Saturday, August 05, 2006

It is Written

Released in 1956 and considered quite racy at the time Douglas Sirk's over the top candy colored melodrama "Written On The Wind" is still a wonderful thing. The plot concerns the goings on in an oil rich dysfunctional Texas family that includes big brother Kyle who is insecure, weak, wounded and very alcoholic played by Robert Stack in a very touching & vulneable performance and his sluty sister Marylee played in an extreme manner by Dorothy Malone. Ms. Malone's performance is telegraphed to us via her eyes which she uses to show us her emotions which mostly consist of lust (for Rock Hudson) and jealousy (for Lauren Bacall). Malone is the only actress I've ever seen in movies who enters a room eyes first. Now don't get me wrong her performance to say the least is an absolute hoot and one of the supreme camp acting jobs of the 1950's. But it is also terrible because as likeable and attractive as Malone is she is not a very good actress, and she's not capable of subtly or shading. Her performance is one note. She does get to do a wicked Mambo and in a great montage as her unloving daddy played by the always good Robert Keith has a heart attack and falls to his death climbing a staircase, Sirk mixes it up with an almost mad Malone doing a orgasmic dance as she undresses. Stack (who should have won an Oscar) & Malone (who won the award, but shouldn't have) are the real stars of the film, the ones who set all the hysteria, both sexual and otherwise in motion while the "real stars" of the film, Hudson & Bacall fade to gray and brown which are the colors that they are mainly costumed in. Hudson who it turns out was a better actor then given credit for plays the childhood best friend of Stack's and the stalked love interest of Malone's who moans & groans over Rock through most of the film. However Hudson wants no part of her and instead is in love with Bacall who is married to Stack. No one is very happy & no one is happy for very long. The Stack-Bacall marriage falls apart big time after a year and Stack pretty much drinks himself into oblivion because he thinks he's sterile and can't give Betty a baby to prove that he's a man. Sirk who was a very intelligent man had a long & fascinating career both in films and the theatre in Germany. He ended his Hollywood career at Universal in the mid 1950's with a series of intense vividly colored "womens' movies" or melodramas that although they were mainly adapted from mediocre or trashy source material became in Sirk's hands masterpieces of the genre. Sirk had a wonderful sense of color & design which he brought to play in these films filling his wide screen spaces with characters who played out their emotional lives among weird color and lighting combinations, make believe shadows and lots of mirrored reflections. In "Written" the characters are always peeking out of windows, listening at doors or sneaking around. So in the end, after much violence, an accidental murder & more Sirk ends the movie with a final & startling scene of a "reborn" and seemingly reformed Malone in a man-tailored suit sitting at a desk foundling a miniature oilwell.


Blogger jgodsey said...

see, i just CAN'T get all gooey over Douglas Sirk. for me it always boils down to much ado about nothing. it must be a 50s thing, beautiful souless people behaving badly.

9:49 AM  

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