Film Festival: William Inge
Come Back, Little Sheba (1952) is based on William Inge’s first Broadway play. It’s a drama of a marriage started for the wrong reasons and people staying together with their dreams lost.
Lola Delaney (Shirley Booth) greets student Marie Buckholder (Terry Moore) at the door of the house. Lola is still in a bathrobe with unbrushed hair. Marie is answering an ad to rent a room. Lola and her husband, a chiropractor, don’t have a child and are looking for a university student to rent the extra bedroom. Marie is wearing a sweater set with a cute handbag and ankle socks with penny loafers.
To modern eyes, this looks like a bad situation. The two bedrooms are on the same floor, and all three people would share a bathroom!
“You know it’s funny, I keep thinking every little dog I see is Sheba.” –Lola
Lola’s beloved dog Sheba has disappeared and she keeps looking for her.
“What are you thinking of? –But, Doc, lots of people rent rooms. –Not the Delaneys.” –Doc and Lola
Lola thinks they can take on a boarder since her husband, Hank “Doc” Delaney (Burt Lancaster) has made it successfully through one year in Alcoholics Anonymous. She wants to go with him to his party.
Each person gets a birthday cake that has made another year sober.
Lola is very interested in Marie’s love life. She is writing to a boy back home who has a career taking off.
Doc wants to keep his alcoholism secret. Lola is so open and friendly, she wants to share everything. Doc works hard trying to help other alcoholics, but he finds himself thinking about disappointments and how spirited Marie is.
Lola talk to her neighbor who has 4 children. She advises Lola to get another dog and to get busy.
Marie takes up with a “muscle man”, Turk (Richard Jaeckel). She has him posing in his track suit for her drawings. Doc disapproves of Marie having a half-clothed boy in her room. He spends time sniffing her bath salts in the bathroom!
“I used to be popular, wasn’t I, Doc? Remember the Homecoming dance, when Charlie Kettlecamp and I won the Charleston contest? Remember how mad you was when he thought he ought to bring me home afterward? –I did not get mad. –Oh yes you did. Charlie was all right. You was just jealous.” –Lola and Doc
Marie’s love life makes Lola think of the old days and how sought after she was. Doc doesn’t want to think of the past at all.
Marie keeps dating Turk even though her old boyfriend Bruce is due to visit. All the sexual tension in the air stir up Lola and Doc. They both see things Marie is doing. Lola likes to secretly watch and thinks it’s all romantic. It makes Doc want to drink.
Lola finds a store of energy she hasn’t had in years, dressing up the house and herself and cooking a lovely meal for Bruce and Marie. Doc never comes home for dinner.
When Doc finally returns, he is completely drunk and violent. Lola has to call friends from AA to help subdue him and take him to the hospital.
Come Back, Little Sheba is another William Inge film that sensitively presents people who long for happiness and how they face what life has dealt them.
Resource links for Come Back, Little Sheba
- Come Back, Little Sheba (1952) from IMDb
- Burt Lancaster biography from Fandango
- Shirley Booth biography from Masterworks Broadway
- William Inge from Encyclopedia Brittanica
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Thank you for sharing at #OverTheMoon. Pinned and shared.
Love these old movies you preview. TFS
Thanks so much Clearissa! Hope you look through my Culture section to see some of my film festivals!
Tracy Suzanne DeLoach
I remember seeing that film a few years, well more than a few years ago. I would love to see it again. One of the few times I’ve seen Shirley Booth when she wasn’t our beloved Hazel. Thanks for reminding me Lisa! <3
Hey Tracy, Thanks for reading! Shirley Booth was a respected Broadway actress, which we all forget because of Hazel. The pairing with Burt Lancaster is so good!
I enjoyed the blog entry. I had not thought of that film in a long time. Thanks!
Hey Tom, I hope you get a chance to watch it again. It still holds up really well. I had forgotten that it all takes place in a college town.