All I Desire (1953) Poster

(1953)

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7/10
A good starting point - with one of the best in town
graham clarke20 December 2004
Although not in the same class as Douglas Sirk's major melodramas, "All I Desire" has many of the traits that would be developed in these later works. As such it is essential viewing for fans of Sirk's films. His use of color is legendary so much is lost by this being filmed in black and white, the result of a tight fisted Universal Studios.

Fans of Barbara Stanwyk should not miss it either. Stanwyk is one of a handful of actresses who simply never gave a weak performance. Under the direction of the likes of Wilder or Sirk, she's a compelling screen presence. Sirk had great admiration for Stanwyk calling her "one of the best in town". He used her a few years later in "There's Always Tomorrow" which remains his greatest unrecognised opus. There his criticism of the American family values is particularly cutting, whereas "All I Desire" has an altogether more forgiving view of small town narrow mindedness.

Sirks films are always worth watching. They are extremely well crafted with each shot carefully thought out. Nothing is left to chance. Those who dismiss the melodrama as an inferior genre would do well to take a close look at his body of work. "All I Desire" makes a good starting point.
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All I desirk
dbdumonteil7 December 2006
Douglas Sirk was the prince of melodrama in the fifties.However,there are two kinds of melodramas in his work :the extravaganzas ("Imitation of life" which nearly cut Stahl's version,"written on the wind" "magnificent obsession" ) and the intimate dramas which verge on realism: "all that heaven allows" or "tarnished angels" are good examples.When he connects all the links of the chain ,he produces his masterpiece ,the overlooked "a time to love and a time to die" .

"All I desire " belongs to the second kind of melodrama;its story is simple -but that kind of simplicity ,it takes years and years of practise and a touch of genius to make it work.Barbara Stanwyck -excellent- is the black sheep of the family,the mean woman who walked out on her family and what a nice family they are!In the small town where her husband is a principal in a high school ,people will talk.And there's the prodigal woman's erstwhile beau.

(Re)building of a family was one of Sirk's main permanent features: Hudson and Wyman in "ALL that heavens" and "magnificent obsession" ,Sarah Jane and her mother's friends in "imitation of life" .
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7/10
Early Douglas Sirk/Universal sudser
sabby27 March 1999
Barbara Stanwyck gives this early Douglas Sirk-directed, Universal-produced soap just the kick that it needs. Not nearly as memorable as Sirk's later melodramas, it's easy to see by watching "All I Desire" where Sirk would be heading artistically in the next few years. Stanwyck is a showgirl who returns to her family in smalltown, U.S.A, after deserting them a decade earlier. Her family and community have mixed emotions in dealing with her shocking return. Some of the cinematography is amazing, and Stanwyck is tough-as-nails and really gives this film a shot of energy. Overall, a fairly good show.
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9/10
All I Want for Christmas is Stanwyck, Stanwyck, Stanwyck......
JLRMovieReviews7 December 2010
Barbar Stanwyck, Maureen O'Sullivan, Richard Carlson and Lyle Bettger make up the leading cast in this Ross Hunter-produced and Douglas Sirk-directed film. Stanwyck goes back home to her small town and the family she left behind, after receiving a letter from her oldest daughter, who's starring in a school play and graduating from high school, and who asked her to attend. Stanwyck is an stage actress, but hasn't found much success, and when she hits the small town, gossip flies. Her son just happens to be fishing buddies and best friends with Lyle Bettger, a guy who had an affair with Barbara, before she up and left. And, Miss O'Sullivan is on hand as a love interest for Richard, even though Barbara's new presence puts a fly in their plans. Does he still love Barbara? Does Barbara still love Richard? And, Lyle Bettger is all upset with Barbara for leaving him. That pretty much sets up another melodramatic story, courtesy of Hunter and Sirk.

