Magnificent Obsession (1954) Poster

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A magnificent obsession indeed
graham clarke14 March 2005
My unashamed love for the films of Douglas Sirk may be described as an obsession, but it is to me, of course, a magnificent obsession. My attempts to influence others as to Sirk's genius have mostly failed. He's a director whose work you either get, or not. Those who view his works as camp masterpieces are very much missing the point. What is intrinsic in works of camp is the end product being appreciated in a manner that the creator had not intended. However, every camera angle of each frame, every nuance, indeed every color in every shot is totally intentional in all of Sirk's major films.

"Magnificent Obsession" is far from Sirk's best work, but it is perhaps his most important. Though he had made films in many genres, it was "All I Desire", his 1952 melodrama that paved the way for what would become his special place in cinema history. In the often ridiculed genre of so called "woman's movies", Sirk discovered there was great scope for artistic expression as well as social criticism and much more in this apparently vacuous genre. "Magnificent Obsession" is the first film in which this vision is realised.

To understand why this happened at all one must remember that Sirk was under a long term contract with Universal throughout the fifties, when they were by all accounts an inferior studio. As an European immigrant in need of work, Sirk signed to Universal, with the full understanding of the type of projects that would be offered to him. His intellectual and rich theatrical background would be put to use in clearly inferior material. When asked about this, he gave the example of how many of Shakespeare's plots are weak and uninteresting in themselves; it's the language that makes them art. Sirk was a master of cinematic language in all its aspects. The plots of his movies are often truly abysmal, but the language always pure joy to behold. "Magnificent Obsession" is a prime example of the abyss between screenplay and the cinematic language employed.

After reading the script of "Magnificent Obsession", Sirk called the plot "crazy" and did not want to make it. But as a contracted director, he had little sway with the studio heads and was persuaded, as always, to make the movie. It should be noted that he never had a bad word to say about Universal, even after he left Hollywood. He fully understood the contract he had made and simply made the best of his situation. It should also be noted that he gave Universal some of their greatest commercial successes of the decade, and created for them a star leading man, something they were in desperate need of. That star was Rock Hudson. "Magnificent Obsession" was Hudson's breakthrough film. He made eight films together with Sirk.

The magnificent obsession in question is the quest for spirituality; not exactly high on the agenda of materialistic, picture perfect, upper class American society of the fifties. Bob Merrick (Rock Hudson) is a shallow, womanizing, heavy drinking, spoiled playboy. The movie charts his journey towards spirituality. He is guided on this path by an older intellectual artist, Edward Randolph (Otto Kruger). Many critics have noted the physical similarities between Kruger and Sirk himself. It's almost irresistible to develop this notion. It is Randolph who despite Merrick's crass behavior perceives a potential for greater things and leads him towards self fulfillment.

Similarly it was Sirk who first spotted Rock Hudson's star potential. Under his guidance and direction, Hudson would in a matter of two to three years, become one the most popular actors in Hollywood. Having worked closely on eight films, it would seem absurd that Sirk was not aware of Hudson's homosexuality. This did not deter Sirk, (who himself was not gay). Moreover it fits well with his fascination for what he termed "split characters". It's the embodiment of fifties picture perfect appearance shielding a very different reality that is central to much of Sirk's work.

Edward Randolph quietly removes himself when he realises his protégé has finally found his new self. His work is done. While Hudson was no heavyweight in the acting stakes, under Sirk's direction he gave some very respectable performances, "Magnificent Obsession" amongst his best. His post Sirk career would soon take him to Doris Day territory, a far cry from the likes of "Written on the Wind", "Tarnished Angels" and "Battle Hymn".

All of Sirk's films are worth taking a close look at, particularly from "Magnificent Obsession" onwards. There are a handful of directors who so well grasped the possibilities of film making and possessed the know how in using the many elements that make up this art form.
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Launching A Second Screen Heartthrob
bkoganbing4 May 2007
Warning: Spoilers
Back in the Thirties the first screen adaption of Lloyd C. Douglas's novel Magnificent Obsession was the career breakout film for Robert Taylor. Universal had borrowed Taylor from MGM and cast him as playboy Bob Merrick opposite Irene Dunne. The film made his career.

Though Hudson was already a star because he'd been first billed in some westerns and action films, this second version established Hudson as Universal Pictures romantic star for the next dozen years. This time the break came to one who was under contract to that studio.

Lloyd C. Douglas was a minister turned novelist who specialized in writing romantic stories with a religious tint to them. Even his novel The Robe which was set in biblical times was a romance between a Roman Tribune and the ward of Emperor Tiberius and how Jesus's crucifixion affected the relationship.

