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All I Desire, June 21

Douglas Sirk

Saturday, June 21, 2003

8:45 p.m.
Douglas Sirk (U.S., 1953)

A period piece that resolutely refuses nostalgia, All I Desire stars Barbara Stanwyck as a washed-up actress facing one of her most challenging roles: playing the successful lady on a return visit to the husband and children she abandoned years ago, in 1900. Following her back to Riverdale, Wisconsin, we quickly see why she left in the first place; as Sirk put it, "she comes back from an imitated life...with all her dreams—and she finds nothing but this rotten, decrepit middle-class American family." Yet the dream of home and family is as powerful as the dream of escape, and the deeply conflicted Stanwyck finds herself inexorably drawn toward a "happy ending" that, in Sirk's hands, is anything but. As the door swings shut on the family home and the camera pulls back from the bars of the banisters, the chains of the old porch swing, we can only feel relieved to be on the outside looking in.

—Juliet Clark

• Written by James Gunn, Robert Blees. Photographed by Carl Guthrie. With Barbara Stanwyck, Richard Carlson, Lyle Bettger, Maureen O'Sullivan. (79 mins, B&W, 35mm, From Universal Pictures)