The only critique or negative thing I have about it, is that it takes itself too seriously too early in the picture and gets really melodramatic really fast, instead of easing into the melodrama, and the dramatic events evolving and complicating their lives. The not-so-subtle score also adds to the dramatics. Bettger and Carlson seem to be overacting, especially Carlson, who appears to be uncomfortable in this movie. (In other words, they and the movie seem to be overdoing it a bit.) But, as we get to the second half and more complications ensue, this begins to find its heart and the dialogue is a lot more believable and realistic. Carlson and Bettger appear to have settled into their roles. Stanwyck is always great, as usual. The only other question is why did Richard Carlson get this role, instead of someone like George Brent or a more charismatic leading actor? But on the whole, you will definitely enjoy this film and be glad you've discovered this unknown melodrama. It can be found on a new Barbara Stanwyck DVD collection out in 2010. I could watch it again right now, and this cold weather makes me want to snuggle in for a nice quiet Saturday afternoon with Barbara Stanwyck. Who could ask for anything more?
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10/10
What a hoot!
dannyfitzuk17 May 2006
Saw this film yesterday for the first time and thoroughly enjoyed it. I'm a student of screen writing and I loved the way the minor characters intervened just when something pivotal/climatic happened in a scene.

I thought the dialogue was very sharp and the premise of story is rather shocking - at one particular point Barbara Stanwyck is openly flirting with her daughter's boyfriend; AND rekindling some passion in her husband whom she hasn't seen in ten years; AND with the gunshot signal 'two shots and then one' she hooks up with her old shag mate Dutch (the reason she left town in the first place!) ALL AT THE SAME TIME! The moral majority must have been totally incensed when they saw this flick back in the 50's.

Love the costumes and cinematography and the straight from the hip dialogue - just to watch Barbara Stanwyck and Co doing the 'Bunny Hug' is good enough reason to rent this film on DVD.

One of the best films from that period I've seen in a long time.
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10/10
Leaves absolutely nothing to be desired
manuel-pestalozzi9 February 2007
Yes, I call this a perfect movie. Not one boring second, a fantastic cast of mostly little known actresses and actors, a great array of characters who are all well defined and who all have understandable motives I could sympathize with, perfect lighting, crisp black and white photography, a fitting soundtrack, an intelligent and harmonious set design and a story that is engaging and works. It's one of those prime quality pictures on which all the pride of Hollywood should rest, the mark everyone should endeavor to reach.

Barbara Stanwyck is simply stunning. There was nothing this actress couldn't do, and she always went easy on the melodramatic side. No hysterical outbursts with this lady - I always thought she was a better actress than screen goddesses like Bette Davis or Joan Crawford, and this movie confirmed my opinion. Always as tough as nails and at the same time conveying true sentiments. It is fair to add that she also got many good parts during her long career, and this one is by far the least interesting.

The title fits this movie very well. It is about desires, human desires I think everyone can understand. Actually, no one seems to be scheming in this movie, all characters act on impulse, everybody wants to be happy without hurting anybody else. The sad fact that this more often than not leads to complications makes for the dramatic content into which I will not go here.

I liked what this movie has to say about youth, about maturing and about the necessity to compromise. The movie I associate most with this one is Alfred Hitchcock's Shadow of a Doubt, it creates a similar atmosphere of idealized and at the same time caricatured Small Town America. The story has a certain similarity with Fritz Lang's considerably harsher movie Clash by Night, made one year earlier, where Stanywck stars in a similar part. I can also recommend it.
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10/10
If You Love Stany, You'll Love This
charmadu14 August 2017
I caught this by accident on TCM and wow - I was just blown away!!! It amazes me how completely Barbara Stanwyck dominates every scene she is in, regardless of dialog or camera angle. I loved everything about this film, and not least that it was in B&W - which made the early 20th century setting just that hair more believable. I had never seen Richard Carlson before and thought he did a wonderful job. Although some may quibble that the ending is phony or forced on by studio heads, I actually thought it comes across today as quite radical and showing a maturity rarely seen from Hollywood in the 50's.
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6/10
The ladies sure will be talking tonight!
mark.waltz8 April 2016
Warning: Spoilers
And so are the gossipy men in the small town where a lady of scandal who returns to town an allegedly great actress just in time for her daughter's stage debut. Barbara Stanwyck, in her busiest screen year as a film star, is glorious and quite the star. Her character, a small town girl from the wrong side of the tracks who married onto the right side yet never fit in, left to pursue an acting career and with some success ended up in burlesque. Scandal involving a secret old beau on the side has tongues wagging, including an elderly train station master who starts tongues wagging. Mixed reactions from her estranged family also adds to the drama.

