Come Back, Little Sheba (1952 film)

Come Back, Little Sheba is a 1952 American drama film produced by Paramount Pictures. It tells the story of a loveless marriage that is rocked when a young woman rents a room in the couple's house. The film stars Burt Lancaster with Terry Moore and Richard Jaeckel. Shirley Booth makes her film debut, which earned her the Academy Award for Best Actress. The title refers to the wife's little dog that disappeared months before the story begins and that she still openly grieves for.

Come Back, Little Sheba
Original film poster
Directed byDaniel Mann
Produced byHal B. Wallis
Written byKetti Frings
William Inge (play)
StarringBurt Lancaster
Shirley Booth
Terry Moore
Music byFranz Waxman
CinematographyJames Wong Howe
Edited byWarren Low
Distributed byParamount Pictures
Release date
December 24, 1952 (1952-12-24)
Running time
99 minutes
Box office$3.5 million (US)[1]

The movie was adapted by Ketti Frings from the 1950 play of the same title by William Inge and was directed by Daniel Mann (making his directorial debut).


"Doc" Delaney (Burt Lancaster) is a recovering alcoholic married to Lola (Shirley Booth). Doc had once been a promising medical student, but dropped out of college when Lola became pregnant with his child, marrying her because her father had thrown her out of the house. The child later died, and in the process rendered Lola unable to have any further children. Doc spent the next several years drinking away the pain, in the process ruining his career and wasting his inheritance from his parents on alcohol. He eventually joined Alcoholics Anonymous and was able to quit drinking, though he still keeps a bottle in the house as a reminder of what drinking did to his life.

Marie (Terry Moore) is a young college student who rents a spare room from the Delaneys. One day she brings home a young man, Turk (Richard Jaeckel), a star on the track team. He's wearing his track outfit, which shows off his muscles, as she intends to use him as a figure model for a poster she's doing for a major athletic competition being held in the town. Mrs. Delaney encourages the couple in their modeling session, though Doc, who walks in to find Turk under-dressed, thinks it borders on pornography. Later, after Marie and Turk leave, it is revealed that Marie is engaged to another man, Bruce, who is away but due to return soon.

As Marie's infatuation with Turk grows, Doc becomes agitated. Lola reminds him that Marie is much like she had been in her younger days, before she became "old, fat, and sloppy". Doc calms down, but still voices his disapproval of Marie seeing another boy while Bruce is away.

One night, Turk and Marie return from a school dance. Marie forgot her key, so Turk enters through a window, unlocks the front door, and lets Marie in. They sneak into Marie's room. Doc sees them together and, deeply upset, goes back to the kitchen and reaches for his bottle hidden in the cupboard. Meanwhile, Marie changes her mind about Turk and asks him to leave. He calls her a "tease" and tries to force himself on her, but is unsuccessful. He leaves, unseen by Doc, through a window.

The next morning Doc takes the whiskey he has not touched for a year from the cabinet and disappears for hours, missing the dinner Lola planned for Marie and Bruce. He returns in a drunken rage, lashing out at Lola and threatening her with a knife. She manages to call two of Doc's AA friends to take him to the hospital. As he follows her into the parlor, Doc stumbles and drops the knife, then passes out while trying to choke her. A neighbor hears the commotion and comes running over, just as the two men come to take a raving Doc away.

The next day, a shaken Lola calls her mother to see if she can stay there for a few days, but learns that her father still will not welcome her into the family house. Her mother offers to come to Lola's, but Lola declines. Bruce returns and carries Marie away, where they get married. Her drawing is featured in the athletic poster and Turk becomes the star of the competition. Doc returns from the hospital and is welcomed by Lola. She again resumes the role of the doting wife, describing in detail the different things she has for his breakfast. He realizes that he loves her after all, and begs her never to leave him. Lola promises to stay with him forever, and he says "it's good to be home".



Come Back, Little Sheba was entered into the 1953 Cannes Film Festival.[2]

Academy Awards


Other versions

A television version of the original play was made in 1977, starring Laurence Olivier, Joanne Woodward and Carrie Fisher. It was directed by Silvio Narizzano.

The play was integrated into a sketch on The Colgate Comedy Hour, starring Dean Martin, Jerry Lewis and Burt Lancaster.


  1. 'The Top Box Office Hits of 1953', Variety, January 13, 1954
  2. "Festival de Cannes: Come Back, Little Sheba". Retrieved 2009-01-20.
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