Tuesday, June 17, 2014

All That Heaven Allows

Directed by Douglas Sirk and screenplay by Peg Fenwick from a story by Edna L. Lee and Harry Lee, All That Heaven Allows is the story of a widow who falls for a gardener as their love affair would cause trouble among her friends in their suburban society as well as her adult children. The film is an exploration into conformity and class structure as a woman finds joy in a simple gardener. Starring Jane Wyman, Rock Hudson, Agnes Moorehead, Conrad Nagel, and Virginia Grey. All That Heaven Allows is an intoxicatingly rich and exhilarating melodrama from Douglas Sirk.

The film is an exploration into a love affair between a widow and a gardener as the latter is 15 years younger than her as their relationship starts to raise questions among her friends in suburban society. It’s a film that plays into the world where this woman is being judged by friends from her social circle as well as her adult children for being in love with this very kind and eloquent gardener who has no interest in conforming into any kind of society. It’s all part of this unique melodrama that explores not just a world where this woman is trying to find happiness. It’s a film where the world that she lives in seems stuck into their idea of traditional values unaware that things are starting to change.

Peg Fenwick’s screenplay does great work in not just creating intricate themes about conformity, class, and ageism but set it in a world where values are prevalent in this New England suburb where there are rules and people know each other. Upon meeting this gardener named Ron Kirby (Rock Hudson), Cary Scott (Jane Wyman) is intrigued by what Kirby offers as he is a very different man that prefers to live a simple world where he patiently takes care of trees and plants in his home. At the same time, he surrounds himself with friends who have no need for materialistic things as they prefer something less complicated and not give in towards the pressure of society. Cary’s infatuation with Ron has gained her the ire of her adult-children who are upset that their mother is considering marrying a man younger than her. Cary’s friends are upset not just because of the fact that Ron is younger but also for the fact that he’s a simple gardener. It would create a lot of conflict in Cary over what she wants but also what people want from her.

Douglas Sirk’s direction is truly enchanting not just for the visuals that he creates but also in the ravishing compositions he portrays the two worlds that Cary and Ron live in. The world that Cary lives is quite beautiful as Sirk brings a lot of unique imagery to locations such as the streets and shops while there’s a sense of artificiality in the parties she goes to as they’re very lavish. In the world that Ron lives in, it’s much more quaint and livelier as the party Cary attends that is filled with Ron’s friends might be a bit crowded but there’s a lot of joy as people dance as opposed to the people in Cary’s world where they just drink and gossip. When Cary introduces Ron to her children and her friends, he does his best to present himself while wanting to be himself yet her children are aghast over how young he is while her friends are surprised by his behavior when Cary is being harassed by a party guest. The third act has Cary not only deal with her unhappiness but also what is happening for her children that would eventually prompt her to make her own decisions. Overall, Sirk crafts a very lush yet powerful drama about a widow who deals with the judgment of others over her new love life.

Cinematographer Russell Metty does magnificent work with the film‘s very rich and colorful cinematography with its gorgeous use of Technicolor from the exteriors with its use of blue for some its nighttime scenes to the way he lights the interiors as it‘s definitely one of the film‘s major technical achievements. Editor Frank Gross does excellent work with the editing in the use of matching dissolves as well as the use of fade-outs and other sort of seamless cuts as it helps play to the film‘s melodramatic tone. Art directors Alexander Golitzen and Eric Orbom, along with set decorators Russell A. Gausman and Julia Heron, do brilliant work with the set pieces from a few background sets for some of its exteriors outside of Ron‘s wheel mill home as well as the intricate attention to detail in the way Cary‘s house look as well as the other places she goes to.

The gown designs by Bill Thomas is fantastic for the look of the gowns that many of the women wear as it adds to the film‘s mesmerizing look. The sound work of Leslie I. Carey and Joe Lapis is terrific for some of the minimal sound effects as well as the way things sound on location. The film’s music by Frank Skinner is amazing for its very serene orchestral score that includes some very heavy themes to play into its melodrama while music supervisor Joseph Gershenson brings in a couple of classical pieces by Brahms and Listz as well as a traditional Christmas song to play into the drama of Cary longing for Ron.

The film’s superb cast includes some notable small roles from Donald Curtis as Howard who often harasses Cary into kissing him at parties, Merry Anders as Alida’s cousin Mary Ann whom Cary thinks is Ron’s girlfriend, Jacqueline De Wit as the very gossip socialite Mona, Nestor Paiva as a friend of Ron in Manuel, and Conrad Vagel in a terrific performance as Cary’s date Harvey who accompanies her to the film’s first party. Hayden Rorke is wonderful as Dr. Dan Hennessy who examines Cary late in the film as she comes to him over headaches while Charles Drake is excellent as Ron’s friend Mick who gave up a life of ambition for something more simpler. Virginia Grey is brilliant as Mick’s wife Alida who reveals to Cary a lot about Ron and his ideals as well as being key to Cary wanting to be with Ron in its third act.

William Reynolds and Gloria Talbott are amazing in their respective roles as Ned and Kay Scott as two of Cary’s adult children who oppose her union with Ron with Reynolds being the more outspoken Ned while Talbott is the more open but wary Kay. Agnes Moorehead is fantastic as Cary’s best friend Sara who questions what Cary is doing though she thinks that Ron is a nice guy but often worries about Cary’s social status. Finally, there’s Rock Hudson and Jane Wyman in truly outstanding performances in their respective roles as Ron Kirby and Cary Scott. Hudson exudes a sensitive masculinity into his role as a very kind-hearted man who represents the absolute individual that doesn’t care what people thinks as he loves Cary. Wyman brings a sense of grace into her role as the widow Cary who is reluctant to attend social parties as she seeks to find happiness while dealing with the judgment she receives from family and friends. Hudson and Wyman have great chemistry together in the way they deal with the judgment of other people and how they spend time together.

All That Heaven Allows is a phenomenal film form Douglas Sirk that features exemplarily rich performances from Rock Hudson and Jane Wyman. The film is truly one of the finest melodramas ever created as well as great introduction to anyone new to Sirk. Especially as it’s a film that has a lot of beauty and captivating themes that explores the need to fit in against the ideas of individuality. In the end, All That Heaven Allows is a tremendously ravishing film from Douglas Sirk.

Douglas Sirk Films: (t Was een April) - (The Court Concert) - (To New Shores) - (La Habanera) - (Boefje) - (Hitler’s Madman) - (Summer Storm) - (A Scandal in Paris) - (Lured) - (Sleep My Love) - Shockproof - (Thunder on the Hill) - (No Room for the Groom) - (Has Anybody Seen My Gal?) - (Meet Me at the Fair) - (Take Me to Town) - (All I Desire) - (Taza, Son of Cochise) - Magnificent Obsession (1954 film) - (Sign of the Pagan) - (Captain Lightfoot) - There’s Always Tomorrow (1956 film) - (Never Say Goodbye) - Written on the Wind - (Battle Hymn) - (Interlude) - (The Tarnished Angels) - (A Time to Love and A Time to Die) - Imitation of Life (1959 film)

© thevoid99 2014


ruth said...

I'm always intrigued by love stories that cross social classes/boundaries. I need to see a film w/ Rock Hudson in it, I hadn't heard of this one but now I'm definitely curious!

thevoid99 said...

Well, I am doing a mini-marathon of films by Douglas Sirk since one of his films is one of my Blind Spots for the year. This one is considered to be his most essential and man, it is fucking good.