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Written on the Wind
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Reviews & Ratings for
Written on the Wind More at IMDbPro »

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3 out of 3 people found the following review useful:

The wayward wind

Author: jotix100 from New York
22 August 2008

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

"Written on the Wind" was an enormously successful Universal picture. It could only be done by Douglas Sirk, a man who saw the possibilities in the material he was given. Based on a popular novel by Robert Wilder and an adaptation by George Zuckerman, it had all the elements that make an excellent melodrama: nymphomania, a large oil fortune, alcoholism, incest and a mild touch of homosexuality. Mr. Sirk laid the path for what would follow later on in the soap operas genre, mainly, "Dallas" and "Dynasty", just to mention two.

The fact is this movie was shot entirely inside a studio. Most of the decor is phony. Like a lot of those 1950s pictures, "Written on the Wind" was shot entirely in a studio lot. Just look at the scenes that are supposed to take place in Manhattan, or Miami, or even the lake are, one can see how the scenery is a painted backdrop. Mr. Sirk couldn't care less about realism as long as he could tell the story his own way.

We recently caught a screening, part of a revival of Mr. Sirk's work, where people were laughing at some of the most dramatic moments, especially during the scenes where Rock Hudson, who plays the good Mitch Wayne, appears. There is also something graphic in the way that both Robert Keith, who plays the patriarch Jasper Hadley, and later on his own daughter, the evil Marylee, caress the oil derrick that adorns the elder man's desk, a sort of phallic object d'art.

Douglas Sirk probably wanted his cast to give over the top performances, which makes sense in the way Dorothy Malone portrays the nymphomaniac Marylee, and to a certain degree, Robert Stack, who overacts as Kyle, the tormented heir of the story. That would probably be the easy explanation of what comes across the screen. The only one that seems normal is Lauren Bacall, who wasn't asked to make her Lucy Moore character appear to be anything but a grounded person caught hanging out with the wrong crowd.

Together with his other Hollywood movies, "Written on the Wind" shows the genius of a talented director who gave the public just what they wanted to see: stories bigger than life that could only be seen on the big screen

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5 out of 7 people found the following review useful:

Melodrama ... blah

Author: pvilleguy from United States
17 September 2007

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

I saw this film for the first time not too long on TCM's "Essentials" series. The eye of the beholder cliché was never more apropos. This beholder saw little of value in this one. I was puzzled by the infinite attraction that Lucy (Lauren Bacall) possessed. Granted, Ms. Bacall was a beautiful woman, but in this film her character comes off more mousy than attractive. I would think men like Mitch Wayne and Kyle Hadley would more likely ignore Lucy than fall into an instant infatuation with her. In Bacall's defense, this film was made at the time of Humphrey Bogart's last illness and the weight of his deteriorating health may have affected her performance. Of course part of this mousiness on the part of Lucy was to contrast her to slutty Marylee, played to the hilt and beyond by Dorothy Malone. The scene where she engages in a wildly sensual dance while her father wearily climbs the stairs to a fatal heart attack is far and away the best scene in the film. Malone's performance outshines the rest, although Jasper Hadley's weariness at the disappointing behavior of his two children is brilliantly portrayed by Robert Keith. Generally, though, I would have to say that I'm just not much of a fan of melodrama. The cartoonish behavior of the characters just makes for a story too implausible for my tastes.

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5 out of 7 people found the following review useful:

Shown today on A.M.C. (i.e., "Always Multitudes of Commercials"!)

Author: Greg Couture from Portland, Oregon
5 August 2003

Channel-surfing earlier today I was passing the A.M.C. site and there was "Written on the Wind" already underway. I'd seen it during its first-run theatrical release (and not since) and was mildly surprised to observe how vividly I recalled its unfolding.

