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Magnificent Obsession (1935)

Approved | | Drama, Romance | 30 December 1935 (USA)
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 »


John M. Stahl


Sarah Y. Mason (screenplay), Victor Heerman (screenplay) | 2 more credits »


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Complete credited cast:
Irene Dunne ... Helen Hudson
Robert Taylor ... Robert Merrick
Charles Butterworth ... Tommy Masterson
Betty Furness ... Joyce Hudson
Sara Haden ... Mrs. Nancy Ashford
Ralph Morgan ... Randolph
Henry Armetta ... Tony
Gilbert Emery ... Doctor Ramsay
Arthur Treacher ... Horace
Beryl Mercer ... Mrs. Eden
Alyce Ardell ... Elise
Theodore von Eltz ... Dr. Preston
Sidney Bracey ... Butler
Arthur Hoyt ... Perry
Cora Sue Collins ... Ruth


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


Hate turned into love! See more »


Drama | Romance


Approved | See all certifications »





English | French | German

Release Date:

30 December 1935 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Le secret magnifique See more »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Universal Pictures See more »
Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

Mono (Western Electric Noiseless Recording)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See full technical specs »

Did You Know?


"Lux Radio Theater" broadcast a 60 minute radio adaptation of the movie on April 26, 1937 with Robert Taylor and Irene Dunne reprising their film roles. 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 »


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.
Robert Merrick: You mean, if I'd go out and help people secretly that would establish that "contact" you speak of?
See more »

Alternate Versions

All prints now in circulation run 102 minutes. See more »


Version of Sublime Obsessão (1958) 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

laugh all you want, but this story did wonders for a farm kid and a truck driver
16 January 2013 | by blanche-2See all my reviews

"Magnificent Obsession" is a 1935 film starring Irene Dunne and Robert Taylor; it was remade in the '50s in Technicolor and starred Jane Wyman and Rock Hudson. The story is preposterous, the melodrama is over the top, but this film gave both Taylor, a farm boy from Nebraska and Hudson, a truck driver from Illinois, their big breaks.

Robert Merrick (Taylor) is a drunken playboy who, one afternoon, falls off his sailboat and has to be resuscitated with the use of what's called in this film a "pulmotor," a device that forces oxygen into the lungs.

Unfortunately, the pulmotor was needed across the lake for an older man, a Dr. Hudson, who has had a heart attack, but because one isn't available, the man dies. When his wife (Dunne) and daughter (Betty Furness) arrive home, they get the horrible news. There is bitterness everywhere because Dr. Hudson was beloved, a fine doctor and an exceptional man, and Merrick is a drunken, rich loser.

At one point, Merrick meets a man (Ralph Morgan) who gives him the secret philosophy that Dr. Hudson lived by and taught him - give anonymously and without expecting repayment.

When Merrick spots Mrs. Hudson, he has no idea who she is and tries to pick her up. One day, he offers her a ride and "runs out of gas." As she's leaving the car to take a ride with someone else, a car hits her and she is badly injured - in fact, she's blinded.

Merrick now befriends her in the park, where she sits practicing her Braille. He doesn't identify himself - she calls him "Dr. Robert"; he tells her that he once had aspirations to be a doctor himself. He arranges for her to have a steady income, since Dr. Hudson gave most of his money away and only has worthless stocks - she thinks her husband's copper stocks are now worth a lot -- and then he arranges for some of the finest doctors in the world to meet in Paris and study her. She thinks it's because her husband was so highly regarded. Alas, the prognosis is that the doctors see no point in surgery. It goes on from there, assuming fabulous aspects.

This kind of melodrama was extremely popular in the 1930s; director Douglas Sirk loved this type of film and remade some of them in the '50s, giving them big, glitzy productions, and made some new ones as well.

Though today the plot seems ridiculous, because of the commitment and likability of the actors and the spiritual undertone that goes throughout the film, somehow one doesn't stop watching, and it sure worked well in 1935 and 1954.

Robert Taylor is gloriously handsome, known for his perfect profile, resonant speaking voice, and charming presence. I have never considered him much of an actor, but he was my mother's favorite, and I watch him every time he's on TCM in her honor. He holds the record for being employed by a studio the longest - 24 years with MGM, until it dissolved, and went on to more films, a successful television show, and he replaced Ronald Reagan on Death Valley Days.

Irene Dunne gives a lovely performance without histrionics or being overdone in any way.

Good movie? For what it is, yes.

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