One of my favorite movies is Come Back Little Sheba, starring Shirley Booth and Burt Lancaster. The movie premiered in 1952 and earned Miss Booth an Oscar for her performance as Lola, a downcast housewife.
Months ago, Lola’s dog “Sheba” ran away. Having experienced the loss of a pet, I could relate to her sadness. But Lola’s unhappiness runs deeper. Doc, Lola’s husband of twenty years seems like a devoted husband; however she is watchful of him. Through her actions, she shows she wants to guard against any disturbance.
The film opens with middle-aged Lola in her bathrobe, ruffled hair and scratching her backside as she interviews a potential boarder for their home. Marie, a vivacious college student reminds Lola of younger, happier days, and the infant daughter she lost twenty years ago. As her relationship with Marie develops, Lola regains some of her zest for life while entertaining the younger woman and her friends.
Doc, a recovering alcoholic, is celebrating his first year of sobriety. He is troubled about the new boarder until he meets her. She’s charming and attractive. When a star athlete/Romeo comes calling on Marie, Lola welcomes him, mindful that once she was young and attractive. Doc is less friendly. He is protective of Marie and finds her appealing. For him, reminders of the past are of his failure to finish medical school. As the story moves along, we are swept into conflicts of earlier years and the reason for their shotgun marriage.
At one point in the he admits to Lola that “alcoholics are disappointed men.” She immediately takes his statement as regret for having to marry her.
One night Doc discovers Marie’s boyfriend sneaking to her room late at night. It is like a replay of Doc’s past mistakes. He snaps and relapses into drinking.
Stop! Don’t read further if you intend to see the movie.
Lola doesn’t realize that Doc has relapsed until she discovers the liquor is missing, and he hasn’t come home. She calls AA and waits.
Doc steals into the dark kitchen, awakening Lola. In his drunken state, he threatens to harm her. Help arrives, and he is carried to the hospital.
The Turning Point
Her darkest moment occurs when she’s had enough and calls home but her father still refuses to allow her to return. For me, this is the most gripping moment in the story. If you are like me, have the Kleenex handy for a flood of tears.
At this point, Lola must make a choice; sink further into despair or pick herself up and move on. It’s interesting to note that though Lola carries guilt over the past, she does not see the need to change things about herself until after her family’s rejection and Doc’s relapse.
When Doc returns home from the hospital, he is surprised to find Lola there. Humbled, he begs her forgiveness. He is amazed at the change in his wife since his absence. She’s wearing a new dress, her hair is groomed.
Lola admits that she painted the kitchen and bought new curtains. As she is fixing his breakfast, she admits that Little Sheba “isn’t coming back.” In changing her outlook and her appearance, she’s learned to accept her life and her past.
Seven takeaways from the film
- Sometimes people feel stuck in life.
- Coping with loss.
- Some people refuse to change until a crisis occurs
- Doc used alcohol to escape disappointment
- Change though hard, is often necessary for happiness
- Mistakes of the past are not the future.
- Forgiveness is necessary for healing.
There are so many facets to this seemingly simple movie. I highly recommend watching the drama which is available on DVD.
What are some movies that had a profound effect on you? How do you feel you were changed?