Set in small town U.S.A. in the early 1900's, this has all the makings of a smart little drama of the American family which isn't quite Andy Hardy's. Richard Carlson is her torn ex-husband who has gone on with his life with drama teacher Maureen O'Sullivan, while Lyle Bettger is the mysterious former flame whose past with Stanwyck seems to be unknown to all but a few. Of the two daughters, oldest Marcia Henderson is totally resentful while younger Lori Nelson has worshiped her from afar. Youngest child Billy Gray is at that vulnerable age where having his mother back seems to be a dream cone true, but with Stanwyck and Bettger's past a secret except to the audience, more obvious questions are raised.

Another delight is lovable German actress Lotte Stein as the housekeeper who was in on Nelson coming back. Richard Long, the oldest son of Ma and Oa Kettle, joins younger Kettle sister Nelson, here playing stuffy Henderson's boyfriend who is entranced with Stanwyck to Henderson's annoyance. As produced by tearjerker king Ross Hunter, this is quite a likable soap opera style melodrama, not quite as sappy as his big color movies, yet nicely detailed and extremely engrossing. The conflicts seem real and the conclusion bittersweet. This reaffirms why Stanwyck remains my favorite star of Hollywood's golden age.
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6/10
Douglas Sirk drama with a nice eye for detail...
moonspinner5515 February 2008
Barbara Stanwyck plays turn-of-the-century woman who once left behind her husband and children to pursue a career as a stage-actress; now she's back, at least temporarily, to attend her daughter's graduation. Potentially compelling premise is needlessly set in the 1900s (why not adjust the scenario for the modern age? The narrative certainly seems relevant enough). Director Douglas Sirk nearly smothers the proceedings in a rosy, sentimental hue (also needless), though he's a careful, attentive director and gets good performances from his cast (with Stanwyck giving it some grit). Sirk is also wise with the intricate details of story and character, making this an above-average soaper. **1/2 from ****
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7/10
Sirk and Stanwyck make this melodrama superior
Jem Odewahn14 June 2009
Warning: Spoilers
This early Sirk melodrama, shot in black and white, is a minor film, yet showcases the flair of the German director in enhancing tired story lines into something resembling art. Set in the 1910's, Barbara Stanwyck is the woman who has sinned by abandoning her small-town husband and family for the lure of the Chicago stage. She never fulfilled her ambitions, and is drawn back to the town she left by an eager letter from her daughter informing her that she too has taken a liking to the theatre (a high school production, that is). Back in her old town she once again comes up against small-mindedness, and has to deal with her hostile eldest daughter, bewildered (and boring) husband (Richard Carlson) and ex-lover. The plot is nothing new but Sirk sets himself apart by creating meaningful compositions, with every frame carefully shot, and he is aided immeasurably by having Stanwyck as his leading lady. It runs a crisp 76 minutes, and that's just as well, because the material doesn't really have the legs to go any further.
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7/10
All I Desire (1953)
Martin Teller10 January 2012
A failed actress returns to the family, the lover and the small town she abandoned years earlier and sets tongues wagging anew. Does it rank up there with ALL THAT HEAVEN ALLOWS or IMITATION OF LIFE? No, not really. It all wraps up too neatly (the "happy" ending was forced by the producer), Lyle Bettger has the charisma of a toilet brush (why would Barbara Stanwyck ever fall for this lummox?) and it's pointlessly set in the early part of the century. The only rationale I can think of for the latter is that Stanwyck's lack of success would be harder to keep a secret in modern times, but it takes the edge off and makes the whole thing a bit too quaint. However, it's not really a dud, either. It's a tight script, Stanwyck is riveting as always, and Sirk's eye for brilliant framing is hard at work. It makes for a quick, easy watch with some slight subversiveness in its commentary on small town gossip and hypocrisy.
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6/10
Director Sirk was perfecting his form with Barbara Stanwyck
jacobs-greenwood14 August 2017
Warning: Spoilers
Although they made just two films together - this and There's Always Tomorrow (1956) - the director and the actress seemed perfectly suited for one another. He made melodramas; she played overwrought to perfection. The only thing missing in this one is the Technicolor treatment, something Sirk's frequent collaborating producer Ross Hunter wouldn't spring for this time. According to TCM's Ben Mankiewicz, there were disagreements between them regarding the title (Sirk wanted to use novelist Carol Brink's "Stopover") and the ending as well; the producer getting what he wanted, of course.

