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USA 1954
Directed by
Douglas Sirk
103 minutes
Rated PG

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
2 stars

Magnificent Obsession

Douglas Sirk’s remake of a musty 1935 film of the same name that starred Irene Dunne and Robert Taylor was a big hit in its day getting Jane Wyman an Oscar nomination and giving Rock Hudson his breakthrough to the big-time. Although it certainly brings more polished production values and stylistic panache to its material than the original,from today's perspective its slickness and exaggerated piety only serves to make the tenuous plot about the moral transfiguration of self-centered young man, even less tenable than it did in the 1935 black and white version from which plot-wise this film varies only slightly.

With Hudson as a smug millionaire playboy. Bob Merrick, and Jane Wyman, looking like his sainted mother (she was 37, he 29 at he time) as Helen Phillips, the woman he is responsible for accidentally blinding shortly after having been responsible for the death of her husband, Freudian sub-text aside, the relationship has a lot less tenability than the Robert Taylor-Irene Dunne pairing whilst the themes of mystico-occult spiritual transformation taken I assume from Lloyd C Douglas’s 1929 novel of the same name seem all the more gimcrack because of the formal sophistication of Sirk’s version. The laboured, sentimental script and Frank Skinner’s intrusively manipulative music, complete with a surging heavenly choir, introduce aspects which will please audiences who like melodramas for their unintentionally self-parodic aspects. A good Sirkian instance of the genre such as There's Always Tomorrow, which was released the following year has a lot more to offer than laughs but this is simply too soap-opera-ish to be one of them.

FYI:  Sirk and his producer Ross Hunter remade two other John M Stahl movies, Interlude in 1957 and Imitation of LIfe in 1959.




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