Magnificent Obsession is set in modern times. Former medical student Rock Hudson who now wants to live fast, die young, and leave a good looking corpse inadvertently causes the death of a respected physician and later the blinding of his widow, Jane Wyman, in separate incidents.

Under the tutelage of wise old Otto Kruger, Hudson decides to get serious with his life and start being of service to his fellow man. Nowhere apparently can you do better good works than in the medical profession which seems to be what Douglas is saying besides being a minister.

Douglas Sirk's direction can get some soggy performances from players at times, but it's a tricky bit of business here. In less capable hands Hudson would look like he was stalking Wyman. But that's how good the two of them are. Wyman in fact got an Oscar nomination for Best Actress, but lost to Grace Kelly in The Country Girl.

Hopefully one of these days TCM will show the Robert Taylor-Irene Dunne version of Magnificent Obsession and we can compare the two.

I think this version will definitely stand up under comparison.
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The Glossy Facade Gives Way To A Studio Classic
Michael Bragg23 July 2005
Looking back on the abbreviated career of Douglas Sirk, "Magnificent Obsession" rises above being just another "woman's film" or "weepie". It actually serves as a notable turning point as it is the first in a string of Technicolor melodramas Sirk helmed at Universal-International, as well as one of his most popular. It also kick-started the malnourished career of Rock Hudson and sent his fame into another realm. Despite the film's lame-brained premise and endless implausibilities, Sirk takes the material and dishes out a sweet, moving drama that is a thinly disguised tale of Christianity.

Hudson stars as Bob Merrick, a millionaire playboy with no cares in the world. His lavish and self-serving lifestyle inadvertently leads to the death of a prominent local doctor, Wayne Phillips. Dr.Phillip's widow, Helen(Jane Wyman)tries to pick up the pieces of her shattered life, while at the same time resisting the advances of Bob Merrick. His persistence results in an accident in which Helen goes blind. In a convoluted and corny twist, Bob tries to redeem himself by giving selflessly to others and devoting his life to medicine to find a way to restore Helen's eyesight.

Every stereotype of every soap opera convention is used in overwhelming doses to tell the story of "Magnificent Obsession". The "alternative lifestyle" of Christianity that Bob learns is a mish-mash of psychobabble that even the most detail-oriented viewer would find boring and confusing. And the seriousness in which the actors take the material is eye-rollingly unbelievable. But this film is saved by the always-savvy direction of Douglas Sirk(who himself hated the plot)and an elegant, understated Jane Wyman who brought her own brand of sophistication to every role she played - and was Oscar-nominated for this role. Even Hudson is able to overcome his nerves in his first leading, A-list role to give a performance that is convincing. Sirk's use of reflective surfaces and a dominating color palette give this movie a look that is undeniably sheen. And Frank Skinner's classical score takes the ordinary material to an emotional level; although the choral "oohs and aahs" on the soundtrack are a bit pungent for such a quiet film. This is not Sirk's best work, but it is definitely solid enough to engage first time viewers and a must for fans of the German-bred director's work.
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Tissues required!
jotix10023 August 2005
Douglas Sirk directed a lot of films that capitalized on the melodramas that were highly popular in the fifties. In "Magnificent Obsession" he shows why he was probably the man that was born to direct this film, as well as others of the genre. This is a remake of the film of 1935, which had been a vehicle for Irene Dunne and Robert Taylor.

Jane Wyman and Rock Hudson seemed to be unlikely candidates for playing a romantic couple in the movies. After all, Ms. Wyman was older than Mr. Hudson and clearly appeared to be in the film. The story, which is based on LLoyd Douglas novel, has a little bit of everything.

