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

Thursday, July 19, 2012


MAGNIFICENT OBSESSION (1935). Director: John M. Stahl.

"Through one, all may be reached."

Because a wealthy playboy, Bob Merrick (Robert Taylor), goes sailing while drunk, special equipment is used to save his life, meaning it isn't available elsewhere when a beloved doctor has a stroke while swimming. The doctor dies and the useless playboy lives, infuriating the doctor's widow, Helen (Irene Dunne). But these two individuals are nevertheless drawn to each other, but tragedy strikes when Helen is the victim of a hit and run and loses her sight. This gives Bob a new purpose in life, as does the dead doctor's philosophy of helping people while asking for nothing in return, creating a spiritual connection. This is the first film adaptation of Lloyd C. Douglas' novel; a remake was done in 1954. The trouble with the movie isn't its religiosity, which never becomes too overpowering, but the fact that it's contrived from beginning to end. Fine performances from the leads are some compensation, but Magnificent Obsession is pretty predictable and tedious. Sara Haden, Ralph Morgan, and Betty Furness are good in supporting roles, but dippy Charles Butterworth is merely an irritation.

Verdict: Not exactly a classic but the stars are excellent. **.

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