – Drama Lee Remick Nominated
Best Director – Motion Picture Blake Edwards Nominated
Laurel Awards Top Drama Days of Wine and Roses Won
Top Male Dramatic Performance Jack Lemmon Won
Top Female Dramatic Performance Lee Remick Won
Top Male Supporting Performance Charles Bickford Nominated
Top Song "Days of Wine and Roses" – Henry Mancini and Johnny Mercer Nominated
National Film Preservation Board National Film Registry Days of Wine and Roses Inducted
San Sebastián International Film Festival OCIC Award Blake Edwards Won[a]
Best Actor Jack Lemmon Won
Best Actress Lee Remick Won
Sant Jordi Awards Best Performance in a Foreign Film Jack Lemmon Won

Other Honors

  • Selected by the film critics of The New York Times as one of the 1000 best films ever made.
  • Selected as one of American Film Institute's best 400 films.

Home media[edit]

Warner Home Video released the film on video on February 9, 1983 as part of their "A Night At the Movies" series, featuring a Hearst Metrotone Newsreel; a Warner Bros. animated short; and a coming attractions trailer of films from 1962.[16] A LaserDisc was released in 1990. A DVD of the film was released on January 6, 2001 by Warner Home Video containing an extra commentary track by director Blake Edwards and an interview with Jack Lemmon. A Warner Archive Blu-ray was released on October 29, 2019.

Ain't No Sunshine[edit]

Bill Withers was inspired by the 1962 Jack Lemmon-Lee Remick movie Days of Wine and Roses; Withers was watching it on TV, and the doomed relationship at the film's center brought to mind a phrase: “Ain’t no sunshine when she’s gone." [17] This lead him to write Ain't No Sunshine in 1971.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Tied with Kōzaburō Yoshimura for A Night to Remember.


  1. ^ a b Box Office Information for Days of Wine and Roses[permanent dead link]. The Numbers. Retrieved June 13, 2013.
  2. ^ Variety film review; December 5, 1962, page 11.
  3. ^ "National Film Registry Turns 30". Library of Congress, Washington, D.C. 20540 USA. Retrieved 2020-09-25.
  4. ^ "Complete National Film Registry Listing | Film Registry | National Film Preservation Board | Programs at the Library of Congress | Library of Congress". Library of Congress, Washington, D.C. 20540 USA. Retrieved 2020-09-25.
  5. ^ Loveridge, Charlotte. Curtain Up, theater review, February 24, 1995.
  6. ^ Holm, D.K. DVD Journal. Last accessed: December 25, 2007
  7. ^ Days of Wine and Roses, DVD commentary by Blake Edwards.
  8. ^ Blocker, Jack S.; Fahey, David M.; Tyrrell, Ian R. (2003). Alcohol and Temperance in Modern History: An International Encyclopedia. Santa Barbara, Calif.: ABC-CLIO. p. vol. 1, p. 29. ISBN 1-57607-833-7. Retrieved 17 June 2016.
  9. ^ "All-Time Top Grossers", Variety, 8 January 1964, pg 69.
  10. ^ Crowther, Bosley. The New York Times, film review, January 18, 1963.
  11. ^ Variety. Staff film review of Days of Wine and Roses, January 18, 1962.
  12. ^ Tooze, Gary W. DVD Beaver, DVD review of film Days of Wine and Roses. Last accessed: December 25, 2007.
  13. ^ Parsons, Margaret Archived 2006-12-29 at the Wayback Machine. Recovery Month, July 11, 2005.
  14. ^ Days of Wine and Roses at Rotten Tomatoes. Last accessed: November 21, 2009.
  15. ^ "NY Times: Days of Wine and Roses". NY Times. Retrieved 2008-12-24.
  16. ^ "Warner Home Vid Adds New Titles". Daily Variety. December 28, 1982. p. 2.
  17. ^ Greene, Andy (2015-04-14). "Bill Withers: The Soul Man Who Walked Away". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 2020-04-04.

External links[edit]