Tuesday, 8 May 2018

Magnificent Obsession (1954)

To my knowledge, this is only the second Douglas Sirk film that I have seen, and my first was just last week (All I Desire - wonderful stuff). But it's possibly the film that he is best known for, even if it's only being described by people who keep forgetting what the actual title is.

And here's the description for you. Rock Hudson plays Bob Merrick, a selfish, rich playboy who has his life saved by an unselfish doctor. The doctor dies, which leads to Bob trying to assuage his guilty conscience by offering to pay a large amount to his widow, Helen (Jane Wyman). That's not the way to make amends, of course, and things only go from bad to worse. Bob cannot figure out just how he is supposed to lead a better life, Helen is blinded in an accident, and . . . . well, I won't detail the rest of the plot, despite it being so well known to so many people. Suffice to say, it's absolutely preposterous stuff from start to finish.

It's also quite wonderful. I don't know why this worked for me as well as it did, but it REALLY did. All I can suggest is that perhaps the earnest nature of the performers in every scene made it all so much easier to swallow, coupled with the fact that I wanted to go along on this journey of romance and melodrama.

Based on a novel by Lloyd C. Douglas, the script is mainly credited to Robert Blees and Wells Root, and both of them move the narrative forward with great gusto, helped immensely by the obvious charms of Hudson and Wyman, both irresistible screen presences (yes, even when the former is being a selfish asshat during the earlier scenes). And Hudson and Wyman are in turn helped by a supporting cast that includes Barbara Rush, Agnes Moorehead, Otto Kruger, and more.

Sirk looks after everything with a steady hand, often livening up some of the quieter scenes with his usual eye for beautiful, vibrant colours and working well with the script to carry viewers more gently from one step to the next as the more ridiculous plot elements start to fall into place.

It will be all too easy for viewers to go into this and just hate-watch the whole thing from start to finish. If the content puts you off, you probably won't even appreciate the lovely imagery that crops up, the music, the performances, and all of the other technical expertise on display. I implore you to just give in to the magic of it all. You could end up loving it as much as me.


Pick up this lovely set here.
Americans can get a Criterion edition here.

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