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.”
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).
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.