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Douglas Sirk

Saturday, June 21, 2003
7:00 a.m. ALL THAT HEAVEN ALLOWS
Douglas Sirk (U.S., 1955)

Archival Print!


Sirk's elegiac mood piece is also a furious battle of ideas that, à la Thoreau, locates the American sadness in a violent split from Nature. A switched-off television screen is the mirror for a vast yet terribly personal emptiness in this mid-fifties melodrama. Jane Wyman is a widow "too beautiful to be lonely," but too smart not to be, in her small-town nouveau-riche milieu. Rock Hudson comes to prune her garden and uproots her life. Rock wants to be her redeemer: "Come see my silver-tipped spruce," he urges, and she does. But from the start, family and friends try to seduce the lady back. Her grown children—at once idiotic and all-powerful, as Sirkian offspring are wont to be—present her with the final coup de Tube one snowy Christmas, then leave her to contemplate her new electronic friend. A roaring fire from the hearth is reflected on the TV screen; and always, that big picture window looks out on, as it separates her from, the garden.

—Judy Bloch

• Written by Peg Fenwick from a story by Edna Lee, Harry Lee. Photographed by Russell Metty. With Rock Hudson, Jane Wyman, Agnes Moorehead. (85 mins, Color, 35mm, Courtesy Academy Film Archive, permission Universal Pictures)