"Magnificent Obsession" proved to be a hit for its stars. In a way, it's easy to see why fans were attracted to it, with its many twists and turns and the impossible love between Helen and Dr. Bob Merrick, the playboy who becomes contrite after he causes the accident that makes Helen blind. Also in the cast the magnificent Agnes Moorehead, who has great moments in the film.
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A bit much, even for Sirk
William J. Fickling27 June 2004
I am a Douglas Sirk devotee and regard him as one of the screen's more underrated directors. Having said that, I regard "Magnificent Obsession" as a bit much, even for Sirk. I like Sirk because, even though he is a master of soapers, he is more than that. His films contain social commentaries that are often biting, and they often contain good character studies. In this preachy film the social commentary is absent and the characters are one dimensional. But I can forgive all this because the acting is good--Wyman, Kruger, and Moorhead are excellent--and Sirk showed that Rock Hudson could act if properly directed. This was Hudson's breakthrough film. But the music is almost too much to bear! I have never heard such wretchedly maudlin, and loud, movie music in my life. The heavenly choruses in the background are shameless. In spite of all this, however, it is all quite entertaining. 7/10
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Suspend Reality
scwaldo-19 February 2005
Jane Wyman is stiff and motionless both before and after becoming blind. She reacts to bad news as though someone has just told her the morning paper has been mislaid. She seems so much older than Rock Hudson that the love interest between them is unbelievable and seems silly. I thought she seems old enough to be his mother. Why do blind people in movies not recognize the voice of someone known prior to blindness? This also makes the story unbelievable. There is much music, mostly Chopin, in the background (coming to the foreground frequently). Rock Hudson's car is one of the most interesting items in this movie. A blind person would surely recognize the sound, smell, feel of a car like this! Based on this car and Hudson's valiant work to carry this movie, I give this a 5 star rating.
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Melodrama prototype.
dbdumonteil11 August 2001
Douglas Sirk is known as the melodrama man,but all his movies are not exactly what we call melodrama:"All that heaven allows" and"tarnished angels" are closer to realist stories;"A time to love and a time to die" transcends melodrama to become a tragedy.Three major movies seem to belong to the genre:"written on the wind" "imitation of life " and of course this one."Magnificent obsession " has a plot so unlikely,so incredible that,in the hands of a lesser talent,it would have gathered nothing but horse -laugh:The beginning of the film is a succession of coincidences and combinations of circumstances so improbable you wonder whether Sirk will get away with it.Against all odds,he succeeds in this absurd task.Someone tells the hero that the one who devotes his life to others has chosen the rocky road,someone has been crucified for that.But once he has begun,this task will obsess him,and it's a magnificent obsession.So the selfish hero will undo the harm he's done . It's a double feat:Hudson's struggle is moving and Sirk ,who goes for broke,pulls off this extravaganza with panache.
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Thinking person's romantic melodrama
Matti-Man31 August 2009
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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Magnificent color, at any rate.
FilmSnobby9 July 2005
Warning: Spoilers
Douglas Sirk's inaugural "women's-picture" weepy for Universal, based on a preachy, dogmatic, didactic novel by the intolerable Lloyd C. Douglas (author of that other beloved piece of crap, *The Robe*). Rock Hudson, in the role that catapulted him to stardom, plays Bob Merrick, a drunken playboy worth untold millions who is more interested in chasing skirts and racing speedboats than in finishing his medical degree. In the first scene, he wrecks his boat on a sumptuously photographed lake. The accident nearly kills Merrick, and thus he requires a rather mysterious "resuscitator machine" to keep him alive . . . meanwhile, across town, beloved surgeon Dr. Phillips finally drops dead from a heart condition. Since the local hospital can maintain only one resuscitator at a time, Phillips dies so that the louse may live. When Merrick learns of this, he tries to make apologetic overtures to Phillips' family, especially to the widow (Jane Wyman, coiffed and clothed in matronly hauteur), but indeed anyone and everyone who knew the surgeon spits at Merrick like a brace of cobras. One doctor on the hospital staff even calls it "a total waste" that the playboy lived instead of the Christ-like surgeon. Hippocrates might have had something to say about that!

These early scenes are where you'll find the typical Sirkian iconoclasm: the director rubs our faces so much in the unpleasantness of middle-class, mid-century America, that one finds oneself rooting for the wastrel playboy to put whoopee-cushions under the ramrod fannies of these moral hypocrites. But, alas, no: the risible plot of the novel must proceed, and Merrick soon finds himself getting converted by God, in the guise of pipe-puffing Otto Kruger, an artist who claims that Phillips made him a better man and even a better painter. (Why don't we see any of this amazing art?) We learn that the intolerably ubiquitous Dr. Phillips would often refuse payment for medical services rendered (though who exactly qualified for these "magnificent exemptions" is never made clear). This is supposed to provide our hero with a whole new outlook on life and an example of personal conduct. Kruger even tries to make it all sound very illicitly exciting: "Once you start this thing, there's no way out of it! It's an obsession . . . a MAGNIFICENT obsession!" So Merrick tries it out by AGAIN pestering the widow with apologetic overtures, but he somehow causes her to get hit by a car. She loses her eyesight. Apparently, Merrick will have several more stations-of-the-cross to trudge past before he can be accounted a decent fellow.