Stanwyck plays Naomi Murdoch, a down-in-the-dumps vaudeville actress who it's later revealed had a reason to abandon her husband and three children in their small town of Riverdale, Wisconsin, where nothing ever changes. The flimsiness of the reason is the weakest part of this drama. However, Naomi decides to return home after receiving a letter from her middle child Lily (Lori Nelson), a talented wannabe actress herself. Lily, a high school senior who idolizes the mother she believes is a famous actress, implores her mother to return for her final play before graduation. One can imagine the scandal when Naomi arrives in town unexpectedly; suddenly the play is sold out for everyone wanting to gawk at her.

Of course, not everyone in Naomi's family is as happy about her return as Lily, who envisions leaving with mother to a stage life of her own as the only ticket out of Riverdale. Naomi's husband Henry (Richard Carlson), Riverdale High's Principal, their oldest daughter Joyce (Marcia Henderson), and Henry's girlfriend Sara Harper (Maureen O'Sullivan) are the least excited, with Joyce - who's engaged to Russ Underwood (Richard Long) - bordering on hostility from resentment that she'd had to fill her absent mother's shoes. Aside from Lily, the family's cook Lena Engstrom (Lotte Stein) is perhaps the most excited, seeing Naomi's return as an opportunity for her own nuptials, and youngest son Ted (Billy Gray) finds himself desperate for his mother's love and attention.

Given staid Henry's scholastic nature, Ted's surrogate father has been store owner outdoorsman Dutch Heinemann (Lyle Bettger); he employs Ted at his store, teaching him to shoot a rifle etc. Dutch was also the reason that Naomi fled Riverdale in the first place. The two were having an affair that had progressed to a point that everybody in town knew what was going on, though Naomi believed that she was leaving before anyone would find out.

So beautiful and unique is Naomi, a fish-out-of-water in Riverdale, that she soon stirs Henry's heart anew, prompting Sara to withdraw. But while the two are rekindling their love for one another, Dutch blusters his way back into the picture, and Naomi - with a street toughness she lacked when she'd left years earlier- aims to put an end to it once and for all. When she nearly does Dutch in, the scandal is front and center again and ... this is where the ending would have been different if Director Sirk had had his way.
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6/10
a little too sappy
SnoopyStyle14 August 2017
Naomi Murdoch (Barbara Stanwyck) is a struggling vaudeville actress. She receives a letter from her daughter Lily, 10 years after abandoning her family. Lily is graduating and engaged. Naomi has lied to them about her success. Lily invites her mother home for her play despite assuming her to be busy. Her return reignites old issues from everybody in town especially her husband.

Being a Stanwyck fan, one hopes for the best in this movie. It's an old fashion melodrama. It would have been better for a darker movie especially the ending. It all becomes too melodramatic and too sappy. It could have been much better.
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5/10
Life Upon The Wicked Stage
bkoganbing13 August 2017
Warning: Spoilers
Douglas Sirk directed this gaslight era melodrama about a woman who deserted her family and ten years later upon receipt of a letter from her daughter Lori Nelson who wants to go on the stage just like mom did, Barbara Stanwyck returns to her stodgy mid western town and her stodgy husband Richard Carlson who is the high school principal.

Stanwyck's three children run the gamut of reaction to her reappearance. The oldest Marcia Henderson is daddy's little girl and really resents mom coming home. Nelson is infatuated with what she thinks is a glamorous life in the theater and is thrilled mom came home to see her in a school play. Billy Gray is the youngest and he barely remembers her, but he's happy to see her.

Douglas Sirk made a big mistake in casting Lyle Bettger as the store owner with whom Stanwyck was having a fling before she left. Maybe it's simply image, but Bettger played some of the biggest psychotic villains of the era and I can't believe Stanwyck ever went near him. Someone who was a bit more suave and elegant would have fit the bill perfectly.

