The Days of Wine and Roses (1958)

And then there was videotape. Apparently Playhouse 90 started recording whole shows live to tape in 1957—and from that time onwards live TV drama’s days were kind of numbered—but in this case John Frankenheimer actually used a mix of live and tape owing to what would otherwise have been some insuperable complexities. It was actually kind of interesting to see how the mix worked, cos the video segments (all of which seem to have been the AA meeting scenes) must’ve been recorded live and not edited afterwards (tape technology would’ve been far too primitive for that), but somehow they felt less “live” than the actual live sections. And yet those parts of the program have this really odd tendency to feel, you know, “filmed” or something. Like the man says here, it’s hard to remember at times that these shows were live, but this is the most trouble I’ve had in the whole set doing so. It’s such a slick production I really had to work to remember it was in fact a (mostly) live performance. It’s just the subject matter… like I’ve said elsewhere, I find alcoholism (or addiction generally) kind of a repelling subject, hence why I’ve never seen the film version of this, or its relatives like The Lost Weekend, and also why this was the program in the Golden Age of TV set I was looking forward to the least. Having said which, I’d have to be an even bigger fool than I already am to deny the thing does have power, and it’s pretty ruthless indeed in its general lack of sentimentality and refusal to capitulate to a happy ending. It’s just that, however good I intellectually recognise it is—and it surely is very good—the subject is one that prevents me from getting too close to it. Which is a problem with me rather than the production itself, which is a solid enough conclusion to the box set.

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