I rarely submit to watching anything on A.M.C. these days because this once watchable venue has deteriorated into nothing more than a merciless marketplace. Strings of commercials endlessly interrupt every broadcast; virtually all films are shown "formatted" to fill non-widescreen TVs (A.M.C. frequently showed widescreen films in letterboxed broadcasts in the past but not anymore, with the recent exception, I noticed, of a Bruce Lee martial arts festival, of all things!); and then there are A.M.C.'s promotions for its upcoming schedule which are usually outrageously, stupidly silly (and boringly repeated ad nauseum). That said... (once more, I might add...)

This luridly Technicolored "triumph of trash" (not photographed in CinemaScope at a time when that process was Hollywood's way of luring us from our home black-and-white boob tubes) again grabbed me with the same stupefied amazement that fascinated me as a comparatively sheltered young teenager. Douglas Sirk's subversively manipulative direction, Russell Metty's opulent cinematography, the eye-filling and fairly luxurious art direction, and the turgidly expressive musical score all add up to what "over the top" really means. And the cast, assembled with an eye to populating this fantasy with near-godlike creatures (even the African American servants at the Hadley mansion are played by handsome and elegantly capable actors) was a cut above those assigned to most of the Universal-International product of that era.

It was surely Dorothy Malone's finest hour and her supporting actress Oscar was a popular choice among her peers and with the audiences of the day. Robert Stack, before he became such an ossified stiff in the years that followed, deservedly earned his own supporting actor Academy Award nomination. Rock Hudson hadn't yet managed to show his mettle as an actor of some range, though his performance in "Giant" released about the same time gave him a better opportunity to escape the oft-repeated complaint that he was "wooden" and nothing more than a slab of beef(cake). Lauren Bacall, though, was credible as an object of desire for two rivals and her soigne presence was a nice counterpoint to Malone's well-heeled tramp.

All in all this kind of moviemaking is rarely attempted today and the presumed tastes of today's audiences would, were a story like this mounted with a suitable budget and an equivalent cast, most likely be swamped with a degree of tastelessness that would be much less palatable than this example of Sirk's mastery of melodrama was when it was released. It's the cinema equivalent of those new calorie-laden ice cream treats that the dietary watchdogs are so assiduously warning us about now, but I doubt that it's as deleterious for our mental and emotional health. Sure hope not, 'cause I savored every frame!

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7 out of 11 people found the following review useful:

Overwrought Melodrama

Author: Lechuguilla from Dallas, Texas
2 August 2009

Slinky Marylee (Dorothy Malone) is in love with nonchalant Mitch (Rock Hudson); Mitch is in love with virtuous Lucy (Lauren Bacall); Lucy is in love with jealous Kyle (Robert Stack); and Kyle is in love with the bottle. And they're all rolling in Texas oil money. Despite their wealth, however, none of these people are really happy. But, hey, what would a sudsy soap opera be without romantic entanglements, despair, tears, verbal conflict, and tons of melodrama? All we need here is Larry Hagman as J.R. Ewing and Barbara Bel Geddes as Miss Ellie.

Although Robert Stack is miscast as a lady's man, he gives the only credible performance of the bunch, a feeble reason for watching this high-strung and overwrought spite-fest. Otherwise, the characters in "Written On The Wind" are neither interesting nor realistic.

And most of the major cast members are miscast. Rock Hudson not only gives a wooden performance, he's laughable as a wheeler-dealer Texas oil man. Dorothy Malone tries to steal the show, but her performance is all atwitter and way over-the-top. And why Lauren Bacall was selected to play a sweet, innocent outsider is a mystery suitable for an Agatha Christie novel.

Further, the film's plot gives away part of the ending, before the story even begins. And while oil is the source of the Hadley family wealth, the characters never engage in any actual oil business.

Color cinematography is competent, and one of the least offensive elements of the film. But the background music is manipulative and as overwrought as the characters.

"Written On The Wind" is another 1950s Douglas Sirk directed melodrama, and arguably one of the worst, owing to a campy plot, overwrought characters, very bad casting, and some rather poor acting.

