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USA 1955
Directed by
Douglas Sirk
89 minutes
Rated PG

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
4 stars

All That Heaven Allows

All That Heaven Allows is a kind of showcase of the genre-shaping work director Douglas Sirk had done in the suburban melodrama during the decade. Taking the stars of Magnificent Obsession (1954), Rock Hudson and Jane Wyman, along with supports Agnes Moorhead and William Reynolds, plot elements from There’s Always Tomorrow (1956) along with thematic material from All I Desire (1953) and adding a dash of D.H. Lawrence and once again using the creative team he had around him for those films including producer Ross Hunter,  cinematographer Russell Metty, art director Alexander Golitzen and composer Frank Skinner amongst others he shapes a superbly well-crafted and marvellously overwrought example of the 1950s “woman’s film”.

Hudson plays Ron Kirby, gardener to Jane Wyman’s Cary Scott, a wealthy middle-aged widow in the New England town of Stoningham. Cary lives the respectable life of a loving mother of two college-aged children, Ned (Reynolds) and Kay (Gloria Talbott). When she takes up with the gardener, Cary’s snooty country club circle is scandalized by her crossing of the class divide and her obnoxious children, particularly her priggish son, throw a wobblie, so much so that Cary gives up Ron for quiet propriety.

In the lead roles, Hudson and Wyman are much more effective than their previous teaming in Magnificent Obsession. Although Hudson, whose unsubtle function is to provide the object of desire for the female audience, never has a speck of dirt on him and his gardening skills seem limited to snipping off a bit of branch there is a warmth in their relationship that was not discernible in the earlier film, or perhaps its just that one can empathize with the love-starved Cary’s longing for her gardener's firm, muscular body much more so than her blind equivalent in the earlier film.  It is this kind of sexual tension which drives the film with Hudson surprisingly effective as the self-possessed “nature boy” with a ready line in being yourself and ignoring society's opinions. Of course the story is pure emotionally excessive melodrama but what most people today swoon over is Sirk’s brilliantly judged and marvellously over-the-top Technicolour delivery of it.

FYI: The film has been remade to very good effect by Rainer Werner Fassbinder as Ali: Fear Eats The Soul in 1974 and by Todd Haynes as Far From Heaven in 2002.




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