if you’re not yet a Douglas Sirk fan, you really should be. All that Heaven Allows (1955) and Written on the Wind (1956)–both starring the beautiful and extremely talented Rock Hudson–are two of his best 1950s melodramas and would make an awesome double feature.
Don’t believe me? Check out the the following scene from Written on the Wind which features Dorothy Malone (who won an Oscar for this performance) doing a fiendish dance while here father topples down the stairs from a grief-induced heart attack. Dorothy Malone embodies the pulp caricature of the bad girl in this role in so many powerful ways. This is just far out melodrama, and the cinematography is as spellbinding as the tensions created in every scene. Beautiful stuff!
All that Heaven Allows is another gem by Sirk, and Jane Wyman gives a masterful performance in this picture perfect film about “irresistible love,” social status, and the conservatism of small communities. Pay attention to the pop psychology of this widowed mother’s daughter (Hitchcockesque in its simple and powerful resonance) and the interesting fact (for me at least) that her son is is heading off to Iraq to work with American oil interests there. Just a beautiful slice of the 1950s that complicates questions of gender, class, and sexual orientation. Throw in Sirk’s most famous film–Imitation of Life (1959)–and race in mainstream cinema is also examined in some heretofore unique ways. Check out the trailer for All that Heaven Allows below.
I’ll end with a word of caution, be sure to avoid Todd Haynes’s Far from Heaven (2002) at all costs. Despite what critics might say, it’s a cheap, revisionist knock-off of All that Heaven Allows that captures none of the magic, yet capitalizes on its “privileged historical faculty” of hindsight to feign thoughtfulness and spell-out all ambiguities and erase any texture of the original–good job Todd!