Saturday, September 28, 2013

All That Heaven Allows 1955

Sitting somewhere between a woman’s melodrama and Planet Debbie is this masterpiece of angst and longing from one of the great stylists of mid- 20th century cinema Douglas Sirk. The story is plain and simple. Jane Wyman plays a tidy and nice widow living in a pretty little town somewhere but she’s lonely and longs for romance and maybe a little sex. She has two grown up children (more about these two ingrates later) a very nice home and a really nice gardener played by the very beautiful Rock Hudson, who was a much better actor than given credit for. Rock comes over every week to prune Jane’s trees and to give her some 1955 flirting and Jane’s best friend is also there, it seems that she’s always there and is played by the wonderful Agnes Moorehead with red hair a blazing. Well one day Jane is setting up her lunch table outside in the Fall sun shine, some chicken and salad for her to share with blazing Agnes but Agnes jumps out of her car with a box of borrowed dishes and tells Jane she can’t stay for lunch, so Jane asks Rock who is busy with her trees if he would like to share her lunch. Well of course he would and that’s not all he would like to share. Needless to say the two are soon out in the country visiting Rock’s close married couple friends played by Charles Drake and the very wonderful Virginia Grey, who for me is like a great Chicken Parmigiana hero and who I could write a whole essay about and maybe someday I will. The two of them are modest early examples of hippies, clean cut beats but with a nice homey handmade house, neat clothes and lots of strange friends who pop in for a party. Their main man is Thoreau who is really the secret auteur of the movie and soon Jane is quoting from Walden Pond, which just happens to be lying around Charles and Virginia’s house. Jane is smitten with Rock and Rock with her, and soon they have 1955 sex, quick cut to them in front of a roaring fireplace in all their clothes but we know they just did it. Soon word about this unholy match starts circulating all around the pretty little town, thanks to the bitch rumor monger Mona who sees Jane getting into Rock’s woodie station wagon one day and soon Agnes is on the phone with Jane giving her a hard time about the age difference, their wide apart backgrounds etc but I think Aggie is a little bit jealous that Jane has bagged this great big beautiful piece of man. Rock and Jane want to get married and he’s all busy fixing up this big barn on his property for them to move into. Its a real nice fake Universal International set with a big fireplace (the same one mentioned previously) beautiful old original wood beams and floors. It’s really lovely and Jane is just crazy about it even though it still needs a lot of work. So Rock and Jane are going to get married, and she announces this to her two spoiled kids played by the very pretty Gloria Talbot and the equally pretty William Reynolds who go ballistic with this news. They both start moaning and groaning and suddenly Jane has doubts about the whole thing, what with them crying, Aggie moaning and the whole freaking town groaning. Now this is not a tidy little woman’s weepy, because Douglas Sirk directed it, and it’s simply gorgeous to look at. He uses colors like a painter to indicate moods so there will be a slash of red or blue light crossing over the faces of the characters or dark rooms with light casting unnatural shadows and reflections of sad Jane on the oddest of surfaces. He also knew how to dress a set and women, so at first Jane is in dark clothes until she meets Rock then she’s bright and colorful until she’s back in black when the romance comes to a crossroad and her dour daughter who was all in dark colors is now in bright red because she’s going to marry her beau played by the unaccredited David Janssen and Gloria and her brother have talked Jane out of being happy. A lot they care that Jane has broken off her marriage to Rock and is once again lonely and sad and sits at home with her new television that the kids gave her for Christmas. Thanks a lot. This is an important film, a shimmering feast of color and texture, mood and décor that influenced two other movies that are pretty much homage’s to this film and to Sirk. Fassbinder’s 1973 classic film “Ali, Fear Eats The Soul”, and the more recent and also very good Todd Haynes film “Far From Heaven.” I love this film a lot and is one of the ten best films of 1955.


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