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Magnificent Obsession (1935)

The life of spoiled rich Robert Merrick is saved through the use of a hospital's only resuscitator, but because the medical device cannot be in two places at once, it results in the death ... See full summary »



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Complete credited cast:
Tommy Masterson
Joyce Hudson
Mrs. Nancy Ashford
Doctor Ramsay
Mrs. Eden
The French Maid
Dr. Preston


The life of spoiled rich Robert Merrick is saved through the use of a hospital's only resuscitator, but because the medical device cannot be in two places at once, it results in the death of Dr. Hudson, a selfless, brilliant surgeon and generous philanthropist. Merrick falls for Hudson's widow, Helen, though she holds him responsible for her husband's demise. One day, he insists on driving her home and makes a pass at her. She gets out of the car and is struck by another car, she then goes blind. Merrick then talks to a friend of Dr. Hudson who tells him that her husband had a philosophy-to help people, but never let it be known that you are the one helping them. Only then, he believed, could there be true reward in life. Merrick watches over Helen, and visits her during her recuperation, concealing his identity and calling himself Dr. Robert. When he finds out that she is nearly penniless, he secretly pays for specialists to try to restore her vision. Finally, she travels to Paris ...

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


After You See It You'll Never Be the Same! See more »


Drama | Romance






Release Date:

30 December 1935 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Le secret magnifique  »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

(Western Electric Noiseless Recording)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


After being loaned by MGM, his home studio, to Universal for this film, Robert Taylor would not make another non-MGM movie for 24 years (until the 1959 Paramount film _The Hangman (1959)_). See more »


When operating on Helen's eyes, Merrick asks for an otoscope. He should have asked for an opthalmoscope, which is what he was using. An otoscope is for ears. See more »


Dr. Robert Merrick: Help? You mean give them money?
Randolph: Money is alright since you have so much of it but there are other kind of help just as good but whatever help you give it must be in absolute secrecy that the world must never know and you must never let anybody repay you.
Dr. Robert Merrick: You mean, if I'd go out and help people secretly that would establish that "contact" you speak of?
See more »


Featured in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.: One of Us (2015) See more »


Romeo and Juliet Fantasy-Overture
Written by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky
Played under the opening credits
See more »

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User Reviews

Superb acting makes this even more magnificent!
15 January 2013 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

First of all, I am very partial to Irene Dunne. Her natural acting trumps the affectations often used by Golden Age movie stars to put on airs in their speech and mannerisms. Dunne easily adapts to every role she plays with a presence that is always unique to her character but true to her natural charm.

Secondly, Robert Taylor transformed quite a bit over his long and successful career. I prefer him in his younger years. His youthful fervor is at times petulant and at others hilarious. His range is broader when he is younger and this film is a shining example of what made him a star at MGM.

Also, the script is based on a novel with strong religious convictions, but the movie isn't preachy or condescending. One can give credit to a higher power or directly to Jesus Christ himself. I thought this was handled overtly but without heaping guilt or offense on the viewer. I found it truly inspiring as a Christian and loved the theme portrayed of selfless giving. Once the selfless part registers with Taylor's character, the tone of the movie changes from playboy playful to a mature man and esteemed doctor. This is all highlighted with an excellent supporting cast and direction.

The premise is what has always stopped me from watching this version and the 1950's version with Rock Hudson and Jane Wyman. Also, I'm no fan of the over-the-top Douglas Sirk melodramas. I may watch it now to compare films, but Sirk seems to grab onto the melodramatic elements in his movies which make the story so unbelievable that I cannot allow myself to be transported. I know Sirk is quite popular, but that's how I've felt about each film of his that I've seen so far.

This version is by all means a soap opera, but it allows for those lighter, comical moments that often bring a juxtaposition to the heavy, thematic subject matter. There are quite a few reviews here where the plot is revealed (even the movie's summary gives away the premise). The most important device relies on this fine cast to see the drama through without making it so syrupy that one cannot enjoy their characters.

Is it tragic? Yes. Is it pure melodrama? No. Thanks to the lighter moments interspersed and the aplomb with which these main actors handle their roles it is not as soapy as I expected. Will you need a box of Kleenex? Possibly. I thought I would be a mess, but there is always a hope that the audience has even when Dunne's character becomes frustrated with her limitations and how they affect those she loves. The message is ultimately so positive that it doesn't allow the tragedies to weigh it down completely.

For now I have given this movie an 8. This was my first viewing. I often raise my ratings after seeing very good films again if, in fact, I ever desire to watch them again. I think this will only get better and I thank TCM for highlighting this memorable version and especially the remarkable gifted and giving actress in Irene Dunne. I highly recommend this version especially if you can see it on TCM. Their copy isn't perfect, but I imagine it would top the video transfers. It also retains the lost 7-8 minutes of the video transfers. Enjoy and prepare to be totally absorbed and perhaps have your own outlook on the themes refreshed or changed. It's a film that lingers and inspires which is about the best one can hope for in a fine film.

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