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|Index||77 reviews in total|
This is only my second encounter with this maker after my first
introduction the other day. I admit I can't peg him.
The filming is seamlessly polished in the form, spacious. It vibrates with a modern air in the way it frames and moves. It's replete with so very attractive images and spaces: the young oil magnate trying to swoon the love interest in Miami airport, Bacall in the Miami suite, the blonde bombshell sister in her fire-engine red convertible, the road lined with oil derricks, the mansion floor strewn with leaves blown in through an open door.
It's the kind of Hollywood reverie that you think would hint at something covert about sex and dreaming, elusive; the kind of movie Niagara is. Seeing such competent molding applied on such generic stuff makes you think it's going to be perhaps intended akin to how Welles built on his own potboilers, as a springboard for introspection, the mystery of shedding narrative on the walls and floor. And yet it remains safe, trivial, about the glossy surface.
Part of the reason why I sought out this maker is because now and then his name appears in discussions about Lynch having influenced this or that. Part of it of course is that I'm always attracted to seductive manipulation. So there must have been a very brief window in time when these were potent. I can see how Lynch must have seen here an appealing wallpaper for Blue Velvet; but more than that how the seamless image could conceal and tease with everything this man made obvious.
A key example is this: strong-minded Bacall against our expectation falls for the cocky playboy instead of the quiet Hudson character, she has seen in private a softer side to nurture, a normal human being eager for love. It's such a strong setup, having us see past the fixed movie image into more fluid self. We know of course his darker side of drinking and loathing will resurface, the question is how, when, what mysterious pull in the soul draws a darker nature. (This is what Lynch has been burying deeper and deeper in his works, blurring cause and making the urge something inscrutable in the fabric).
There's a marvelous scene that foreshadows things, this is where she finds a gun under his pillow one night. This fundamental ambiguity would have been the cornerstone in noir of the time and prior: what secrets lie behind having to sleep with a gun, did she make a mistake in linking her life with him, and did she merely find the gun or some mysterious pull conjure it there? Can it be her urge to be rid of him and keep his fortune?
Here when that darker self appears they based it on the most ludicrous exaggeration: a doctor telling him he may not be able to have kids and he becomes a raving loony. How silly.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Written on the Wind is on par with Douglas Sirk's other cinematic
experiments and is aided considerably by a most skilled cast.
Particularly, the entire film hinges on Dorothy Malone's performance. She is the one who sells us the bill of goods at the end. And if she happened to be unconvincing, then we would feel that the entire 99 minutes was lost. But she does save the film at the end. And it is not surprising that for her efforts, she did receive the Oscar for a best supporting performance. Her scenes in the courtroom make it clear to us that not only is her brother Kyle (Robert Stack in an Oscar-nominated performance) a sad waste of a life, but they all are living a nothing existence-- except those who manage to get away (which is what Lauren Bacall and Rock Hudson must do in the last shots). Malone's character will never get away, having been forced to take over the family business at the end. It's a very sobering conclusion.
In the meanwhile, Sirk fills the earlier portions of the film with inspired mise-en-scene which continues to build the tension and suggest the inevitable outcome for these characters. At every turn, the director is offering motifs and manipulating them carefully, often without our noticing. The scene where Stack throws the drink into the mirror is not only played for dramatic effect but is rich with symbolism. Another important moment occurs when the father (Robert Keith) is experiencing a heart attack on the stairs. Sirk does not allow the camera to linger on the old man during this display like most directors might be tempted to do. Instead he inserts quick cuts to other members of the household, experiencing their own mini-attacks of anguish at the same time.
As a result, Sirk provides quite a searing tale about the so-called lives of the spoiled rich in a desolate oil town. He brings us into the world of its interconnected destinies and the smoldering passions of its inhabitants. He holds us hostage and doesn't let us go.
Super-slick soap, with an all-star cast cavorting in luxurious
settings. Looks like dad Hadley's (Keith) a regular guy, even with
oodles of money. But get a load of his two kids. Kyle (Stack) views
life's parade through an alcoholic haze, while daughter Marylee
(Malone), shall we say, looks to hook up with anything in pants.
Clearly, money hasn't done either any good. But the main problem
appears to lie in childhood and growing up with the poor, but super-
competent Mitch (Hudson), who now has a good job with Dad and his oil
company. As a result, Kyle feels inferior despite his money, while
Marylee fills her time with Mitch-substitutes since the original spurns
her and her money. So the lap of luxury really only makes things worse
for this second generation of wealth.
