Magnificent Obsession (1954, Douglas Sirk)

The beginning of Sirk’s glorious late period of overblown technicolor melodramas, two years before the even wilder Written on the Wind. This one has a loonier plot, though – adapted from a cheap Christian novel with a romance veneer written by a pastor, which Sirk hated: “I tried to read it, but I just couldn’t. It is the most confused book you could imagine.”

Starts out loony as hell and stays that way. Dreamboat millionaire Rock Hudson is running dangerous stunts on his motorboat, crashes, and the only respirator in town is brought out to save him… meanwhile, extremely giving and well-loved Doctor Phillips (who has a secret society of people he has helped with no charge) has an attack, needs the respirator, drops tragically dead. Rock sees Phillips’ hot widow Jane Wyman (Reagan’s ex-wife!) and tries to get with her… but he is too forward, and it is too soon, so she runs into traffic to escape him and goes blind. Blind! Rock, who almost graduated from medical school some years ago, goes back, graduates and fixes her eyes (and saves her life) for a happy ending. There’s more to it, but hey, I’ll watch it again sometime.

J-L Bourget in Bright Lights: “The earlier, implicit and scandalous equation of the two men is, by the end of the film, both explicit and exemplary – that is, according to the film’s apparent standards. Bob Merrick is now a famous surgeon, a philanthropist, Randolph’s best friend, Helen’s husband: everything that Wayne Phillips was.”

Written and/or adapted by ten people, including Robert Blees (High School Confidential), and shot by master Russell Metty (Touch of Evil, Spartacus, Bringing Up Baby and a bunch more by Sirk). Also stars Barbara Rush (It Came From Outer Space) as Jane’s suspicious-then-enabling daughter, early Welles collaborator Agnes Moorehead as a nurse with a thing for Rock, Otto Kruger (Dracula’s Daughter) as an artist/doctor/conspirator, and Paul Cavanagh (Secret Beyond the Door, Bride of the Gorilla) as Rock’s med professor.

Lovely, wide, technicolor movie, more womany and less transparently ironic than Written on the Wind. One of Katy’s all-time faves, but she considers it a nostalgic guilty-pleasure chick-flick and she is very suspicious that I liked it too. She suspects that I’m in secret collaboration with the Criterion Collection and film critics everywhere to make fun of her.

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