Come Back, Little Sheba (1953)

95 or 99 mins | Drama | March 1953

Director:

Daniel Mann

Writer:

Ketti Frings

Producer:

Hal B. Wallis

Cinematographer:

James Wong Howe

Editor:

Warren Low

Production Designers:

Hal Pereira, Henry Bumstead
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HISTORY

According to a Jun 1950 HR news item, Paramount bought the rights to William Inge's play for $100,000, plus a percentage of the profits. Both Sidney Blackmer and Shirley Booth, who created the roles of "'Doc'" and "Lola" on the stage, were considered for the film, according to the HR item, but only Booth was cast. Come Back, Little Sheba marked the screen debuts of Booth and director Daniel Mann. According to an Oct 1951 Var news item, producer Hal Wallis considered casting Bette Davis as Lola when Booth appeared unavailable because of Broadway commitments. Modern sources note that Davis turned down the role. Booth, who won a Tony for her Broadway portrayal of Lola, also won a Best Actress Academy Award and was named best actress of 1952 by the New York Critics Circle. In Mar 1952, according to a NYT item, Booth signed a three-picture contract with Wallis. Booth, who was in her mid-forties when she made Come Back, Little Sheba , appeared in only four more pictures. Her last screen role was in Paramount's 1958 release Hot Spell (See Entry). In the early 1960s, she starred in the popular television series Hazel .
       According to modern sources, Burt Lancaster persuaded Wallis to cast him as Doc, even though, at age thirty-eight, he was too young for the part. In his autobiography, Wallis commented that in order to make the trim and muscular Lancaster appear older, his baggy, shapeless costume was padded at the waist and he was instructed to stoop, hollow his chest and shuffle his ... More Less

According to a Jun 1950 HR news item, Paramount bought the rights to William Inge's play for $100,000, plus a percentage of the profits. Both Sidney Blackmer and Shirley Booth, who created the roles of "'Doc'" and "Lola" on the stage, were considered for the film, according to the HR item, but only Booth was cast. Come Back, Little Sheba marked the screen debuts of Booth and director Daniel Mann. According to an Oct 1951 Var news item, producer Hal Wallis considered casting Bette Davis as Lola when Booth appeared unavailable because of Broadway commitments. Modern sources note that Davis turned down the role. Booth, who won a Tony for her Broadway portrayal of Lola, also won a Best Actress Academy Award and was named best actress of 1952 by the New York Critics Circle. In Mar 1952, according to a NYT item, Booth signed a three-picture contract with Wallis. Booth, who was in her mid-forties when she made Come Back, Little Sheba , appeared in only four more pictures. Her last screen role was in Paramount's 1958 release Hot Spell (See Entry). In the early 1960s, she starred in the popular television series Hazel .
       According to modern sources, Burt Lancaster persuaded Wallis to cast him as Doc, even though, at age thirty-eight, he was too young for the part. In his autobiography, Wallis commented that in order to make the trim and muscular Lancaster appear older, his baggy, shapeless costume was padded at the waist and he was instructed to stoop, hollow his chest and shuffle his feet. Critics praised Lancaster's performance. The HR reviewer commented that it was a "complete switch from anything he has ever done and easily the outstanding effort of his career," while the Var critic declared that the actor had "brought an unsupected talent" to the role.
       The following actors were listed by the CBCS, but their roles were not included in the final film: Peter Leeds ( Milkman ), Anthony Jochim ( Mr. Cruthers ), Henry Blair ( Western Union boy ) and Beverly Mook ( Judy Coffman ). According to a Feb 1952 NYHT article, scenes were added for the screen adaptation, including the sequence at the Alcoholics Anonymous meeting. Although the article states that scenes of Doc at work would be added, the final film does not include any office sequences. HR news items add Mary Murphy and Patricia Christie to the cast, but their appearance in the final film has not been confirmed. Another HR news item mentioned that Vince Edwards was being tested for a role, but he was not in the fil, Reviews and the CBCS list Terry Moore's character as "Marie Loring," but she is called "Marie Buckholder" in the picture. According to modern sources, location filming took place near the University of Southern California, in Los Angeles.
       In addition to Booth's Oscar, the film was nominated for Best Supporting Actress (Terry Moore) and Best Film Editing Academy Awards. Modern sources note that the picture earned 3.5 million dollars at the box office and was the number thirteen money-maker of 1953. On 31 Dec 1977, the NBC network, in association with Great Britain's Granada Television, broadcast a televised version of Inge's play, starring and produced by Laurence Olivier and co-starring Joanne Woodward. More Less

SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Box Office
6 Dec 1952.
---
Daily Variety
1 Dec 52
p. 3.
Film Daily
1 Dec 52
p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter
26 Jun 1950.
---
Hollywood Reporter
5 Jun 1951
p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter
15 Feb 52
p. 12.
Hollywood Reporter
14 Mar 52
p. 7.
Hollywood Reporter
21 Mar 52
p. 3, 16.
Hollywood Reporter
1 Dec 52
p. 3.
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest
29 Nov 52
p. 1621.
New York Herald Tribune
24 Feb 1952.
---
New York Times
2 Mar 1952.
---
New York Times
24 Dec 52
p. 13.
New York Times
26 Dec 52
p. 19.
New Yorker
27 Dec 1952.
---
Time
29 Dec 1952.
---
Variety
24 Oct 1951.
---
Variety
3 Dec 52
p. 6.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
PRODUCERS
WRITER
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
ART DIRECTORS
Art dir
Art dir
FILM EDITOR
Ed supv
SET DECORATORS
Set dec
Set dec
COSTUMES
Cost
MUSIC
Mus score
VISUAL EFFECTS
Spec photog eff
MAKEUP
Makeup supv
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the play Come Back, Little Sheba by William Inge, as produced by The Theatre Guild (New York, 15 Feb 1950).
DETAILS
Release Date:
March 1953
Premiere Information:
New York opening: 23 December 1952
Los Angeles opening: 25 December 1952
Production Date:
mid February--late March 1952
Copyright Claimant:
Wallis-Hazen, Inc.
Copyright Date:
1 February 1953
Copyright Number:
LP2436
Physical Properties:
Sound
Western Electric Recording
Black and White
Duration(in mins):
95 or 99
Length(in reels):
11
Country:
United States
Language:
English
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

One morning, dowdy, middle-aged housewife Lola Delaney eagerly shows Marie Buckholder, an art student at the nearby college, the upstairs bedroom she hopes to let in her two-story house. Marie is noncommital about the room, and after she leaves, Lola's husband "Doc" comes down for breakfast and is put out when Lola mentions that she is looking for a lodger. The soft-spoken, refined Doc, a chiropractor, reminds Lola that despite a year of sobriety through Alcoholics Anonymous, he still is vulnerable to stress and does not want a boarder. Doc changes his mind, however, when the effervescent Marie returns and arranges to turn Lola's sunny downstairs sewing room into a live-in studio. Later, Lola attends an AA meeting with Doc, whom she calls "Daddy," and watches with pride as he celebrates his one-year anniversary with the group. At home, after Marie excitedly tells Lola about the letter she received from her boyfriend Bruce, Doc asks his wife not to mention his alcoholism to Marie. As they retire to bed, Lola describes a dream she had about her little dog Sheba, who disappeared some months before. Although the patient Doc reminds her that Sheba was old and had a good life, Lola still yearns for her pet. The next morning, Lola asks Doc to take her to a movie that night, but he demurs, saying that he has needy alcoholics to help. When Lola reveals that Marie has a date with college athlete Turk Fisher, Doc dismisses Turk as a cad. While walking to his office with Marie, Doc admits that he attended a prestigious medical school but was forced to drop out ... +