This was cutting-edge stuff for the '50's with its hints of nymphomania, homosexuality, and infertility, especially with the gorgeous settings that includes the cast principals. Couple that with the top-ten title song, and the movie was a huge hit. It's also well performed with the possible exception of Malone, Oscar or not. Too me, she's a bit over-the-top, while her character as written is pretty much a predictable one-note. And whose idea, I wonder, was the sexy solo dance that appears to end in orgasmic delight at the same time Dad takes a fatal tumble. I've never been sure what to think of that parallel.
Anyway, this is '50's movie-making at its slickest and most daring, with a decidedly dim view of the decade's dreams of luxurious living, earned or otherwise.
Presently, a shooting occurs at the Texas mansion owned by the oil-rich
Hadley family. In a flashback, we witness what led up to the apparent
Over a year ago, handsome Hadley geologist Rock Hudson (as
Mitch Wayne) meets attractive secretary Lauren Bacall (as Lucy Moore)
in New York. He is interested in her, but she is taken by Mr. Hudson's
childhood chum, the "Prince Charming" of the Hadley oil empire, Robert
Stack (as Kyle Hadley). An alcoholic playboy, Mr. Stack settles down
when he meets Ms. Bacall. But family problems and old demons eventually
One problem is sexually-charged sister Dorothy Malone (as Marylee Hadley). She suffering from unrequited love for Hudson, who only has eyes for Bacall. She doesn't get the man she wants, but Ms. Malone has a active sex life as the town tramp. She moves from bar to bedroom with ease and will even take the guy who pumps her gas to a motel. Service station attendant Grant Williams gets the invite. Hadley patriarch Robert Keith (as Jasper Hadley) is furious. Stack and Malone, the doomed and tormented brother-sister duo, steal the show. They are an indictment of industrialized wealth...
"Written on the Wind" won Malone the "Film Daily" and "Academy Award" honor as "Best Supporting Actress" of the year. Stack was nominated by both groups, but it turned out to be Anthony's year (Perkins for the former in "Friendly Persuasion" and Quinn for the latter in "Lust for Life"). Neither director Douglas Sirk nor cinematographer Russell Metty received noms, although both are award-worthy. Moving his players artfully in and around the Hadley mansion, Mr. Sirk is in peak form. And, you can't be bored in a courtroom scene when Malone's hat repeatedly slices the movie screen.
********* Written on the Wind (12/12/56) Douglas Sirk ~ Rock Hudson, Lauren Bacall, Robert Stack, Dorothy Malone
Alcoholic playboy Kyle Hadley (Robert Stack) marries the woman (Lauren
Bacall) secretly loved by his poor but hard-working best friend (Rock
Hudson), who in turn is pursued by Kyle's nymphomaniac sister (Dorothy
I love that the Criterion disc says it is presented in "lurid Technocolor". Not sure that is a compliment, but the film's palette is definitely brighter and more overwhelming than most films. And not in a bad way.
I find it sad that director Douglas Sirk is largely forgotten and it took a German director, Rainer Fassbinder, to bring him back. There really needs to be a re-examining of his boundary-pushing films.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
From director Douglas Sirk (All That Heaven Allows, Imitation of Life), this film featured in the book 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die was one I was certainly looking forward to, I didn't read what the plot would involve, I was interested because of the two leads in the cast and the genre appealed to me. Basically Texas oil baron Jasper Hadley (Robert Keith) has two adult children, self-destructive nymphomaniac Marylee (Oscar and Golden Globe winning Dorothy Malone) and insecure playboy Kyle (Oscar nominated Robert Stack), both of whom are alcoholics, and they cannot sustain personal lives due to being spoilt with inherited wealth and crippling demons. It is after Kyle gets married in New York City to executive secretary Lucy Moore (Lauren Bacall) that more problems ensue, as she influences most of his decisions, and after being unsuccessful fathering a child he starts drinking again. Marylee's long-time infatuation Mitch Wayne (Rock Hudson), geologist for the oil company, is Kyle's childhood friend is one to be turned against, and after the death of Jasper his son's anger and depression really hit rock bottom. Mitch, despite her being married to his best friend, is secretly in love with his wife Lucy, he only reveals this to Kyle himself when it is revealed that he has a low sperm count, but she is pregnant, and he wrongly assumes that she slept with Mitch. During the assault Lucy fell down the stairs, and this causes her miscarriage, so Mitch tells her that once she is feeling better they will get out of town and travel somewhere, and Kyle meanwhile, in his drunken state, has got his hands on a gun and plans to shoot Mitch. Kyle ends up accidentally shooting himself when he and Marylee struggle for the weapon, and in revenge she wants to get Mitch stitched up for the death, and in a court case she does at first tell them that he was responsible. It is only in the second trial that she tearfully tells the truth, and in the end Marylee is left to mourn for her dead brother as Mitch and Lucy as they leave and run the company alone. Also starring Grant Williams as Biff Miley, Robert J. Wilke as Dan Willis, Edward C. Platt as Dr. Paul Cochrane and Harry Shannon as Hoak Wayne. Hudson as usual is good looking and pretty cool, Bacall is most of the time composed but concerned, and Malone does give an award worthy performance as the spoilt and troubled woman full of anger and arousal, Sirk as usual brings all the emotions to a much bigger level to create an all up and down emotional experience, it is a most watchable melodrama. It was nominated the Oscar for Best Song for the title song. Good!