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8 out of 13 people found the following review useful:

Soap Opera or Social Commentary?

Author: krdement from United States
15 December 2007

To me this just comes off as a soap opera. I guess any depiction of profligate people can be considered "social commentary." But in the final analysis, I simply don't care how you characterize this film. None of the characters are very likable or engaging. I felt no chemistry between Hudson and Bacall. If there is a love story here, it is lost in the malaise. And despite the twist ending provided by a complete and immediate (and therefore, incomprehensible) reversal by Dorothy Maguire on the witness stand, the story is insufficient to hold my interest. No matter how much Freudian symbolism and psychology are throw in, this story is sleazy, melodramatic and trite.

Rock Hudson is nobly wooden. This is Lauren Bacall's least engaging role and one of her poorest performances. Dorothy Maguire and Robert Stack deliver more inspired performances, but her character is vile, and his is pathetic. Robert Keith, as the loving, out-of-touch father of two miscreant adult children, is the most sympathetic character. Most interesting of all, however, is the severe-looking Robert Wilke in a small role as the bar owner. He is best remembered as a nasty henchman in countless Westerns, but here he is an honest, likable fellow.

I take my social commentary with an interesting, engaging story and a few likable characters, thank you.

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9 out of 15 people found the following review useful:

Soap opera Heaven

Author: Robert Mofford
2 December 2001

Another in the they don't make em like that category. This story of a family with some real skeletons in its closet still qualifies as good clean, sometimes over-the-top fun. Robert Stack and Dorothy Malone are at their peak as the troubled Hadley siblings, and they really took the roles and ran with them. Malone won an Oscar and Stack was nominated in the supporting categories, both honors being eminently well-deserved. They counterbalance the somewhat bland leads. Neither Bacall nor Hudson could ever be called bad actors, but they've both had better parts and played them far more convincingly than they do here. It's kind of hard for me to accept Rock Hudson playing such a red-blooded heterosexual as he does here, but that's more of a personal bias than anything else. But that doesn't take away from the movie's overall entertainment value, which is considerable and this movie is extremely watchable. If you're up some night and this movie comes on I'd say watch it. It's well worth it.

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16 out of 29 people found the following review useful:

A Vat Full Of Colorful Soap Suds

Author: ccthemovieman-1 from United States
26 August 2006

was excited to finally obtain a copy of this movie, which isn't always easy to do. The DVD is too expensive to buy sight-unseen, so I grabbed a used VHS when I saw it on sale. For one, my brother had said "You HAVE to see Dorothy Malone in this film. She's unbelievable." Then, a bunch of classic film board posters had praised this film, so my interest was there.

Well, one viewing was enough. I am just not a fan of soap operas, and this is so "soapy" you could fill a tub big enough to wash (you fill in the blank.)

I have no problem with the four main actors of this film - Robert Stack, Rock Hudson, Lauren Bacall and Dorothy Malone - having enjoyed all of them in other movies/TV shows. However, the characters they played in this movie were unappealing. The only "normal" guy, ironically, turned out to be the one Rock Hudson played. Bacall's dialog, at least early on, was unrealistic; Malone's looks turned me off (I was spoiled, having seen her look fantastic in other things; here she was just cheap-looking , which was what they wanted); and Stack, well, he was just plain super-annoying. That's what soap fans want, anyway: annoying, loser-type people. Me, I prefer some nice, normal characters.

So, if you like whining drunks, squabbling siblings, stupid romances, etc., this is your cup of tea. However, one thing in here that was to interest was the color palate: it's pretty wild. I'm sure this looked a lot better on DVD than on the tape I watched.

To be fair, the film is okay and the story is just fine for what it is: a '50s melodrama. It's a good movie for those who like this genre. I'm just not a fan of these overwrought stories, but I'll still rate the movie decently for what it presents: good acting, a somewhat-involving story and interesting cinematography with a wild color scheme.