One morning, dowdy, middle-aged housewife Lola Delaney eagerly shows Marie Buckholder, an art student at the nearby college, the upstairs bedroom she hopes to let in her two-story house. Marie is noncommital about the room, and after she leaves, Lola's husband "Doc" comes down for breakfast and is put out when Lola mentions that she is looking for a lodger. The soft-spoken, refined Doc, a chiropractor, reminds Lola that despite a year of sobriety through Alcoholics Anonymous, he still is vulnerable to stress and does not want a boarder. Doc changes his mind, however, when the effervescent Marie returns and arranges to turn Lola's sunny downstairs sewing room into a live-in studio. Later, Lola attends an AA meeting with Doc, whom she calls "Daddy," and watches with pride as he celebrates his one-year anniversary with the group. At home, after Marie excitedly tells Lola about the letter she received from her boyfriend Bruce, Doc asks his wife not to mention his alcoholism to Marie. As they retire to bed, Lola describes a dream she had about her little dog Sheba, who disappeared some months before. Although the patient Doc reminds her that Sheba was old and had a good life, Lola still yearns for her pet. The next morning, Lola asks Doc to take her to a movie that night, but he demurs, saying that he has needy alcoholics to help. When Lola reveals that Marie has a date with college athlete Turk Fisher, Doc dismisses Turk as a cad. While walking to his office with Marie, Doc admits that he attended a prestigious medical school but was forced to drop out before receiving his degree. Later, at the Delaney house, Lola chats with hard-working neighbor Mrs. Coffman, who advises her to get busy and forget Sheba. Lonely, Lola visits with the mailman, then listens to the radio until Marie and Turk burst in. Lola relinquishes the living room so that Marie can draw Turk in his skimpy track uniform for a poster contest. Once alone, Turk grabs Marie, and she makes a half-hearted attempt to resist his advances. When Doc returns home and sees the half-dressed Turk, he complains to Lola, but she defends Turk and Marie's relationship as harmless. Confused and upset, Doc escapes to the bathroom and sniffs Marie's lilac-scented bath powders. Later, Turk invites Marie to go dancing, prompting Lola to reminisce with Doc about their youth. Lola happily recalls her popularity in high school and the first time the shy and proper Doc kissed her, then asks him if he regrets that he had to marry her and leave school because she got pregnant. Doc reassures Lola, who lost the baby and could not have more, noting that because of his drinking, he missed many opportunities to improve their lot. After Doc drives off with fellow recovered alcoholics Elmo Huston and Ed Anderson, Lola calls plaintively for Sheba. Sometime later, Lola cleans the house in anticipation of a visit from Bruce and persuades Doc to dance with her in the living room. Once again, Turk and Marie interrupt, claiming they need to study, and Doc leaves the room, seething. Turk and Marie begin to kiss, while upstairs, Doc criticizes Lola for admitting that she sometimes "watches" the young couple. Doc leaves on AA business, and Turk, who senses the older man's hostility, insists to Marie that he is jealous. Marie, however, dismisses Turk's concerns and agrees to come back to the house with him after the Delaneys have gone to bed. When they do return, they fail to notice Doc, who was come in through the kitchen door and is observing them in the dark. Marie soon has second thoughts about the tryst and resists Turk's aggressive advances, while Doc, unnerved, retreats to the kitchen, staring longingly at the whiskey bottle that Lola keeps for special occasions. Though tempted, Doc goes to bed in a sweat, unaware that Turk has exited through Marie's window in frustrated disgust. The next morning, while setting the dining room table for that night's dinner with Bruce, Lola tells Marie about her overly strict father, who disowned her after she married Doc. His anxiety unabated, Doc then leaves for work with the whiskey bottle tucked under his raincoat. Just before Bruce arrives, Marie confides in Lola, who has gotten dressed up and prepared a fancy meal, that she has decided to marry him. When Lola goes to fix a cocktail for Bruce, she discovers the missing whiskey and quietly panics. After calling Ed for help and making excuses for Doc's absence, Lola serves the young couple dinner. Hours later, Doc stumbles back home, drunk, and replaces the whiskey bottle. Lola confronts him, but he denies he has been drinking and asks about Marie. When Lola reveals that Marie has been out all night with Bruce, Doc explodes, calling Marie and Lola "sluts." Unleashing his pent-up rage, Doc accuses Lola of being fat and lazy and threatens her with a knife. Doc then starts to choke Lola, but passes out just as Mrs. Coffman arrives with Ed and Elmo, who take Doc to the hospital to dry out. At the hospital the next day, Lola hears a delirious Doc muttering the words "pretty Lola" and cries with shame. Back at home, Lola telephones her mother and tearfully asks to visit, but is refused by her father. When Doc finally is discharged, Lola greets him lovingly and tells him that Bruce and Marie have married. Moved, Doc begs for forgiveness and compliments Lola on the improvements she has made to the kitchen. After assuring him that she intends to be a better wife, Lola fixes his breakfast and recalls the "crazy dream" she had. At the end of the dream, she says, she discovered Sheba dead and now realizes that she has to go on with life. Doc concurs, stating, "It's good to be home." +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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