Lively, entertaining reviews of, and essays on, old and newer films and everything relating to them, written by professional author William Schoell.

Thursday, March 30, 2017


Bar mates: Richard Egan and Arthur O'Connell
VOICE IN THE MIRROR (1958). Director: Harry Keller.

"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. ***.


angelman66 said...

Hi Bill - this one looks worthwhile; what a great cast of reliable character actors...particularly Arthur O'Connell, one of my favorites from Bus Stop and Poseidon Adventure. And Doris Singleton was great as Carolyn Appleby on Lucy. Just saw Richard Egan in A Summer Place - forgot what an appealing leading man he was, too - and Troy Donahue too, was in it. Throw in the amazing Matthau and the beautiful Julie London and it's a must-see for me!

Nice new look on the blog, by the way!!

William said...

Thanks for the kind words about the new blog look!

I confess I watched this flick because of the cast. I've always liked Egan, and it's always fun to see "Carolyn" (sometimes "Lillian") Appleby from "Lucy." O'Connell was an excellent character actor who graced many a movie!

angelman66 said...

Should have known you were a hardcore I Love Lucy fan! Carolyn became Lillian in several episodes!!

Pekkala said...

Thank you for reviewing this unjustly obscure gem. I always liked Richard Egan and his subtle "non-acting" style. I like how he portrays a man with inner struggles here. He was always trying to play a man who has his act together but is actually falling apart and who humiliates himslef by taking money from his wife's purse. The scene with the fake whisky bottle and the near breakdown was filled with tension and difficult to watch. The gritty Henry Mancini score is also worth noting as is the theme song written and sung but Julie London. Excellent performances by Mr. Egan, Julie London, Arthur O'connell and Walter Matthau. A must see...

William said...

"He was always trying to play a man who has his act together but is actually falling apart" -- that's beautifully put!

"Voice in the Mirror" is a worthwhile film about alcoholism that has gotten lost over the years while others, such as "The Lost Weekend," probably the most famous example, remain classic. Don't know why it's been forgotten as it's a good film with some notable performances. Glad you liked it!

Thanks for your comments!

Pekkala said...

I think it's rather curious too that this film has been overlooked in favor of "The Lost Weekend" and "Days of Wine and Roses" especially since the film posed a real solution to a massive problem. A friend of mine claimed that this was the film which finally motivated him to seek help for his alcohol problem. It is such a potent film and like several of Mr. Egan's works: Violent Saturday, Tension on Table Rock and Slaughter on Tenth Avenue, deserves more attention. Thank you for your blog.

William said...

Thanks for reading and thanks for your comments. They are much appreciated. I am going to revisit the other Egan films you mention soon.

Pekkala said...

You're welcome. Thank you for your blog.