Lives up to everything you'd expect in a Sirk movie and the
super-saturated colours, stirring musical score and immaculate
costumes are all present. On the basis of these factors alone this film
is very watchable. Everything looks so real you want to live there even
though your brain also knows that it's all a fantasy that bears only a
passing resemblance to how the world really looks.
On the down side, for me, was the utter lack of interest I had in most of the characters and their spoilt rich lives. I never felt emotionally involved as there was no point of identification for me. (I felt the same about Dallas when it came along on TV many years later - who cares?) This contrasted strongly for me with All That Heaven Allows which did engage me. The only identification for me was when the bartender tells a man that Marylee Hadley is out of his class - I remember my grandma saying the same to me when I once dated a doctor's daughter! All the interesting people in this film lived on the other side of the tracks but they were only treated as stereotypes and ciphers.
My score is entirely for the style of the film. A worthwhile watch but emotionally uninvolving.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Probably the most hyperactive great movie ever made. Lauren Bacall marries into a wealthy oil family and soon regrets it. Her husband (Robert Stack) is a drunken bully and her sister-in-law (Dorothy Malone) is a nymphomaniac. She's mistreated by both of them. Things go from unpleasant to ridiculous when Stack's best buddy Rock Hudson starts to show some affection for Bacall. Douglas Sirk's resume is littered with high gloss soap operas, most of them absurd, but this one takes the prize. It's fever-pitched, very well acted (particuarly by Stack & Malone) and never dull. Robert Keith is the family patriarch and Grant Williams plays somebody named Biff. Produced by none other than Albert Zugsmith, the undisputed king of lurid 50s epics!
Douglas Sirk's melodrama, Written On The Wind (1956), tells the story
of Mitch Wayne (Rock Hudson), a geologist for the Texan-owned Hadley
Oil Company. The film follows Mitch's experience as not just a
geologist to the company but also as a close family friend to the
Hadley's. Mitch falls in love with Lucy Moore (Lauren Bacall), the wife
of his childhood friend Kyle Hadley (Richard Stack). Moreover, Kyle's
sister, Marylee (Dorothy Malone), remains in love with Mitch since
childhood. Her nymphomaniac tendencies are a mechanism to appease the
pain of her constant rejection from Mitch, and this is symbolic of the
film as a whole.
As a result, they are entangled in a web of love, passion and desire. Fierce jealousy ensues between the characters, which ultimately leads them onto a path of destruction in their lives.
Dorothy Malone's Academy Award for her performance as Marylee is a testament to the quality of acting in the film. Whilst at times, over-the-top, Written On The Wind is a well-crafted melodrama.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
The story is perfectly believable because it brings together four
characters that hate each other and one another so much and at the same
time love each other and one another so much that they have to kill one
another and each other in the end, though three will survive. Drastic,
bleak, horrific! The son and daughter of an oil tycoon are just spoiled
children who cannot see life the way it should be, the result of a
personal fight against one's own phantoms in one's head in order to be
free and creative. So they fight against their closest friends or loves
and they accuse them of the worst crimes or manipulate them with the
menace of the worst crimes and life has to stop one day when the menace
or the threat are too strong. Power leads to frustration, to impotence,
to a lost bullet in the gut of the first one concerned by the gun since
that one is holding it at that moment and with the help of fate and the
cooperative hand of a woman, that bullet will end where it was not
intended but where it solved one step of the problem and generates two
or three more steps on that descent to Hell. Will that feminine hand go
as far as doing what she tried to blackmail the brother's best friend
Mitch with. You'll have to find out. But these children of rich people
who have all they want and cannot accept not to get what they want, no
matter what it is, are lost for society, and for themselves, and they
will end dead or just rejected by everyone. Who said it was a good
thing to be rich? He or she might have been right, but that does not
cover the child of a rich person. And then that sure is not in any way
a blissful lot. The film thus has some density and the ending is
Hollywoodian in the fact that the most tragic dramas always end up in
bliss in Hollywood, at least for the spectator who can leave the
theater with a beautiful feeling.
Dr Jacques COULARDEAU, University Paris 1 Pantheon Sorbonne, University Paris 8 Saint Denis, University Paris 12 Créteil, CEGID
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