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Meg Ryan in “When A Man Loves A Woman” (1994)

Our second season of distinguished feature films on alcoholism and addiction emphasizes paths to recovery.

We see how these can grow out of despair and powerlessness over substances. Discuss the films, their origins, directors and stars.

  • Come Back, Little Sheba (1951) 
    Burt Lancaster is a recovering alcoholic in the powerhouse drama from William Inge’s play, with Oscar-winning Shirley Booth as his wife, torrid Terry Moore as his temptation.
  • Come, Fill the Cup (1952) 
    James Cagney’s one lost drama as a recovering alcoholic newspaper editor who only hires drunks. A uniquely hopeful drama with Phyllis Thaxter and Oscar-nominated Gig Young.
  • Ironweed (1973) 
    William Kennedy’s Pulitzer Prize winning novel of skid row drunks (Meryl Streep and Jack Nicholson) in 1938 Albany. With Carroll Baker, Fred Gwynne, Diane Venora.
  • The Rose (1979) 
    Bette Medler channels Janis Joplin’s last nights in concert, struggling with liquor, pills and heroin in Mark Rydell’s knockout biopic. With Alan Bates as her wily manager. 
  • My Name is Bill W. (1989) 
    James Woods and James Garner star as AA co-founders Bill Wilson and ‘Dr. Bob’ in the stirring biopic. Will Jobeth Williams as Al-Anon co-founder Lois Wilson.
  • When A Man Loves A Woman (1994) 
    Airline pilot Andy Garcia watches his wife (Meg Ryan, her career-defining role) slip into chronic alcoholism … then finds a detox and AA path toward recovery. With Philip Seymour Hoffman.
  • Nico Icon (1995) / Hit So Hard (2011) 
    Two fine documentaries, one survivor: Patty Schemel, drummer with Courtney Love, kicks her habit … Nico, junkie goddess with The Velvet Underground, doesn’t.
  • Georgia (1995) 
    Jennifer Jason Leigh (Best Actress, NY Film Critics Circle) is a cross-addicted barroom singer who idolizes her sister (Oscar nominated Mare Winningham). Live-recorded with John Doe and John C. Reilly.

Brief Bio

Kurt Brokaw is Associate Teaching Professor at The New School and senior film critic of The Independent magazine (

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