|Bar mates: Richard Egan and Arthur O'Connell
"We're all in the same boat, none of us more than one drink away from the gutter for the rest of our lives."
"I spilled more whiskey than you ever drank."
Commercial artist Jim Burton (Richard Egan) claims to have started drinking since the death of his little girl, but his doctor, Leon (Walter Matthau), reminds him that he was drinking before that and would probably have used any excuse. Jim's patient wife, Ellen (Julie London of The Helicopter Spies), is forced to put up with broken promises and wondering if and when he'll come home and what condition he'll be in. Now Leon tells him that his alcoholism may have created serious nerve damage. A fellow drunk named Harry (Harry Bartell) tells him that he thinks the solution to their problem may be through spiritualism, but Jim discovers that the secret may be to help other drunks -- alcoholics can help other alcoholics stay sober. Although set twenty years later, Voice in the Mirror basically appears to be the story of the formation of Alcoholics Anonymous (although the term is never used and there's not as much emphasis on religiosity; AA's famous slogan is used at the end, however.) In any case, the picture is absorbing and generally well-acted, with a moving conclusion. Egan and London are not exactly perfect casting for this film (stolid Egan never quite seems desperate enough for one thing), but both of them have their moments; oddly, London is better in her more emotional and difficult scenes than in her quieter ones. Harry Bartell and Doris Singleton, who plays Jim's sympathetic co-worker, have nice bits; both of them appeared several times on I Love Lucy. Arthur O'Connell nearly steals the picture as one of Jim's sad friends, and Matthau, in an unexpected role as the no-nonsense doctor, is also excellent. Ann Doran and Peggy Converse make their marks, respectively, as a landlady and the mother of a suicidal young drunk played by Troy Donahue. Eleanor Audley [Sleeping Beauty] is fine as a woman at a soup kitchen, and I believe that's Mae Clarke [Frankenstein] playing the first woman member of Jim's group. One of the best scenes depicts Jim's frightening nightmare in which he is caught in a train tunnel as a rushing train threatens to run him down.
Verdict: Imperfect but interesting and affecting drama. ***.