But Sirk continues to sneak in his revenges even as the movie grows more and more preachy. The most obvious bit has to be the presence of Agnes Moorehead as the head hospital nurse and Wyman's friend and unrequited lesbian lover. Note the disappointment on Moorehead's face when Merrick, finally redeemed as a doctor, shows up to save Wyman's life near the end. Hudson's own homosexuality, an open secret in Hollywood at the time, is also used to great ironic effect. He and Wyman -- dowdy and fifteen years older -- generate absolutely zero erotic heat in their scenes together, which, by the way, are purposefully few, presumably because any more scenes between the stars would hopelessly expose this whole enterprise. (One thing we feel certain of: if Rock Hudson was obsessed by anything, it certainly wasn't Jane Wyman.) It's a chronic case of *Tea and Sympathy*. Sirk seemed to enjoy tweaking everyone's noses by having this gay actor -- who was attractive to the innocent ladies of the era -- coolly drift through these exquisitely-colored "women's pictures". In fact, the director worked with Hudson 6 or 7 more times, to best effect in the follow-up to this film, *All That Heaven Allows*, which re-teamed Hudson with Wyman but was also accompanied by a realistic plot. In *Obsession*, meanwhile, we must endure God/Kruger gazing beneficently down from an observation-window onto Merrick and his medical team as they prepare to save Wyman's life, in tandem with a musical score of swelling vocals from a cheesy Hollywood choir.

But to see why Sirk is considered an auteur, check out the scene wherein Wyman explains to her grown daughter that she can in fact tell the difference from night and day. The entire frame is blackened, here: the daughter is barely visible, and Wyman's face is faintly silhouetted against a faint light. She goes on to say that she hates the night because "I know that Dawn will never come again". A great, chilling moment that deserves a much better movie than *Magnificent Obsession*.

4 stars out of 10.
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Fairy-tale coloured technicolour eye-candy from Sirk.
Ben Parker29 July 2004
Bob Merrick (Rock Hudson) gets his commuppance and learns to be not such a reckless rich twat, with the help of a fairy godfather and falling in love with a woman he made go blind!

If you've never heard of Douglas Sirk, be prepared that this will be melodrama city. Production values are superb, though. Sirk was a very talented craftsman, as well as creating a beautiful aesthetic for these films.

Sirk made the hospital and the classic American home look as artificial and sanitised as he could: with lipstick so bright and full the lips jump off the faces, sculpted hair and good looks, everything in its right place and colours so stark it looks like a children's colour book. These locales are contrasted with a couple of other places, darkly beautiful: the scene where Rock is sitting at a bar, which starts with the rather loose and drunk looking woman leaning up against the wall, with curls of cigarette smoke and beautiful light in the background. The other is the night scene in Paris, with such exquisite light coming through the doors of the apartment.

Rock is actually pretty good in the film, and really perfect looking. I can see why Sirk picked him out - he's a Ken doll - playing the fantasy American: rich, beautiful and devil-may-care. And after this flick, he was also a star.

3/5. I liked La Habanera better, though.
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A Remake without the Magnetism of the Original 1935 Film
Claudio Carvalho5 March 2011
The reckless and arrogant playboy Robert Merrick (Rock Hudson) has an accident with his motorboat but he is resuscitated with the resuscitator of the famous Dr. Wayne Phillips. Coincidently at the same time, Dr. Phillips has a heart attack and needs his apparatus, but he dies. Dr. Phillips's young wife, Helen (Jane Wyman), and his daughter Joyce (Barbara Rush) blame Bob Merrick for his irresponsibility and hate him. Sooner they discover that Dr. Phillips had secretly helped many people that adore him. When Merrick sees Helen Hudson, he flirts with her, but his unrequited affection irritates her. One day, Merrick is drunk and meets the artist Edward Randolph (Otto Kruger) by chance and he learns that Dr. Phillips secretly helped people without expecting any return or acknowledgement. One day, Merrick sees Helen in a restaurant and gets in her taxi. However Helen leaves the car upset with Merrick, another car runs over Helen and she becomes blind. Later Merrick meets Helen on the beach and lures her, introducing himself as Robinson. Meanwhile he financially helps her and hires a team of specialists to examine Helen in Switzerland. Helen is examined but the doctors advise her that they will not operate her. Meanwhile Merrick and Helen fall in love with each other but when Merrick proposes her, he discloses his true identity. On the next morning, Helen vanishes without any trace from the hotel with her nurse and friend Nancy (Agnes Moorehead). Merrick studies medicine and years later, he returns to Detroit and Randolph tells him that Helen is very sick in a small sanatorium in New Mexico. He heads to meet Helen with Randolph and finds her terminal, needing an urgent surgery. Without alternative, he has to operate her.

"Magnificent Obsession" is a remake without the magnetism of the original film. The story has minor modifications, actually updates and color, but the black and white movie of 1935 is better and better. The charm and chemistry of Irene Dunne and Robert Taylor are unrivalled. My vote is six.

Title (Brazil): "Sublime Obsessão" ("Sublime Obsession")
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Too Much Even for a Sirk Fan
evanston_dad20 February 2009
Warning: Spoilers
I like Douglas Sirk movies, and I find the genre of 1950s melodramas fascinating, but even I had trouble stomaching this giant cornball of a movie.

