COME FILL THE CUP is a story of alcoholism, well, actually, two stories.
I found the first half of the film more interesting as we learn how Lew Marsh (JAMES CAGNEY),a hard drinking newspaperman has been on a bender for five days. When he says to his editor ,“What do you suppose happened to those five days.” the reply is,“You’ll have to find out on your own time.You’re fired.”

Lew goes to a nearby bar where Paula(PHYLLIS THAXTER) joins him. He tells her to go away,saying,“I’ve tried to stop but I can’t.” Paula (who works on the same newspaper) offers to take him home and he says,“Dont you see,Paula,I am home.”

As time passes,Lew goes downhill faster and faster,even offering to sweep the place when he has no money and the bartender won’t give him a drink. His salvation comes in the shape of  Charley (JAMES GLEASON) who’s been through it all himself.He takes Lew to a hospital where the doctor pulls no punches, “You have an incurable disease ,alcoholism .The only sure treatment is to quit.”


James Cagney James Gleason

Some years pass quickly and Lew has worked hard with Charley’s help. He is well enough to be back on the paper,promoted to news editor and employing other reporters who have had drinking problems.
The paper’s owner,John Ives (RAYMOND MASSEY) asks for his help in sorting out his nephew Boyd (GIG YOUNG) who can’t stop drinking.

Then we learn Boyd is married to Lew’s old girlfriend,Paula.
(Almost half the film is over before Raymond Massey or Gig Young appear).


James Cagney. Gig Young

So that’s the set-up.It’s a film of two halves, with Cagney much better in the first half where he is the one fighting the demons. There was plenty of his story to encompass the entire film and I think it would have suited the Cagney character better.


4 responses »

  1. Vienna, really enjoyed reading this – such a powerful performance by Cagney in a film which deserves to be much better known. Can’t understand why it doesn’t get a DVD release. I do agree that the first half is much stronger and it is a shame when it turns into a gangster film, though I do think this element might have been in the original novel. PS, I reviewed this movie a while back and spent ages looking for a photo with Gleason but drew a blank, so am impressed you found one!

  2. Thanks,Judy. I’ve just read your very good review from 2008! Sounds like we agree that the first half was bettler. And I agree Gig Young was vey good. I didn’t know he was Oscar nominated.
    You could argue that the second half of the film belonged to Gig, with Cagney in support – which is all wrong!
    Much more could have been made of the relationship between Lew and Paula – Phyllis Thaxter is always good.
    Of course you are so right – James Gleason is one of those treasures of Hollywood character actors. And there could have been a more upbeat ending – Lew and Charley and another apple juice!
    Strange that this one hasn’t appeared on DVD.

    • Thank you, Vienna – definitely agree more could have been done with the love story, though I do rather like the ending in the newsroom. I hadn’t thought about Cagney moving into a support role in the second half, but that’s an interesting way of looking at it – I will bear that in mind when I see it again in the future!

  3. Pingback: Come Fill the Cup (1951) | timneath

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