Skip to content

My Name Is Bill W. (1989)

Reuniting after a successful teaming in the 1986 telefilm, Promise, James Woods and James Garner brought their acting chops once again to the small screen for this inspiring story of the men who began telling each other of their drinking problems which ultimately led to the creation of Alcoholics Anonymous. It’s a perfectly executed Hallmark Hall of Fame production that brought Woods an Emmy Award for his performance as the title character.

Woods stars as Bill Wilson, a WW1 veteran who upon returning home rejoins his wife, JoBeth Williams, and begins to launch a successful career in the stock market game during the rush of the 1920’s. It’s a mixture of business meetings and speakeasy’s when Woods and his best friend and drinking pal, Gary Sinise, soon become players before the crash of ’29. The excuses for his drinking and his constant promises to stop are regular discussions by the time he turns up at home where the long suffering Williams is awaiting him. Eventually his excessive boozing will cost him a powerful business partner and ultimately his job. That combined with the crash leaves him all but broke, drunk and lost in a bottle of sorrow.

Still Woods hasn’t bottomed out just yet. Amidst the trembling hands, the liver damage, the disheveled look and handouts he receives from his former business partner, he continues to make excuses for his problems and turns his back on Sinise when he turns up sober having found trust in God. While Woods shines throughout, Miss Williams gets overlooked in the Awards category but has her scene when she finally fights back at the man she has stood beside far too long launching into a verbal tirade aimed at Woods that she fully deserves.

When all is nearly lost, Woods will experience a divine moment. A sort of out of body experience while restrained in a hospital bed. He leaves the hospital a rejuvenated man but wisely tells his wife in reference to his sobriety, “in order to keep it, I gotta share it.”  For Bill W. that’s the key to his cure. To talk things out and share his experiences so he doesn’t fall back on them.

“One foot in front of the other. One day at a time.”

Slowly getting his foot back into the stock market business, it’s while out of town and trying to fight the urge to wander into the hotel bar that Woods’s Bill W. gets the idea to find another alcoholic to chat with which leads him to a Doctor played by James Garner. Another man with an unquenchable thirst for spirits that he can’t seem to shake. The initial scene between the two actors is inspiring when Garner thinks that Woods has asked to see him with some crazed cure for his drinking. Woods makes it clear that it’s own problem he’s trying to cure through chatting with Garner.

And so the idea is born that fully develops into what we know today as Alcoholics Anonymous.

The years pass and the men age as their story told in a flashback comes to a close. The ending of Woods finding another man in need of help at his first AA meeting is a fitting finale.

While I haven’t seen Woods in The Boost since the days of the VHS tape, I suspect this Hallmark Production was a much more successful outing for the actor at the time. The Boost was a 1988 release that saw Jimmy descend into a battle with Sean Young over a mountain of cocaine as opposed to the bottle. Overall Woods was on a hell of a roll around this time and I’ve been a fan ever since. Films like the two with Garner, Salvador, Best Seller and Cop had me hooked. Unlike Woods earlier film with Garner, Promise, this one puts him front and center where their previous collaboration was one of equal screen time though Jimmy had the flashier role as Garner’s younger brother suffering from schizophrenia. Both films paired together make for two fine examples of telefilms done right.

I suppose alcohol has pretty much touched most all of our lives and mine is no different. I still have fond memories of two Uncles who battled the bottle and demons I could never understand as a kid who idolized them when they would travel to our hometown for a visit. Usually drinking so heavy there was little point in the journey. They’re both gone now and while I’m a bit unsure of the one’s cause of death, the other was due to his dependency on alcohol. At the ripe old age of fifty.

I’ll dedicate this post to both their memories.

As for this film, it’s out on DVD if you want to hunt a copy of this Award Winner down.

4 Comments »

  1. I found this to be a very moving film. I also found it interesting because I didn’t know how Alcoholics Anonymous was founded. James Woods and JoBeth Williams are excellent. There is another excellent version of this story starring Barry Pepper and Winona Ryder, that is worth a look too. It focuses on the same story but from his wife’s perspective.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Just Hit Play

The Good, the Bad and sometimes Ugly in film

Strother Martin Film Project

What we've got here is failure to communicate

Sophia Riley Kobacker

it's all about the story, possums...

