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
Screenplay byJP Miller
Based onDays of Wine and Roses
1958 teleplay
by JP Miller
Produced byMartin Manulis
StarringJack Lemmon
Lee Remick
Charles Bickford
Jack Klugman
Alan Hewitt
CinematographyPhilip H. Lathrop
Edited byPatrick McCormack
Music byHenry Mancini
Jalem Productions
Distributed byWarner Bros.
Release date
  • December 26, 1962 (1962-12-26) (United States)
Running time
117 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$2 million[1]
Box office$8.1 million (US/Canada)[2]

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.[3] 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."[4][5]


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 makes her “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 is fired, and he spends the next several years going from job to job.

One day, Joe sees his reflection in a bar window, and realizes in horror that he hardly knows his own face. He tells Kirsten that they must stop drinking, and she reluctantly agrees. Seeking escape from their addiction, Joe and Kirsten work together in 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 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 passion for chocolate may have been the first sign of an addictive personality. Jim advises Joe 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 ends up drinking again. When their supply runs out, Joe happens upon a liquor store that has closed for the night. He breaks in and steals a bottle, resulting in another trip to the sanitarium, where he is 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 to his father-in-law by offering him payment for past debts and wrongs, but 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 is 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 is an alcoholic and acknowledges why she can't stop: "The world looks so dirty to me when I'm not drinking.” She tries to persuade Joe to forget the past and reunite with her. He tells her he won't abandon sobriety for anything, not even her. If she wants to grab on, grab on, but there is no room for booze. Kirsten sadly advises Joe to give up on her. “Not yet,” he says.

She leaves. Joe fights the urge to go after her, calling her name, and watches through the window as she walks out into the night, turning away from a bar. Debbie wakes. He tells her she was dreaming and puts her back to bed, explaining: “Mommy is sick…” “Is she going to get well?” “I did, didn't I?” Debbie nods.

The last scene is a reverse shot of Joe staring out at the empty street, the bar's flashing neon sign reflected in the 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):[6] 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."[7]


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.[8] 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.[9]

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.


The producers used the following tagline to market the film: "This, in its own terrifying way, is a love story."

The picture opened in the United States on December 26, 1962.

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.[10] 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.


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."[11]

"Tube." at Variety liked the film, especially the acting and writing: "Miller's gruelling 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. Miss Remick, too, is effective, and there is solid featured work from Charles Bickford and Jack Klugman and a number of fine supporting performances."[3]

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]

On review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, the film has an approval rating of 100% based on 14 reviews, with an average score of 8.80/10.[14]

Box office[edit]

Jack L. Warner claimed the film needed to earn theatrical rentals of 2.5 times its $2 million budget to become profitable.[1] It earned $4 million in rentals in the United States and Canada,[15] from a gross of $8.1 million, ranking it 14th among high-grossing films of the year.[2]

Awards and nominations[edit]

Award Category Nominee(s) Result
Academy Awards[16] Best Actor Jack Lemmon Nominated
Best Actress Lee Remick Nominated
Best Art Direction – Black-and-White Art Direction: Joseph C. Wright;
Set Decoration: George James Hopkins
Best Costume Design – Black-and-White Don Feld Nominated
Best Song "Days of Wine and Roses"
Music by Henry Mancini;
Lyrics by Johnny Mercer
British Academy Film Awards Best Film from any Source 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 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 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"
Music by Henry Mancini;
Lyrics by Johnny Mercer
National Film Preservation Board National Film Registry 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.

"Ain't No Sunshine"[edit]

Bill Withers was inspired by Days of Wine and Roses. Withers was watching it on television, and the doomed relationship at the film's center brought to mind a phrase: "Ain’t no sunshine when she’s gone."[17] This led 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 Arneel, Gene (June 13, 1962). "Star Salaries and Profit Hurdles; Can the Actor Pull 2.3 Times Pay?". Variety. p. 1.
  2. ^ a b "Box Office Information for Days of Wine and Roses". The Numbers. Retrieved November 17, 2020.
  3. ^ a b Tube. (December 5, 1962). "Film Reviews: Days of Wine and Roses". Variety. p. 11. Retrieved November 17, 2020.
  4. ^ "National Film Registry Turns 30". Library of Congress. Retrieved 2020-09-25.
  5. ^ "Complete National Film Registry Listing". Library of Congress. Retrieved 2020-09-25.
  6. ^ Loveridge, Charlotte. Curtain Up, theater review, February 24, 1995.
  7. ^ Holm, D.K. DVD Journal. Last accessed: December 25, 2007
  8. ^ Days of Wine and Roses, DVD commentary by Blake Edwards.
  9. ^ 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.
  10. ^ "Warner Home Vid Adds New Titles". Daily Variety. December 28, 1982. p. 2.
  11. ^ Crowther, Bosley (January 18, 1963). "Screen: 'Days of Wine and Roses'". The New York Times.
  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: March 18, 2022.
  15. ^ "All-Time Top Grossers". Variety. 8 January 1964. p. 69.
  16. ^ "NY Times: Days of Wine and Roses". Movies & TV Dept. The New York Times. 2012. Archived from the original on 2012-10-18. Retrieved 2008-12-24.
  17. ^ Greene, Andy (2015-04-14). "Bill Withers: The Soul Man Who Walked Away". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 2020-04-04.

External links[edit]