Dedications: My four late friends Rory, Stan, Bryan, Jeff - shine on you crazy diamonds, they would have blogged too. Then theres Garry from Brisbane, Franco in Milan, Mike now in S.F. / my '60s-'80s gang: Ned & Joseph in Ireland; in England: Frank, Des, Guy, Clive, Joe & Joe, Ian, Ivan, Nick, David, Les, Stewart, the 3 Michaels / Catriona, Sally, Monica, Jean, Ella, Anne, Candie / and now: Daryl in N.Y., Jerry, John, Colin, Martin and Donal.

Monday, 25 July 2011

Movies I Love: All That Heaven Allows

ALL THAT HEAVEN ALLOWS is probably my favourite Douglas Sirk movie, this 1955 melodrama is just as good if not better than IMITATION OF LIFE or WRITTEN ON THE WIND, camp classics both. I also like Sirk's INTERLUDE with June Allyson, reviewed a while back here (Allyson label), and his 1958 A TIME TO LOVE AND A TIME TO DIE. ALL THAT HEAVEN ALLOWS though is the perfect commentary/critique on small town America in the affluent '50s. I somehow find his MAGNIFICENT OBSESSION a little too schmalzy, and THE TARNISHED ANGELS (also with Hudson and Malone) has not been seen in years.

Here, Jane Wyman and Rock Hudson are re-united - she is Cary, the recent widow (we sense her husband was older) at a loose end, with her son and daughter away most of the time; he is the gardener fixing her garden, the son of the old gardener. She offers him lunch, they talk - he seems impossibly good-looking and attentive. They slowly get to know each other ... her friend Sara (Agnes Moorehead) warns Cary about small-town gossip, in particular Mona Plash (Jacqueline DeWit), stalking the town in her fur coat, and being the terror of the country club. Rock takes Jane to his secret place - the old mill outside town which he has plans to do up and move into, and he even repairs that broken Wedgewood coffee pot.

Then it is time to introduce him to the children - the jealous incredulous son, furious that his father's trophy and picture have been put in storage (and as the daughter says, resentful that his mother is still attractive to other men), and the know-it-all daughter (Gloria Talbot). There is that interesting exchage of dialogue between them where the daughter comments on the old Egyptian custom of burying the widow with the deceased's other possessions and saying that does not happen any more. "well, perhaps not in Egypt" says Cary dryly. Then, at the country club all hell breaks loose when an old admirer taunts Cary about her new young man, the snooty locals look down on the gardener who trims their trees and Mona is in her element as a fight breaks out: "Why, Cary, isn't one man enough for you?" - Ron (Rock) has also taken Cary away to meet his more down to earth friends who overcome her resistance to the idea of her marrying Ron. She changes her mind though after all the disapproval, but soon find it was a pointless sacrifice as her headaches get worse, but her doctor can find nothing wrong and urges her to do what is right for her - it turns out the son has plans to spend a year abroad and the daughter is marrying, so poor Cary is left with the new television she did not want - the comfort of every lonely housewife and widow. There is of course the old family friend who wants to marry her, but makes it clear it is for companionship. Will fate intervene and bring the lovers together again, will Ron recover from that fall?

It is a perfect realisation of small town middle-class America; the women going to meet the train in the snow, the station wagons and estate cars, large roomy comfy houses (as in A LETTER TO THREE WIVES, another Movie I Love soon), and of course the mill and the snow falling, and the deer looking in the window. Delirious! Wyman isn't a particularly compelling actress, but (like Allyson) she kept busy through the '50s, and she is just right here as the hesitant Cary. Sirk also directed some interesting costumers: CAPTAIN LIGHTFOOT with Hudson, in Ireland in 1954, and SIGN OF THE PAGAN with Jack Palance as Attila and Jeff Chandler as a Roman centurion - its one of the better costumers of its era.

No comments:

Post a Comment