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
An aging heir-less millionaire wants to leave his fortune to the unsuspecting family of his first love but not before testing his prospective heirs by living with them under the guise of a poor boarder.
When churlish, spoiled rich man Bob Merrick foolishly wrecks his speed boat, the rescue team resuscitates him with equipment that's therefore unavailable to aid a local hero, Dr. Wayne Phillips, who dies as a result. Phillips had helped many people, and when Merrick learns Phillips' secret, to give selflessly and in secret, he tries it in a ham-handed way. The result further alienates Phillips' widow, Helen, with whom Merrick has fallen in love. Merrick's persistence causes another tragedy, and he must remake his life, including going back to medical school, in an attempt to make amends and win her love.Written by
I watched MAGNIFICENT OBSESSION yesterday, for the first time in a few years, as I worked my way through the Douglas Sirk Box Set.
Like all of Sirk's Hollywood movies, there's a lot more going on in the movie than there appears to be. That said, MO is probably the director's most eventful film. Where his other pictures concentrate on the dramatic psychological conflict between characters, this one has loads of life-altering events. Within the first reel, the male lead Bob Merrick is in an accident that takes him to death's door. And the female lead's husband dies of heart attack. A short while later the female lead, Helen Phillips (Jane Wyman) is involved in an accident that robs her of her sight. Ladle on top of this Sirk's sumptuous technicolor design schemes and all this melodrama might have seemed a bit contrived (you think?), it it hadn't been for the philosophical glue that Sirk binds it all together with.
In MAGNIFICENT OBSESSION, the doctrine espoused is reminiscent of Rhonda Byrne's "The Secret", and is so important to the story that the film derives its title from the unnamed philosophy that is referred to by its "prophet", Edward Randolph (Otto Krueger), as "a magnificent obsession". Yet Sirk wisely leaves the details in the background. We never really get the full picture of how the philosophy works, but this is how Sirk keeps the whole thing from becoming preachy.
Sirk himself claimed in an interview on BBC TV that he was more interested in the "circle of life" angle ... Dr Phillips dies so that Bob Merrick can live and carry on his good works for him. But whatever the director's intentions, what we ended up with was a superior romantic melodrama with a strong underlying sub-text that says, Give with no thought of receiving and the world will be a better place.
No argument from me ...
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