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I'LL CRY TOMORROW, 1955
Starring: Susan Hayward, Richard Conte, Eddie Albert, Margo, Jo Van Fleet
Deprived of a normal childhood by her ambitious mother, Katie, Lillian Roth becomes a star of Broadway and Hollywood before she is twenty. Shortly before her marriage to her childhood sweetheart, David Tredman, he dies and Lillian takes her first drink of many down the road of becoming an alcoholic. She enters into a short-lived marriage to an immature aviation cadet, Wallie, followed by a divorce and then marriage to a sadistic brute and abuser Tony Bardeman. After a failed suicide attempt, Burt McGuire comes to her aid and helps her find the road back to happiness after sixteen years in a nightmare world, not counting the first twenty with her mother.
My life was never my own-it was created before I was born." - Lillian Roth. "I'll Cry Tomorrow" is based on Lillian Roth's best-selling autobiography of the same name. Susan Hayward stars as Lillian Roth and narrates her descent into alcoholism, her abusive relationships with men, hitting rock bottom and then recovery via Alcoholics Anonymous. Susan Hayward is supported by a great cast including the great Jo Van Fleet (Katie Roth), Richard Conte (Tony Bardeman) and Ray Danton (David Tredman). "I'll Cry Tomorrow" is directed by American film and television director Daniel Mann.
The real Lillian Roth worked in show business starting at the age of six, appearing in films, plays and revues. She was billed as "Broadway's youngest star." Roth was a talented singer pushed into the spotlight by her stage mother, Katie. Lillian was unable to deal with tragedies in her life. One of the tragedies in the film is the death of David Tredman, her fiancé. They were childhood friends separated by Katie whisking her away to Chicago to play in the vaudeville circuit. Years pass and Lillian's career progresses to film star. David becomes an entertainment company lawyer and contacts Lillian. She visits David who is in the hospital suffering from an undisclosed illness. After he is released, the two begin to date.
David arranges a tour for Lillian beginning at the Palace Theater in New York. Katie summons David apparently to thank him for arranging the tour and implies that David is interfering with Lillian's life. Lillian unexpectedly arrives at the apartment and David asks her what she wants. Lillian replies that she wants to marry David and be a wife and a mother. The two are happy and have a great relationship. Unfortunately, David falls ill on the opening night of Lillian's show. Grief-stricken, Lillian insists on continuing the tour in honor of David and is accompanied by her mother and nurse Ellen.
Lillian begins rebelling and lashes out at her mother for trying to control her life. Ellen gives Lillian a drink to calm her down and to help her sleep. Lillian discovers that alcohol gives her a sense of security and she uses the alcohol as a shield from her life. Susan Hayward becomes as unglamorous as an actress can get in a film. She turns into the personification of the "falling down drunk." Eventually, Lillian tries to throw herself out of a hotel window. She cries, "God help me!" and then falls backwards off the window and back into the room. While walking the streets afterward, Lillian is drawn to an Alcoholics Anonymous shelter. She goes through withdrawal to become sober and then goes on "This Is Your Life" to tell her story on national television
Hayward's portrayal of Lillian Roth's descent into alcoholism was so realistic, it was frightening. She was not afraid to go to the dark places in the soul and it's hard to watch her at times when she hits skid row. Jo Van Fleet is also terrific as her grasping mother, too eager to give her daughter the life she never had. Van Fleet played the kind of mother who told you what you wanted rather than ask. Her scenes with Hayward are among the best in the film. "I'll Cry Tomorrow" is also an inspirational film in that it does offer hope that one can escape from the prison that the bottle offers.
"I'll Cry Tomorrow" was nominated for the following Academy Awards: Best Actress (Hayward); Best Art Direction-Set Decoration (black and white) and Best Cinematography (black and white). Helen Rose won an Academy Award for Best Costume Design (black and white). I don't know who won the year Hayward was nominated, but I'm convinced she performed a performance almost impossible to beat. Her performance as the talented, broken and beautiful alcoholic Lillian Roth is a revelation and truly one of the legendary performances in film history.
I'LL CRY TOMORROW