So was this movie supposed to give me a drinking problem or something? As I watched Susan Hayward pretending to have a seizure that practically screamed “I liked to thank the Academy and also Lillian Roth for having such a crappy life” I was thinking about how much more entertaining this would all be if I was as wasted as the main character was throughout the film.
I knew we were in for one of those self-important “my life is such garbage, but you can admire me for making it through it” type movies when it began with a quote from Lillian Roth herself.
I don’t recall exactly what it said but the message was that her whole life had been planned out for her and that somehow this was a bad thing that caused her take up with abusive men, crawl into the bottle, and fight with her mother.
Lily, Lily, Lily. Don’t blame the fact that your life has been planned out for you. That’s not something to rail against, it makes living in this world of fecal bacteria easier to tolerate. You just need someone other than your self-centered stage mommy planning it out for you.
After this quote, the movie gets on with telling the story of Lillian Roth. In a nutshell, she was a singer and/or actress that no one has ever heard of, but who is famous for being an alcoholic played by Susan Hayward.
I’m not sure if that was exactly the career trajectory that her overbearing mother Katie foresaw when she warped her daughter’s childhood in an effort to make her brat a star. As I watched the opening scenes where Katie gets pissed after Lillian, fails to win another audition, she pretty much body slams her kid to the sidewalk in the middle of New York City, I was thinking that I’ll bet the real life Katie wasn’t at the premiere of this film.
Once she’s finally about to “break” as we showbiz types put it, who should appear, but her old pal from the old neighborhood, David. He’s now a hotshot lawyer with a big brain tumor or something.
I don’t believe we were ever told what it was (maybe Lillian was told, but it was probably during a blackout), but when we see him, he grabs his head in pain once and ends up in the hospital.
In between bouts of brain tumors, David and Lillian rekindle their romance. But it isn’t long before David is dying in the hospital and Lillian is off somewhere performing instead of being with her man.
Even though we didn’t spend much time on this whole David and Lillian romance or his illness and death, it’s portrayed as the sole reason that she started drinking.
You know, first a few nips to help her sleep, then some to help her feel up and some to help her feel down and the next thing you know she’s married to some soldier she doesn’t love and can’t even remember the wedding!
Lillian gets divorced from her first husband (the Internet Movie Database lists eight different husbands for the real Lillian Roth, though none of them have the same names as the two husbands she has in this movie) because all they had in common was drinking and she eventually takes up with a guy who is also a drinker.
He plays a little rougher than the first guy. For instance, when Lillian tries to throw out some of his booze, he splashes it in her face saying something about how she should smell it and realize how expensive it is! So that’s how you tell!
Finally, she leaves him and ends up at a flop house and gets a running start toward an open window. She passes out though and falls back into the room instead of to the street below (Stupid booze!) and when she wakes up, it’s off to AA.
If you insist on watching this movie because you’ve been brainwashed into believing that actors and actresses over-emoting and portraying characters with various handicaps are somehow giving us great performances, instead of the ego-gratifying showy melodrama that all these un-nuanced roles truly are, go ahead and turn the movie off because Susan is finished with her over-the-top drunk performance.
Now, she turns it down several notches as she falls in love with her AA sponsor Eddie Albert. And the only thing less interesting than seeing Susan beg for an Oscar with her “sick” character is watching her get sober and romancing the kindly and polio stricken ex-boozehound Burt.
You do get one moderate-sized laugh if you stick it out for the whole two hours when Lillian goes on This Is Your Life to tell her story and the host introduces her by saying that it is a story of “shame and degradation.” Finally, someone willing to say what all us non-drunks are thinking!
Maybe this was a big deal in 1955, but today we expect our celebrities to routinely get busted at airports with drugs and periodically check into rehab for “exhaustion.” It’s all become such a routine part of someone’s career that I can’t imagine a movie being made about any of our modern celebrities’ battles with addiction.
The problem with I’ll Cry Tomorrow is that Lillian Roth’s life (at least as presented in this movie) is really pretty darn dull. She sings every so often and she gets wasted the rest of the time, then she sobers up after a weekend of the shakes, before hitting on that guy from Green Acres. Two hours of Hayward’s grating impression of a drunk will definitely leave the viewer with a substantial hangover.
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