Uncomfortable to watch more than fifty years after its theatrical release, Days of Wine and Roses remains a powerful portrait of a co-dependent couple and their painful slide into alcoholism. PR man Joe Clay’s (Jack Lemmon, Some Like It Hot) high pressure, unsatisfying job requires him to wine and dine clients. He meets a young woman named Kirsten (Lee Remick, A Face in the Crowd) under the lurid professional circumstances, while procuring eligible girls to entertain his high-powered client at a yacht party. While that awkward meeting initially puts them at odds. He tries to make amends; a job made more difficult, given her status as a teetotaler and his need for a drink-in-hand during social interactions.

For a while, things play out like a romantic comedy as Joe makes clumsy efforts to woo Kirsten. It’s only when Joe uses her love of chocolate to introduce her to Brandy Alexander’s and the idea that alcohol can taste good, that things begin to take a different direction. Even as they fall in love and marry Kirsten has become Joe’s drinking buddy. They have a baby girl and Kirsten gives up drinking (in a rather graphic moment for 1962, Lee Remick holds her beasts to emphasize why she can’t drink). Joe explodes in anger. She is no fun sober; he needs his drinking buddy back. Ever the supportive wife, Kirsten pours herself a large scotch…Soon, their drinking is out of control. He is demoted at work; she accidentally sets fire to their apartment.  Joe is fired from his job.

Perhaps two or three years later (the timeline is vague), Joe is unable to keep a job and Kirsten a lethargic she’ll of herself, drinking beer from a can. They both attempt to get their lives back on track, but their addictions and their lives are on separate courses. Too much of their relationship is built around booze, a “threesome” as Joe calls it.

Originally a 1958 episode of the classic television anthology Playhouse 90, J.P. Miller adapted his teleplay for the big screen. Director Blake Edwards (Breakfast at Tiffany’s), at the time known largely for his comedies, injected some lighter moments into a bleak story. Particularly memorable is Joe’s drunken return home with tulips from the apartment garden but in his cluelessness, with their blossoms chopped off by a closing elevator door.

With Joe Clay, Jack Lemmon again plays the kind of everyman that would earn him legendary status. An average man, living an average life, consumed by addiction. Watching him nearly mad while drying out in an alcoholic ward is difficult. Strapped down to a table to prevent him from hurting himself during hallucinations from the DTs. As with so many others, Lemmon’s Joe Clay is impossible not root for. The Days of Wine and Roses may have been the high watermark of Lee Remick’s career. Kirsten’s slide from teetotaler to committed drunk is certainly a rough one and Remick is convincing the entire time. Aside from the leads, The Days of Wine and Roses also features a strong supporting cast. Charles Bickford (reprising his role from Playhouse 90), gives a quietly authoritative, yet heartbreaking  performance as Kristen’s father, Jack Klugman offers compassion and support as Joe’s AA sponsor, Alan Hewitt, mainly remembered for his roles in light comedies in film and on television, plays Joe’s manipulative boss. Jack Albertson (Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory) also turns up as a fellow PR man.

An Oscar was awarded to the film’s theme music, composed by Henry 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.”

Presented in the 1.85:1 aspect ratio, this is another one of Warner Archive’s superb black and white transfers. The image looks fantastic. Black levels are deep and inky, while whites are clean and stable. The image is sharp, with a light, filmic grain in evidence. Contrast is perfectly balanced. There’s no dirt, debris, scratches, etc., to mar the viewing experience.

The DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mono track offers a well-suited mix. Henry Mancini’s beautiful title song and score is mixed with the dialogue and sound effects, so they all work in tandem. No matter the situation or scene, dialogue remains clear and concise throughout. Any age-related issues with hiss, flutter, hum, etc., have been eliminated.

English SDH subtitles are included.

The following extras are available:

  • Audio Commentary with Director Blake Edwards: Edwards admits he hasn’t seen the film in decades and there’s some long pauses as he seems to get lost in the film. However, he does offer some interesting tidbits about how he got the job, the actors, actresses, etc.
  • Jack Lemmon Interview (SD, 5:06) A one-sided interview with Lemmon obviously staged so that interviewers could film their scripted questions to his already filmed answers.
  • Theatrical Trailer (HD, 3:33)