Wolfmans Cult Film Club

Cult, B-Movies, cheesy fun films to Film Noir to classics new to me.

CINESPIRIA

Shining a light on the deep recesses of film history

cinema cities

a personal odyssey through film

Mark David Welsh

Watching the strangest movies - so you don't have to...

Scenes from the Morgue

The Lost Art of Pulp Ads: Film, Booze, Smokes & More!

Film Speech

All things film and television

Diary of A Movie Maniac

A Personal Journey Through Cinema & Television

portraitsbyjenni

My perspective on life & Classic Movie Recommendations

Statis Pro 1978 Replay

Methodically replaying every game of the 1978 baseball season!

4 Star Films

Looking deeper at the best classic movies

everythingnoir

Movies, Television, Books....Everything Noir

Chaplin-Keaton-Lloyd film locations (and more)

by John Bengtson "the great detective of silent film locations" New York Times

Sister Celluloid

Where old movies go to live

Silent-ology

Uncovering the silent era

Canadian Cinephile

"For me, cinema is a vice. I love it intimately." Fritz Lang

Noirish

The annex to John Grant's *A Comprehensive Encyclopedia of Film Noir*

Cinema Monolith

Reviews of movies from my giant DVD tower, and more.

Sunset Boulevard

Writings of a Cinephile

The Bogie Film Blog

A Film by Film Affair with Humphrey Bogart

Vienna's Classic Hollywood

Vintage Hollywood films and stars

The Film Authority

You're ten seconds from watching an amazing film...

Once upon a screen...

...a classic film and TV blog

shadowsandsatin

. . where the worlds of film noir and pre-code collide . .

hitchcockmaster

Where Suspense Lives!

Tipping My Fedora

Enjoying mystery, crime and suspense in all media

Silver Screenings

an irreverent blog of old movies

monsterminions

They Don't Make 'Em Like They Used To

Comet Over Hollywood

Home for classic movie lovers

filmgeek101

classic movie views for the classic and not-so-classic movie fan

Riding the High Country

Reviews and ramblings

Just Hit Play

The Good, the Bad and sometimes Ugly in film

Strother Martin Film Project

What we've got here is failure to communicate

Sophia Riley Kobacker

it's all about the story, possums...

Wolfmans Cult Film Club

Cult, B-Movies, cheesy fun films to Film Noir to classics new to me.

CINESPIRIA

Shining a light on the deep recesses of film history

cinema cities

a personal odyssey through film

Mark David Welsh

Watching the strangest movies - so you don't have to...

Scenes from the Morgue

The Lost Art of Pulp Ads: Film, Booze, Smokes & More!

Film Speech

All things film and television

Diary of A Movie Maniac

A Personal Journey Through Cinema & Television

portraitsbyjenni

My perspective on life & Classic Movie Recommendations

Statis Pro 1978 Replay

Methodically replaying every game of the 1978 baseball season!

4 Star Films

Looking deeper at the best classic movies

everythingnoir

Movies, Television, Books....Everything Noir

Chaplin-Keaton-Lloyd film locations (and more)

by John Bengtson "the great detective of silent film locations" New York Times

Sister Celluloid

Where old movies go to live

Silent-ology

Uncovering the silent era

Canadian Cinephile

"For me, cinema is a vice. I love it intimately." Fritz Lang

Noirish

The annex to John Grant's *A Comprehensive Encyclopedia of Film Noir*

Cinema Monolith

Reviews of movies from my giant DVD tower, and more.

Sunset Boulevard

Writings of a Cinephile

The Bogie Film Blog

A Film by Film Affair with Humphrey Bogart

Vienna's Classic Hollywood

Vintage Hollywood films and stars

The Film Authority

You're ten seconds from watching an amazing film...

Once upon a screen...

...a classic film and TV blog

shadowsandsatin

. . where the worlds of film noir and pre-code collide . .

hitchcockmaster

Where Suspense Lives!

Tipping My Fedora

Enjoying mystery, crime and suspense in all media

Silver Screenings

an irreverent blog of old movies

monsterminions

They Don't Make 'Em Like They Used To

Comet Over Hollywood

Home for classic movie lovers

filmgeek101

classic movie views for the classic and not-so-classic movie fan

Riding the High Country

Reviews and ramblings

%d bloggers like this: