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Days of Wine and Roses - Page 2


Days of wine and roses


This song is taken from the 1962 movie of the same name.   Directed by Blake Edwards, the film tells the story of an alcoholic, played by Jack Lemmon, who ensnares his younger wife (Lee Remick) in his destructive drinking habits.

The music for the song was composed by Henry Mancini, with lyrics by Johnny Mercer.  They won that year’s Oscar for the best original song.   The best-known recording is by Andy Williams, made in 1963.   The phrase “days of wine and roses” is taken from a poem Vitae Summa Brevis by the Victorian English writer Ernest Dowson.   It was first used as the title for a 90-minute teleplay written by J P Miller and broadcast in the US in 1958.  The tv play was adapted in turn by Blake Edwards for the 1962 movie.

The tv play had impressive credits: directed by John Frankenheimer and starring Cliff Robertson and Piper Laurie.   It uses the framework of an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting, where an ambitious ad man played by Robertson tells his story in flashbacks.   When J P Miller was looking for a title, he found it in the Dowson poem, written in 1896.  The poem runs:

They are not long, the weeping and the laughter,

Love and desire and hate;

I think they have no portion in us after

We pass the gate.

They are not long, the days of wine and roses:

Out of a misty dream

Our path emerges for a while, then closes

Within a dream.


Johnny Mercer’s lyrics contain echoes of the Dowson original.  One critic considered Mancini’s setting over-lush, but actor Jack Lemmon, who sat down and cried the first time he heard it, considered it “the most beautifully appropriate song ever written for a film”.    Heard in the context of the film, the lyric is rich with poignancy and irony.   Taken by itself, it can be read with a more straightforward romantic and nostalgic meaning.

Mancini and Mercer wrote another current CMVC song, Moon River, which featured in the film Breakfast at Tiffany's.

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