Jane Wyman plays the widow of a respected doctor, who dies because a piece of machinery needed to resuscitate him is being used on a nearby accident victim, a spoiled rich playboy (Rock Hudson) who was goofing around in his speedboat. Later, when trying to make amends with the widow, this same playboy causes another accident which makes her go blind. Having thoroughly ruined this woman's life, he decides to devote himself to a higher calling and becomes a doctor, and guess what happens at the end? I don't think it's any spoiler to say that he operates on the widow and miraculously cures her.

Not being a religious person myself, I found the heavy-handed treatment of faith too much to bear. And the reason I like other Sirk movies is that they always have a subversive element of social commentary to them, like he's slyly criticizing the very people he was making movies for. But that's lacking here. This is melodrama served straight up, without a wink of irony.

Otto Kruger plays an old friend of the deceased doctor who coaches Hudson toward doing something with his life -- Sirk couldn't have made it clearer that he's meant to evoke the image of an angel sent from heaven (Beethoven's "Ode to Joy" plays on the soundtrack pretty much every time he makes an appearance). And character actress warhorse Agnes Moorehead gets saddled with a thankless role as Wyman's spinster nurse.

Grade: B-
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A great location and beautiful scenery spoiled by an unbelievable script and over-the-top acting
sseale15 July 2006
I would like to know the real name of the Lodge where scenes from the movie were filmed. It is truly beautiful and hearkens back to 20's and 30's architecture like the Hotel Del Coronado. I know it was on either Big Bear Lake or Lake Arrowhead and would like to hear if it is still in existence. As for the movie itself, it is truly amazing that Jane Wyman was even nominated for an Academy Award. This must have been a period when she was well liked by her Academy peers. It really would have been interesting to get a true impression from Wyman and the other actors in this movie regarding the script. The script of this movie, like the recent Kevin Costner movie with a message in a bottle, is so unbelievable that it it limits the credibility that the actors can bring to their parts. Rock Hudson can be forgiven. He was never a great actor, was able to get by mostly on his looks and didn't get credible roles until later in his career (Pretty Maids is the exception). But Wyman must have been forced to take this movie through contractual requirements or the studio system.
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Love it !
nightlavender-9282714 April 2017
I have to disagree with the previous person's review. This movie is so good and moving and reflects the time it was made in. Jane Wyman does look older than Rock but I think its that horrible short bob of a hairstyle she wears but I realize it was her trademark look throughout her career even up until the TV show Falcon Crest. If you like sentimental movies you can really lose yourself in and really suspend your imagination , you'll love this. Also I couldn't help but notice the similarities in looks between Elvis and Rock, they could've been brothers! All in all, a very good movie.
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Sirk's obsession with high emotions and lush Technicolor mark this as an achievement
MisterWhiplash1 January 2010
Magnificent Obsession is, at least on the surface, about redemption, almost to a wild degree, and then a sense of strange love. It concerns a playboy sportsman, Bob Merrick (Hudson) who gets in an accident and needs a resuscitator just at the same time that Dr. Phillips, who is sick, needs it. He dies while Merrick lives, and this leaves Mrs. Helen Phillips (Jane Wyman) in serious debt. What to do? Well, Merrick offers up some money, but Helen rejects it outright. He tries to do more, but then Helen has an accident of her own when a car hits her, making her blind. From then on Merrick, trying to make up for all of his wrongs, and to find himself really, takes on a persona of 'Robbie Robertson' around the blind Helen Phillips, and goes as far as to try and find a doctor who can cure her blindness.

Needless to say, he ends up doing much more. Almost above-and-beyond one might say, but who's to really say in love anyway? Douglas Sirk relishes his characters and the setting, but he doesn't deny any side of the audience looking for something. If you love a good soap opera or hardcore melodrama where a twist and turn comes every so many minutes (mostly in the first half, but then some last minute ones of the medical kind towards the end), Sirk gives up the goods like a chef pouring far too much syrup on chocolate chip pancakes. If you want to look for just a lush and amazing piece of film-making, you'll get that, as his DP Russell Metty (also later to work on All That Heaven Allows, his masterpiece starring also Hudson and Wyman), who gets these scenes by a lake or in a nice middle class house or out in Europe where a parade with lots of fire at night shines like something out of a dream (or, equally incredible, his sense of light and dark in indoor night scenes).