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2 out of 2 people found the following review useful:

People are strange.

Author: bobsgrock from United States
28 June 2011

Of all of Douglas Sirk's sly and subversive melodramas, Written on the Wind may very well be the one that takes itself the most seriously. This is not to say that Sirk's wicked undertones are not present as they are; rather by this time (1956), he had perfected his ability to balance the false and lavish exterior with the sad, repugnant interior of the characters and the lives they inhabit.

What is unique to this film is how intense and emotional the story becomes rather than simple-minded fodder for soap fans. This is due in part to the very strong performances, particularly Robert Stack and Dorothy Malone as Kyle and Marylee Hadley, the filthy-rich but morally empty children of an oil tycoon who traipse about looking for thrills and challenges. Kyle finds one in straight-laced secretary Lucy Moore (Lauren Bacall), whom he eventually marries. Marylee has been attracted to Kyle's best friend Mitch Wayne (the incomparable Rock Hudson) all her life but cannot get past his wall of incredulity. In short, none of these characters are truly happy or satisfied with their situations, even after attempts to correct them. This may be Sirk's most devastating critique of all: everyone, despite their varied backgrounds, remain unfulfilled and unwilling to settle for anything but what they feel is ultimate satisfaction.

If nothing else, this film is gorgeous to look at. Russell Metty, Sirk's longtime cinematographer, photographs Hollywood sets better than anyone. Perhaps its the color palate or Sirk's mise en scene; whatever it is it is used brilliantly to reflect the characters (and 1950s America's) vapid soullessness. This, combined with over the top acting and scenarios, would seem to present itself as sheer stupidity and disregarded melodrama. Of course, this being Douglas Sirk, one must attempt to look closer for the signs of that most modern of ideas: that people are strange and life is the most ironic of situations.

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2 out of 2 people found the following review useful:

Solid Film Very Good Cast

Author: getyourdander from United States
20 January 2007

Lauren Bacall was living through husband Humprey Bogarts illness & death when she did this film. Rock Hudson was near the top of his 1950's stardom. Dorothy Malone is in excellent form, and wins an Oscar for support. Robert Stack is nominated & falls just short for his role.

The story is a little soapy from another time but just as worthwhile as most dramas. Amazing how well drunks can drive in this film & also how quickly Stack sobers up in a couple of the films early sequences.

You can see why the cast is so good & actually production wise this film is very good. You can tell Bacall is distracted during this film as while her acting is fine, she looks emotionally drained in some sequences.

The sexual references in this film are so mild, that many of today's young viewers would not realize what they are. Film does a good job telling a story & actually leaves a sequel to be made at the end though none ever was made- though Written Beyond THe Wind would be a good title.

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2 out of 2 people found the following review useful:

Pure Camp or High Art? Or Both?

Author: evanston_dad from United States
14 August 2006

This gloriously turgid melodrama represents Douglas Sirk at his most high strung. It eschews the soft wistfulness of "All That Heaven Allows" and the weepy sentimentality of "Imitation of Life" and instead goes for feverish angst and overheated tension. And of course, it's all captured in vibrant Technicolor.

The cornball story has something to do with a friendship between Rock Hudson and Robert Stack that becomes a rivalry when Hudson snags the affections of Lauren Bacall, but who's really paying attention to the story? Dorothy Malone won a Best Supporting Actress Academy Award for her splendidly over-the-top performance as Stack's sister, who takes the family business into her own hands when no one else will. A highlight of the film comes when this high-spirited wild child breaks into a frantic dance in her bedroom, unable to bear the restraints placed upon her by middle-class propriety. As so frequently happens in Sirk movies, the scene is both unintentionally hilarious in its absurdity and yet strangely moving in its effectiveness.

Sirk came closer than anyone else to turning pure camp into high art, satisfying the philistines and the high brows at the same time within the same films. His was a unique talent and I don't know that there's ever been another film maker quite like him since.

Grade: A-

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