An emotionally remote recovering alcoholic and his dowdy, unambitious wife face a personal crisis when they take in an attractive lodger. Doc Delaney (Burt Lancaster) and wife Lola (Shirley Booth) had an indiscreet affair, she became pregnant and, compelled to marry her, he gave up his medical studies, forfeited his future and settled down to a life of quiet desperation with the simple, frumpy Lola, who lost the child but has remained Doc's steadfast if slatternly wife. Now a chiropractor, recovering alcoholic, and active member of his town's AA chapter, Doc's sobriety is severely tested when Marie (Terry Moore), a young college student becomes their boarder, bringing new life and long-dormant hostilities to the surface of Doc and Lola's troubled marriage.
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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.
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This film is as powerful as when I first saw it as a teenager. One would think that after 50 years, the material would seem dated. But in fact, a lot of what was said then, seems even more relevant today. Inge is unfortunately a very underrated writer. He seemed to respond to things on a much more emotional level than many of his contemporaries and this is why his material has not lost interest. His plays never seem to go to an intellectual level. He wrote about what he knew and didn't try to be something he wasn't. Are there really Blanche DuBois and Willie Lomans today? Just listening to those plays, as wonderful as they might be, is something we can no longer relate to. But there will always be Lola Delaneys. Everyone knows a few of them. The film was obviously made on a very tight budget and we are lucky for that. Imagine how it would have been had they cast Rosiland Russell and Jimmy Stewart. Though Burt Lancaster was miscast, the simple fact that he was a great actor, means his performance comes off amazingly well. And what more can be said about Booth, except the extreme regret we who never saw her in the play onstage must feel. The power of that performance is beyond description. Anyone who likes this movie should try to get hold of the new recording of the musical version. It was obviously written by people with tremendous love and respect for Inge's work.
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