And what makes it interesting, if almost too over the top, is how the two collide from time to time. I enjoyed Magnificent Obsession as a weepie, as a story of a woman and a man trying to retain their connection to each other and the world around them, even when a dramatic twist seemed too much. Who is to say what is ever 'too much' in Sirk's work anyway? There is a sense of irony that Sirk has on his characters- how money is often a factor, albeit this time it's addressed more directly than in All That Heaven Allows, and about how far love/redemption should extend like in the final surgery scene with the old man looking down on Hudson like some weird ghost- but it doesn't compromise the real dramatic tension at work. There's high passions at work here, and the style of the color and gloss of the cinematography compliments that, while perhaps suggesting, in its darker scenes, something more turbulent and uncertain in these characters underneath it all.

Magnificent Obsession is a minor gem in 50's melodrama works, where Hudson surprises with his level of depth (that is within his limitations as a star, in this material he can do a lot of good) and Wyman with her tenderness and strength in the face of all Helen's terrors to face (will she or wont she see?), and it carries with it a lot of superb moments and critique on the bourgeoisie.
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For the love of Sirk
Jem Odewahn14 June 2009
Warning: Spoilers
The first of the run of lush Cinemascope dramas Sirk did for Universal is this re-make of the 1935 Stahl film, with Rock Hudson and Jane Wyman this time in the leading roles. Hudson is the selfish, rich layabout who discovers a "new way of living" only after he indirectly causes both the death of Wymna's husband and her blindness. And they proceed to fall in love! Only in Hollywood, I guess, but this crazy plot is miraculously made touching and real by Sirk, who films it in glorious colour compositions. The constant Sirk theme of the dissatisfied, idle rich is portrayed well by Hudson, whose movie-star hunk image is the perfect facade for Sirk to tear down in showing the initial emptiness of Bob Merrick's life. He and Wyman would do better work in "All That Heaven Allows" a year later, but this may be the better test of whether or not you "get" Sirk. If you can look past the outlandish plot, no, actually look inside it and find depth, you'll know you like Sirk.
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Magnificent Nostalgia!
Gunn16 May 2009
Warning: Spoilers
I think to fully appreciate the films of Douglas Sirk one needs to be a child of the "Fifties." Life was so much less complex and much more virtuous. Sirks' films reflected that era so brilliantly. They were simple plots, very melodramatic, some might say cheesy, hokey, corny. Maybe so, but they were very stylistic and classy also. They most often dealt with the upper class of American society which had its fascination and they were soap operas on film, right down to the musical scores. Magificent Obsession was one of the best. It tells the story of an obnoxious, self-centered, wealthy playboy (Rock Hudson) with no goals and a "live for the moment" lifestyle. When he's injured in a boating accident, he causes the death of a philanthropic doctor by utilizing the area's only resuscitator and leaving the doctor to die. He tries to mend fences by offering money to the family thus insulting the doctor's widow (Jane Wyman). As he becomes attracted to her and asks her forgiveness, she is involved in an accident and loses her sight. His love for her grows and he tries to help her in any way possible but she still despises him. He takes on a new identity to get close to her and soon she is in love with him. How will it all work out? Well you don't have to wait for the next episode, just the end of the film. Douglas Sirk pieces all the elements together masterfully, with color, style, fashion, verve and all with that 1950s look which is so magnificently nostalgic. It really takes you back to those wonderful days.
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Once you start you'll never be able to stop it will obsess you but it will be a "Magnificent Obsession"!
sol121814 June 2007
Warning: Spoilers
***SPOILERS***I give the movie "Magnificent Obsession" eight stars for it's story and at least five handkerchiefs for it's schmaltz and also appreciate it for being the movie that made Rock Hudson, Dr. Bob Merrick & Robbie Robinson, the Hollywood legend both on and off the screen that he eventually became.

Living in the fast lane with fast cars and speedboats as well as women, that he drops almost as soon as he picks up, spoiled playboy Bob Merrick is anything other then what he makes himself out to be; a spoiled and overindulgent adult who's only care in the world is himself and himself alone and what to do best with his millions in order to make himself happy. This life of fun and games comes to a crashing end for Bob when he, going at speeds up to 180 MPH, crashes his speedboat and ends up near dead in the collision.

In order to save this good for nothing fun and adventure seeker, Bob Merrick, the ambulance crew that rescued him had to borrow a resuscitator from the nearby Dr. Wayne Phillips' home the very moment that Dr. Phillips suffered a massive heart-attack killing him. A great and wonderful man, Dr. Phillips, had to die in order to save a good for nothing and self-indulgent bum, Bob Merrck, but when we go on to hear, from the people who knew him, just what a wonderful and unselfish person the doctor was he wouldn't have wanted it any other way.

Leaving a wife Hellen, Jane Wyman, and step daughter Joyce, Barbara Rush, behind Dr. Phillips was found to be bankrupt even with his hospital doing round the clock business with the local inhabitants. It turns out that Dr. Phillips never charged anyone for his services that amounted in the hundreds of thousands of dollars and even more odd never, until he died and was in no position to tell anyone anything, allowed those he treated to tell anyone not even their closest relatives of his good deeds!

