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Come Fill the Cup

(1951 b 113')

En: 6 Ed: 6

Based on Harlan Ware’s novel, an alcoholic reporter gives up drinking, gets his job back, and helps other alcoholics, especially the owner’s nephew.

         Lew Marsh (James Cagney) is fired from a newspaper by his editor after another drinking binge. Woman’s page writer Paula (Phyllis Thaxter) tries to help Lew, but he drinks himself into the gutter. After going through delirium tremens in the hospital, Lew is released and taken home by recovering alcoholic Charley Dolan (James Gleason). They quit because they each heard the sound of “angels’ feathers.” Lew stays with Charley and gets a manual job. After months of sobriety Charley writes a letter to Lew’s old newspaper, and Lew gets a job there again.

         Several years go by, and sober Lew has become city editor. Lew is tempted to drink, but with Charley’s help even news of Paula’s wedding does not ruin him. Lew has helped three sobered-up alcoholics get jobs on the paper. The owner John Ives learns of this, and summons Lew on his plane to come and help his alcoholic nephew Boyd Copeland (Gig Young), Paula’s husband. Lew tells John Ives (Raymond Massey) he is not a psychologist, but Ives has already tried them. When Boyd comes in, Lew is frank and honest without making claims about being helpful. Lew tells Boyd’s mother Dolly Copeland (Selena Royle) to stop smothering her son, and he lets Boyd sleep in his room without trying to stop him from drinking. Lew plays the piano while drunk and says he will never finish his composition.

         Paula tells Lew that Boyd has a girl named Maria, and she wants to get a divorce. Lew hopes that Paula will come back to him, but she says she needs more time. She goes to Reno. Lew learns that Boyd was stabbed in Miami and knows the gangster Lennie Garr (Sheldon Leonard), who threatens Lew with his “vice presidents” and claims the newspaper can’t hurt him.

         Lew brings Boyd to Charley’s apartment and tells him the liquor is not hidden. Later he learns that Charley removed the liquor at Boyd’s request. One night Boyd disappears, and Lew’s team goes looking for him. Charley finds Boyd in a bar drunk, and they get into his car. Boyd drives fast and crashes into a truck. Lew arrives on the scene, gives Boyd a hard look, and then talks with Charley before he dies. Lew slaps Boyd several times.

         Ives tells Lew that Boyd has stopped drinking and needs his help. Lew finds Boyd suffering delirium tremens and offers him a medicinal drink. Boyd refuses it, and Lew tells him he has to do it himself and that he needs to be in a hospital.

         Lew learns that the car’s brakes were sabotaged, and he tells the police he is going to print a story that they found fingerprints. Police are closing in on Lennie and his gang, and Maria (Charlita) has disappeared. She calls, and Lew goes to pick her up. Paula comes back from Reno without getting a divorce and finds Lew in Boyd’s apartment. Boyd has put up her photos. Lennie comes in and orders Boyd and Lew to drink so that he can throw Maria out the window. Lew throws the glass at Lennie, and in the struggle Lennie is killed. After reporting the story, Lew calls the police.

         This drama is made even more powerful by the knowledge that Gig Young struggled with alcoholism and ended up killing his wife and himself. The successful methods used by Alcoholics Anonymous are apparent in this story. For the reporter devotion to his work proves to be good therapy.

Copyright © 2007 by Sanderson Beck

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