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Salient. An Organ of Student Opinion at Victoria University College, Wellington N.Z. Vol. 20, No. 9. June 27, 1957

Grapes of Roth

Grapes of Roth

Beer Steins

"I'll Cry Tomorrow" tells the story of Lillian Roth, famous singer of a decade or two ago, who became an alcoholic and succeeded in conquering her addiction and returning to stardom.

As the film begins we see Miss Roth as a child being dragged along to an audition by her ambitious mother. This sequence, in its portrayal of the mother as a frightened, ambitious woman, married to failure, desperate that her child should escape the meanness and misery of the world into which she was born, is a superb opening. Its promise is not fulfilled.

Miss Roth grows up and, her mother always the driving force, becomes a star. She marries. Shortly afterwards her husband dies. This tragic event combines with the strain brought about by the responsibility of her mother's ambition, and she begins to break. A kindly nurse gives her a drink to enable her to get a night's sleep, and that is the start of what was very nearly the end for Lillian Roth.

She goes from bad to worse, soon becoming a total and permanent drunkard. After a long period of degradation, resulting nearly in her death, she turns to Alcoholics Anonymous, where a friendly staff of cured alcoholics helps her to throw off her addiction with their understanding and kindness. As well, of course, they submit her to a somewhat uncomfortable "drying off" period.

Susan Hayward won an award for her performance as Lillian Roth; the real star of this film was Jo van Fleet, who played the mother with overwhelming effect. A near-perfect screen actress. She alone managed to rise above the depressing mediocrity of the dialogue.

Susan Hayward, by contrast, revelled :in it, and the various menfolk who formed attachments to her were conventionally sketched and quite uninteresting.

Impressive though Jo van Fleet may have been, she was unable to save "I'll Cry Tomorrow" from being a bad film. I am inclined to think that film as a medium is not suited to biography; at the same time I am sure that "I'll Cry Tomorrow" could have been more successful. The story of an alcoholic's decline and recovery is full of exciting possibilities. The fault lay in the biographical approach. An idea may be taken from an actual life, but the idea should be extended, the end being to produce a good story And any moral should be pointed more lightly—and coherently—than that in this film. To show a person degraded by alcoholism is an excellent start. Miss Roth starts to drink, finds she cannot stop and goes steadily down hill. She finally turns to A.A. and is cured. Thai's nice. It discourages alcoholism and advertises a worthy institution. But where is the conflict, the stuff of which drama is made? This sort of stuff is no good to me: when I go to the pictures I do not wish to be taught the evils of bad habits, nor to learn of the organisations devoted to their cure. I go to be excited, to become involved in human conflict, psychological or social. "I'll Cry Tomorrow". lacking any such clement, presented nothing more than a dull romanticised documentary. No one actress could ever save it.