Merrick finds out by accident when he illegally checks out of the hospital, while still suffering from a brain concussion, that his life was saved at the expense of Dr. Phillips when he's picked up hitch-hiking by the late doctors grieving wife Helen. Confused and trying to be, for the first time in his life, humble and apologetic Bob makes a fool of himself in trying to pay off Helen with a check of $25,000.00 for all the trouble that he caused her and her step-daughter as a result of his wild lifestyle.

It's later in the movie when Bob drinking and womanizing as usual at a local watering hole gets himself juiced up and then, barley being able to walk, gets in his sports car and smashed it into the fence at artist Edward Randolph, Otto Kruger, home he finally sees the light. Letting the now drunk and black and blue Bob sleep it off Edward gives him an insight of what a kind and wonderful person Dr. Phillips was and how he effected his life, and the life of everyone else that he came into contact with for the better. Slowly but surly the effect, of what Edward told him about Dr. Phillips, starts to take hold of Bob in him trying to makes thing better not just with Helen & Joyce but everyone else that he knows which was soon to become his magnificent obsession. Bob does all that but at a very heavy price a price that cost Helen her sight.

Causing Helen to have an accident by trying to apologize to her in jumping into a cab that she was a passenger in Helen runs out on the street and is hit by a speeding car knocking her down and blinding her. A shocked and startled Bob is really up the creek now with him having on his conscience not only Dr. Phillips death but his wife's serious injury as well! Bob vows to do everything in his power to make things right for Hellen and everyone else that he screwed over the years and does it by becoming, what seemed to me, the reincarnation of Doctor Phillips himself: kind understanding unselfish and most of all doing everything he can to help his fellow man and woman. And on top of all that not wanting a red cent for it but also not wanting anyone else to know that he did it, for free, either.

The second half of the film is a bit too schmaltzy for my taste, I have to watch my cholesterol level, but still I can understand and appreciate it. The motivation that drives Bob, now using the name Robbie Robinson, in getting to help and at the same time fall in love with sightless, and she with him, Helen has him going so far as to enroll back into medical school that he once dropped out of. Becoming a top brain surgeon himself Bob gets the best brain and eye surgeons in the world to operate on Helen to give her back her sight. Bob and Helen soon realizes that it's hopeless that she'll ever see again, from what the battery of eye specialists told them, and with Helen now knowing that Robbie is really Bob, and forgives him for what he did, she checks out and ends up in a sanitarium in New Mexico dying from pneumonia.

Finding out where Helen is Bob flies down from NYC to New Mexico in a last effort to both save her life and his conscience but in the end he get's an extra bonuses in his noble and unselfish efforts. Becoming a brain surgeon and suffering from the guilt of his sorry and self-indulgent past Bob did, due to this magnificent obsession that took hold of him, what no one else in the entire world of medicine could do: He gave Helen back her sight!
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Magnificent Obsession (1954) *
JoeKarlosi19 May 2004
I saw this at my in-laws' house one night when it popped up on TV and my mother-in-law said it was one of her favorite movies. Well, she can have it. Look, I can enjoy a chick flick now and then, as long as it's good. But this one's extra-sappy, unrealistic, and just plain predictable, despite some decent performances from Rock Hudson and Jane Wyman. It's uncanny how quickly a woman can accept having her eyesight taken away from her. Oh well, they say love is blind... The neat and tidy happy little ending nearly made me gag, too. And how often did we need Otto Kruger repeating the title? It happened not once, not twice, but THREE times! * out of ****
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Overblown romantic nonsense
moonspinner557 January 2003
Predictably glossy (and shallow) Douglas Sirk remake of the 1935 film about a carefree playboy and a stolid widow brought together by chance and separated by tragedy--can he overcome the odds and make a happy ending for them both? Overblown romance elongated by foolishness, and everyone acting childishly. It's occasionally laughable yet nearly salvaged by a super-slick 1950s production-design that reeks of money. Performances by Jane Wyman and Rock Hudson (reunited the next year for Sirk's "All That Heaven Allows") are tolerable but do not set off cinematic sparks. A sudser for female audiences of the time, this now looks rather silly. ** from ****
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Jane Wyman and Rock Hudson in classic soap
sabby13 February 1999
What do you get when a rich playboy is indirectly responsible for the death of a well-loved doctor and then responsible for that doctor's widow's tragic blindness and then devotes his life to medicine to help find a cure for her? Well, you've got yourself a classic 1950's melodrama starring the always-excellent Jane Wyman; a buff, but stiff Rock Hudson; and directed by director-extraordinarre Douglas Sirk. "Magnificent Obsession" isn't as tear-jerking or trashy as some of Sirk's other fodder, but it is good, solid entertainment. The swooning music and Technicolor make for a great film. And the scene where a blind Wyman feels her way around her hotel room, alone, is just too good for words.
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A Melodramatic Masterpiece
Nicholas Rhodes27 December 2005
I have watched this film tens of times and never tire of its plastic beauty, its beautiful sets and soundtrack and above all the magnificent plot. It is a moral example to be followed ( and I suspect that all too few of us would be able to follow this example as intended). How difficult it is to make an effort to help someone else without expecting ANYTHING in return, without wanting ANYONE to know about it. Human nature is such that we need some kind of intellectual satisfaction, albeit non-pecuniary as regards the acts we accomplish for others, be it just a thank-you or any other sort of gratitude. But no, this film tells us to do good and help others without expecting anything in return, indeed by even seeking to hide the fact that we are doing good.

