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Come Back, Little Sheba

Come Back, Little Sheba

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Come Back, Little Sheba, For two decades Doc and Lola Delaney avoided coming to terms with what Doc considered a “shot gun” marriage. Lola lost the baby and gives a lot of her affection to Sheba, a dog that disappeared a few months before the film opens. Doc blames Lola for having to drop out of medical school and not becoming a “real” doctor. Until joining AA a year ago, his escape was alcohol. Then college student Marie rents a room in their home. Doc feels passion for the first time in 20 years. But Marie has two suitors her age. Lola — unaware of Doc’s emotions –becomes as interested in Marie’s future as if Marie were her daughter.

A fascinatingly well done tale of alcoholism.

Come Back, Little Sheba, Burt Lancaster, Shirley Booth, and Terry Moore shine in this very fine flick. In watching it, if you know anything at all about denial, projection, alcoholism, and Alcholics Anonymous, this is a wonderful telling of the psychological and spiritual truths behind the disease. Certain attitudes and comments, projected so well by both Booth and Lancaster, along with the innocent bystander Moore, are dead on. The activities of the men who come to deal with Lancaster while he is in his cups are straight out of the “Big Book”. And the resultant coming to grips with the thing, a turn around in out look, are perfect examples of “progress, not perfection” and “having had a spiritual awakening”. For the plot, the great acting ability, the talent both in front of and behind the camera, and, for me anyway, the psychology of the thing, it just doesn’t get much better than this.

Booth’s performance is one of the best ever to win an Oscar

Shirley Booth was 54 when she won the Academy Award as Best Actress for her performance as Lola in the screen version of William Inge’s “Come Back, Little Sheba”. It was also her screen debut in a role that had previously won her a Tony on the stage and, quite frankly, she was magnificent. It launched her on a short-lived movie career and a slightly longer career on television. It’s a fine film, well directed by Daniel Mann and adapted by Ketti Frings and it has three other good performances from Burt Lancaster as the alcoholic Doc, Terry Moore as the young lodger who, unwittingly, is the cause of Doc’s hitting the bottle again and Richard Jaeckel as the athletic stud Moore is dallying with. Admittedly Lancaster, who at 39 was 15 years younger than Booth, isn’t really right for his role, (he was too young for starters), but he handles it very effectively. Nevertheless, this is Booth’s show. If she had never done anything else on screen she would still have earned her place in the pantheon of great performances.

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