The Curious Case of Sheba

Yum Yiu ‘25

Opinions Editor

 Little Sheba! Come, Little Sheba! Come back! Come back, Little Sheba! – Lola Delaney, Come Back, Little Sheba

After checking countless subscriptions that I do not own, I finally managed to find the movie, Come Back, Little Sheba, on YouTube. I have to admit that YouTube is probably the most reliable source for any movie that was made during the 20th century. The film is a 1952 American Drama directed by Daniel Mann based on the 1950 play of the same title by William Inge. When I first saw the name of the film, I assumed that it was probably a heartwarming story about a pet. To be honest, I was not thrilled by that idea. I was ready to speedrun the movie with two-times speed, but my pride as a film critic made me give it the benefit of the doubt. 

Sheba is the name of the lost dog of the protagonist, Lola Delaney. She dreams about it and goes outside to call for it every day. It is obvious to the audience that Lola has a strong emotional connection with her lost dog, even though it never shows up during the movie. The mere idea of a lost dog with a name is probably the most interesting and clever use of symbolism in the movie, as it is primarily about the conflict between Lola and her recovering alcoholic husband, Doc Delaney, with the underlying theme of a haunting past. 

The story starts with Lola trying to rent out a room of her house to a college student, Marie. Marie reminds Lola of her younger self, representing the past that she has lost. Marie is engaged, but she still hangs out with her popular classmate, Turk. The relationship between Marie and Turk disturbs Doc, because it reminds him of his own past that is filled with shame and regrets. When both Doc and Lola were young, he had to marry her and gave up being a doctor because she was pregnant. To Lola, the younger couple represents the most wonderful times in her life, but to Doc, it represents the part of life he wants to avoid and forget. Doc and Lola both struggle as they are not satisfied with their lives. The whole situation is spiced up with the companionship of Marie. 

The name, Sheba, is brought up by Lola repetitively throughout the entire film. It is used as a symbol that represents Lola’s attitude toward her past. As the story progresses and Lola solves various conflicts in her life, she eventually decides to let go of Sheba and her past. This invisible symbol is geniously used in the film to guide the audience through the plot and hints at the emotional states of the character. It is incredible to see symbolism being used this way in a film with the style of realism. It may not be obvious to some audiences, but psychological drama tends to use a lot of symbols to either hint or foreshadow something that will be revealed later on in the film. 

A film should not try to attract audiences only through the use of realistic CGI or famous casts. There are many people nowadays who only watch movies for their visually appealing elements. With those visual appeals, even the most predictable and mundane plots are seen as acceptable and good. If you are one of the people who think that the old movies are just inferior to the modern movies, I urge you to watch Come Back, Little Sheba.

Image of film cover courtesy of IMDb

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