Bigger mistake was a forced happy ending which was contrary to the book this film came from. There was just too much that happened for Stanwyck ever to return.

Still Barbara is quite effective, her best scenes are with her two daughters, Henderson and Nelson. All I Desire will not go down in her ten best list, but fans won't be disappointed.
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7/10
Stopover
jotix10018 July 2012
Warning: Spoilers
A second class vaudeville theater is where Naomi Murdoch finds herself after a few years trying to make a go of her talent. It is far from the glamorous life she was aiming for. She has a surprise waiting for her: a letter from her daughter Lily who invites her to come see her act in her high school play. Naomi does not have anything to lose, or so she thinks, when she decides to go back to the provincial town she abandoned ten years before.

The family Naomi left behind is quite shaken as she arrives. Most troubled of all is Henry Murdoch who was left to bring up the three children. He is the highly regarded high school principal of Riverdale. He has a reputation to live up to, so it is not surprising he is bothered by the uninvited Naomi's presence. After all, he has never stopped loving her. Joyce her oldest daughter, going steady with one of the town's richest young men, is not happy at all. She resents what her mother put the family through. Happiest of all is Lily, the girl with theatrical aspirations. The youngest son, Ted, is confused by his mother's appearance.

To make matters worse, there is Dutch Heinemann, the man Naomi had an affair, and the cause of her departure. He wants to renew what they had one time. Naomi, though, is not too happy to be around him. Not only that, but she suddenly realizes how much she lost by throwing all away when she decided to run away. Naomi must examine herself and decide what she wants. It is clear Henry still cares for her, in spite of the life he endured after being left alone.

Douglas Sirk came to Hollywood in the 1940s with a tide of European filmmakers who decided to pack it in rather than working in the war torn continent. "All I Desire" seems to be a turning point for Mr. Sirk. He went to make a name for himself in what came after. He turned melodramas such as this one into a classy product much admired by the movie going public. The basis is a novel "Stopover" by Carol Ryrie Brink, a perfect story that suited Mr. Sirk's talent.

Casting Barbara Stanwyck as Naomi Murdoch paid off tremendously for the director. Ms. Stanwyck was in her forties at the time the film went into production and the mature actress shows she was always an asset for anyone wanting to work with her. Her Naomi is perfect. Richard Carlson plays Henry, the husband Naomi abandoned. Marcia Henderson appears as the older Joyce and Lori Nelson as Lily. Lyle Bettger, the villain in most of the films where he appeared, is at hand to play Dutch Heinemann, who wants to rekindle the passion he felt for Naomi. Maureen O'Sullivan appears as Sara Harper, the school teacher in love with Henry.
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6/10
One of the first of the Sirk sudsers
marjot5 August 2002
Barbara Stanwyck seemed a little haggard but still managed a fine performance in this Douglas Sirk-directed sudser which preceded his other more famous movies such as "Imitation of Life", "All That Heaven Allows" and "Written on the Wind", among others.

The movie was good, although I thought the only charachters with any life to them were Barbara, Richard Long and Lori Nelson, who portrayed her overly-eager daughter Lily. The other charachters were rather drab, although this is due in large part to the material they were given.

A special added treat to watch for is when Barbara and Richard Long (later playing mother and son in "Big Valley") dance the "Bunny Hug".
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9/10
Douglas Sirk exploring the dilemmas of passion
robert-temple-124 April 2016
This is a very fine 'early' Douglas Sirk romantic Hollywood melodrama. It was his last black and white and modest budgeted one before he splashed into the Technicolor world of MAGNIFICENT OBSESSION (1954, see my review) the next year, with all the famous films of that kind which followed, and which so stirred the hearts of Middle America. Superb performances in this film by Barbara Stanwyck, Richard Carlson, and Lotte Stern as the maid and housekeeper of the Murdoch family go to make this film something of a classic of its kind, and of course there is Sirk's impeccable direction. The film is based on a novel entitled STOPOVER by Carol Ryrie Brink (1895-1981). It is set in a small town in Wyoming in 1910. Barbara Stanwyk left her husband and children ten years before but has now returned. She meets with a mixed reception. Old passions are aroused, loves and hates start seething, and what will the outcome be? This is a good 'un.
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6/10
Enjoyable period melodrama
Red-Barracuda8 August 2013
Warning: Spoilers
Set at the turn of the century, an over-the-hill actress Naomi Murdoch returns to the family she left behind after receiving a letter from her daughter, who wants her actress mother see her perform in a school play production. Trouble is, she left previously under a cloud, divorcing her husband after an affair with another man and she now does not even know her three children. The narrow-mindedness of the small town made it impossible for her before and begins to make it difficult once again.

