Come Fill the Cup (1951)


Come Fill the Cup (1951)I’ve seen a few James Cagney‘s films recently, all very new to me, still hoping to come across his earlier work. Nonetheless it’s great to discover this lesser-known pieces such as Come Fill the Cup (1951). From the beginning I thought this would be one of those issues film-noir’s which it is to a point in terms of subject matter. Not many film genres discussed alcoholism so frankly in the early fifties. The same can be said for Possessed (1947) which looked at schizophrenia. Aesthetically it’s not your straight-forward noir look of deep shadows, being much lighter. The subject matter is dark enough really.

Also a real jump for Cagney who tried for the rest of his career to leave the gangster image of the 1930’s behind, has not completely shaken it off. Faced with new demons – the bottle which causes him (Lew Marsh) to lose his job at  newspaper. It’s not until he hears “angel wings” he decides enough is enough, collapsing and being treated in hospital. Taken into care of Charley Dolan (James Gleason) himself a recovering alcoholic. Two men who support each other over the years.

Cagney is a good fit for the once alcoholic, who owns the role, able to secure his old life. leaving the drama of his old life behind along with his ex-girlfriend Paula Copeland (Phyllis Thaxter) who marries another time. The film seems to loose its drive whilst he is recovering, after the powerful visuals that made me stay with the film. Going onto have 6 good and clean years at the paper he was at before he downfall. It’s a request from his boss that brings his past and experience to the fore-ground. Not just a recovered alcoholic now, but a man who can help John Ives’s (Raymond Massey) son-in-law now    Boyd Copeland (Gig Young) is in the swings of alcoholism. Its seems that a man who has come out of the other end of this darkness is the one to save the man who married his old flame.

He has no choice to take it up, warning Ive’s that he’s not qualified, which doesn’t bother him. Come Fill the Cup could be  a standard piece of drama if not for Cagney who takes on the reformed role and helps another sufferer. Balancing out the drama at the beginning. I was alway wondering when, just when is Cagney going to fall off the wagon. (We have to wait a while). Something you wouldn’t find today, the fight to stay sober would be far darker in its portrayal than just talking about the symptoms, the lifestyle (if you can call it that).

It becomes about another struggling to live with his demons, whilst coming full circle in Marsh’s own life. How he copes when faced with the worst in his life to that point. That’s the real test of his strength for him. This also shows how versatile an actor Cagney was, who to a point was typecast as a gangster, did he best to break that with roles with a social conscience.

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2 responses

  1. Haven’t seen it. I really need to revisit more classics. Nice review, Tim.

    April 22, 2014 at 6:46 pm

    • Thanks Cindy, You can’t beat a classic.

      April 22, 2014 at 7:43 pm

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