Lively, entertaining reviews of, and essays on, old and newer films and everything relating to them, written by professional author William Schoell.

Thursday, July 5, 2012


Rock Hudson and Jane Wyman
ALL THAT HEAVEN ALLOWS (1955). Director: Douglas Sirk.

"As Freud says, when we reach a certain age sex becomes incongruous."

""You were ready for a love affair, but not for love."

Cary Scott (Jane Wyman), a small-town widow approaching middle age, finds a second chance for happiness with a somewhat younger gardener named Ron Kirby (Rock Hudson). Even though Ron has his own successful business, he is seen as a poor choice for Cary, whose first husband was an affluent businessman. While the town busybodies gossip, even wrongly suggesting that something was going on between Cary and Ron even before Mr. Scott's death, Cary's son, Ned (William Reynolds), and daughter, Kay (Gloria Talbott), have strenuous objections to their mother's relationship with Ron. Concerned about her children's feelings, Cary makes a fateful decision, only to discover her children haven't time to give much thought to their mother's feelings. [A great scene has the children giving Cary a television set for Christmas, and the camera pulls in toward her sad reflection in the screen as she realizes this TV is meant to be her "companionship" for the future.] Jane Wyman gives an excellent and sensitive performance that holds up through all of the plot contrivances, and Hudson, if not on his co-star's level, is good and romantic and at the height of his male beauty. This is a typically handsome Ross Hunter production with picture postcard Technicolor cinematography. The screenplay tries [and fails] for added depth by making Kirby a Thoreau addict who tries, along with his friends Mick and Alida (Charles Drake and Virginia Grey), to turn aside from mindless ambition and enjoy life's simpler pleasures. [Only in a Hollywood movie can people who eschew the rat race and Keeping Up With The Jones' live in such utterly sumptuous surroundings. Anyone who lives in a reconverted, refurbished mill house has to have bucks.] That being said, there is some good dialogue and supporting performances from such as Gloria Talbott [as the constantly psychoanalyzing daughter], William Reynolds, Donald Curtis as a lecherous suitor, and Agnes Moorehead as Cary's good friend, Sarah. Jacqueline DeWit is the bitchy Mona, who dishes dirt on everyone, Nestor Paiva is one of Ron's circle of friends, and David Janssen is Kay's boyfriend. Although the film makes some attempt at dealing with ageism, it's also guilty of it in its treatment of Harvey (Conrad Nagel), who is Cary's steady date. Harvey may be twenty years older than Cary, but it's still a bit ludicrous to suggest that a man in his late fifties [as Nagel was] would settle for a sexless marriage with a younger woman, as Harvey more or less suggests. Setting aside these and other quibbles, All That Heaven Allows is not without appeal, although it is nowhere near as good as a similar vehicle with Barbara Stanwyck, My Reputation. Nice Frank Skinner score with classical themes.

Verdict:  Attractive soap opera with compelling leads [if for different reasons]. ***.

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