Douglas Sirk is most famous for his 50's melodramas, known a little derogatively at the time as 'women's films'. This is an early example of this type of Sirk film. It's a pretty involving movie too. It explores a number of themes such as the emotional fallout caused by the return of a woman of 'ill repute' and the ways it affects the desires of all the characters in her direct orbit. It's also to a lesser extent about city vs. small town, which can also be read as vice vs. honesty but contrastingly as open-mindedness vs. small-mindedness. So there are a few good ideas in this particular mix. Unfortunately the studio imposed a happy ending onto it – an ending that simply isn't true to the story and impacts its overall effect a little.
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6/10
Don't Put Your Daughter On The Stage, Mrs. Worthington
writers_reign18 October 2009
Warning: Spoilers
Here we are again, folks, Sudsville, USA, Douglas Sirk, sole owner and proprietor. At one level this is Meet Me In St Louis without the technicolor and the songs and also, it must be said, without Vincente Minnelli. Sirk is one of those directors you either love or can take or leave but who could never be accused of less than fine craftsmanship. It's 1910 and Barbara Stanwyck is lying a bad second to Fink's Mules on the vaudeville circuit; years ago she abandoned her husband and children to become a star on Broadway except someone forgot to tell the Producers and she ended up one stop away from burlesque. At this low point she receives a letter from her daughter (no one bothered to wonder just HOW the daughter got her address) who's about to graduate and will be appearing in her High School play. Against her better judgment Stanwyck goes back for the gig, sets tongues wagging anew and, in the fullness of time, is reconciled with her high school principal dull husband, Richard Carlson. It's a fairly painless way to spend 100 minutes or so, Stanwyck didn't know how to turn in a bad performance and Billy Gray, playing her youngest son, would soon be familiar to Doris Day fans when he played Wesley Winfield in On Moonlight Bay and its sequel By The Light Of The Silvery Moon. Certainly worth a look.
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7/10
So much sugar in so small a container
Dr Jacques COULARDEAU27 October 2010
Warning: Spoilers
Pure licorice soaked overnight in home made grapes syrup and stewed in honey. It is so romantic, so honey pie dramatic and sweetheart tragic that we just wonder if that kind of Hollywood love affairs should not be multiplied all over the world to make better evil and worse good, or maybe to make evil better and good worse, or maybe to make better good and worse evil, or even to make worse evil and better good, or whatever crisscross shooting game to kill twenty birds with one stone. And here mind you a whole flock of migrating ducks were shot with one bullet from a simple hunting rifle. I can't tell you how good it is and how bat it is. The bad mother comes back from Chicago or whatever and she is going to take her daughter to New York, but she was a bad mother who abandoned her family to be an actress, and she is going to be a bad wife this time and take one of her daughters along with her. Shame on you. Luckily the bad guy comes into the picture and summons her to their meeting point and she goes and he gets shot and she is the culprit of course and she has to leave and what is the husband, abandoned once and who is going to be abandoned a second time, going to do. Please pray it ends well and the husband is a good man and the daughter is satisfied in her New York ambition, and that the wife will be punished for running around with sexual birds of prey and sexual offenders, pray for the girl to be strong enough to take her mother away from her father, pray the father is going to be enough of a coward to accept the pressure from the town and from his own daughters and the fate that is menacing him and let her go. Pray for a good ending and prey on it. Oh! How much the bird prey is a praying manta.

Dr Jacques COULARDEAU, University Paris 1 Pantheon Sorbonne, University Paris 8 Saint Denis, University Paris 12 Créteil, CEGID
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