Apart from this ever so laudable premise, the film has a real feel-good quality about it. The technicolor of the 50's means that it's plastically perfect, the soundtrack with shades of Chopin's "Tristesse" gets the waterworks functioning correctly right from the outset, Jane Wyman was perfect in the role she had, not overdoing it, Agnes Moorhead as magnificent as she ever was, Rock Hudson perfect too as the cocky idle young rich man who, after an almost unbelievable act of selfishness, clumsily ( this being the operative word here ) tries to put is life in order with the wise-looking Edward Randolph lending a hand.

I am not sure whether this film could be remade and distill the same amount of emotion, as it's the mix of characters chosen at the time that gives it that "verging-on-perfection" quality.

My only beef on this one is that I just cannot understand how such a masterpiece has still not yet been issued on DVD - considering all the junk that is now brought out on this medium, I just fail to understand why no one has had the intelligence to issue this - as lesser Sirk Films such as Written on the Wind have already been issued. Magnificent Obsession is even better than "All That Heaven Allows" on a plot level, but the plastic beauty and musical score of both films are on a par - indeed the autumn scenes, notably the opening scenes of the latter are quite simply UNFORGETTABLE !
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not very good
kyle_furr13 February 2004
This movie was pretty bad, i didn't buy hardly anything that happend, it all seemed so far-fetched, like Rock Hudson all of a sudden becoming a doctor, and a lot of other stuff too. Rock Hudson and Jane Wyman are only OK but were better in all that heaven allows. Watch All that heaven allows or written on the wind instead.
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very soapy suds with major flaws
dartleyk27 July 2014
dated soap opera with every cliché in the book works best as a look at good production values of the time along with period furnishings, clothes and women's perms; but even if you can stand the plot ploys there are some colossal flaws; one, wyman is a stick, unattractive, prissy, and generally a drip; yet rock falls for her- and wants to date her in the car before she has her accident and he becomes obsessed with guilt; two, he was not responsible for wyman's husband's death; he didn't ask for a respirator, know they had only one, or that someone else might be needing it; three; he didn't cause her accident; he was trying to offer money for the hospital and befriend the cold stick when she bolted out the other door into traffic; four; she could be his mom, and he goes from glamorous girls in the bar to her, again, before he even knows who she is; five, wastrel drunk playboy rock becomes a great doctor; rock, a brain surgeon?; but there is nothing the actors can do about the story; poor agnes moorehead, a firebrand, reduced to head shots with a slight turn and wistful look- no agnes, more wistful than that; it's just dreadful, with score to match
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More uplift than a cantilever bra
Martin Bradley2 April 2006
Daft potboilers don't come much dafter than this, but it's a Douglas Sirk movie which makes everything alright. Except in this case it doesn't. Based on a sanctimonious novel by the sanctimonious Lloyd C Douglas, (he wrote "The Robe"), and already filmed in 1935 with Irene Dunne and Robert Taylor, it's got more uplift than a cantilever bra.

Rock Hudson is the arrogant playboy who not only feels responsible for making Jane Wyman a widow but later is directly responsible for the accident in which she loses her sight. To make amends he takes up medicine, becomes a great eye surgeon and restores it. (No, it sin't quite that daft; he had planned to become a doctor before becoming an arrogant playboy). In between times, they fall in love.

Try as I might I can't quite find the redeeming social commentary and critique of American mores that are supposed to lie just below the surface of Sirk's films, (this one isn't too deep). On the plus side Rock Hudson isn't half bad, (I think I am rediscovering him), and, of course, it looks great, (in Sirk's films people live in rooms the size of cathedrals). Nothing in this film matches the best of his later work and even in soap-opera terms this is definitely daytime TV.
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