Good Heavens: All That Heaven Allows (1955)


All That Heaven Allows (1955) is a classic Douglas Sirk melodrama. It was the second time Sirk paired stars Jane Wyman and Rock Hudson together, the first time being in Magnificent Obsession (1954). The story is about a wealthy widow (Jane Wyman) whose two children are college-bound and she finds herself falling in love with her much younger gardener (Rock Hudson) to the dismay of the uppity society she exists in. It's a shame that I had to sum up such a fantastic movie with such a pathetic boiled down sentence such as that one, but there it is.

This film does what a social drama should do; expose the injustices of a society, whether it be society at large or a particular type of society. In this case, it's the suburban, upper-crust, country club society of the 1950's. The main character, the widow Cary, is oblivious to such injustices until she gets to know and falls in love with her gardener Ron. Sometimes it takes someone from a different world for one to understand one's own world; it allows for a sort of eye-opening introspection. This film was cast off as simple weepy melodrama for many years until people began to understand the film's underlying social commentary.

Some who watch the film may think it's over-the-top, but I think it's quite an effective movie. We are first introduced into Cary's world, then we fall in love with Ron and learn to appreciate his rebellion and then we hate everyone who is trying to keep Cary and Ron apart. And c'mon, who wouldn't fall in love with Rock Hudson? What's more romantic than seeing him feeding a lone deer on a snowy morning? If that isn't enough to make a gal weak in the knees, I don't know what is.


I read the featured article on this film on TCM's website and found out something about the film I hadn't been aware of before. To demonstrate Cary's entrapment in her world, Jane Wyman is often shown "framed" whether it be a mirror, window, doorway, etc. My favorite is the shot of her framed in the television which is presented to her as a future "companion".


And watch for a older Conrad Nagel in the film, playing the role of Harvey, Cary's would-be suitor.

6 comments:

  1. Raquelle,
    That was indeed tantalizing!
    Conrad Nagel in a nice bow-tie can never be wrong.

    It seems this movie have points in common with Far From Heaven where Julianne Moore falls in love with her gardner... Interesting.
    But Far From Heaven is very Sirk-ish so I guess it was meant as some sort of hommage.

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  2. I love this movie, its sumptuous, overblown visual style is perfectly suited to what it has to say. The best shot, for me, is the one of Cary and Ron huddled together, silhouetted against the pale blue glass of his window, frosted on the outside and looking out onto a winter landscape. It's a gorgeous, romantic, and profoundly moving image. Those who say that Sirk's visual style is too over-the-top simply don't understand the emotional precision of all his choices.

    This film was definitely the direct inspiration for Haynes' Far From Heaven, as well as of course Fassbinder's equally wonderful Fear Eats the Soul. All three films are varied perspectives on the same basic plotline, about forbidden love of various kinds, and the social forces that conspire to dictate the choices available to people.

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  3. What is this thing between gardeners and women?

    Shades of Lady Chatterley's Lover!

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  4. I haven't seen this movie, but as Jonas first pointed out, it does sound like FAR FROM HEAVEN, which for some reason, I HAVE seen.

    "And c'mon, who wouldn't fall in love with Rock Hudson? What's more romantic than seeing him feeding a lone deer on a snowy morning? If that isn't enough to make a gal weak in the knees, I don't know what is."

    The thing is, though, deer won't let you feed them...We've got millions of 'em out here, and they eat in the yard all the time, and they never let me touch them, or even get near them...I doubt Rock Hudson could do any better. ;)

    Was it a tame deer? Did the gardner have a pet deer?? (Giggling...)

    I don't care for Rock Hudson. To me, he's about as sexy as that old guy in the bow-tie up there, less even, since I kinda have a thing for bow-ties. ;)

    ...

    Interesting about Jane's character often being framed...that almost makes it worth watching, just to find all the instances, and variety of ways, in which that's accomplished.

    Good write-up, Raquelle. :)

    And I like your holiday-themed header too; It's always nice to see Norma back on top. :)

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  5. Jonas - Everyone talks about the Far From Heaven connection (that movie is literally based on this story). And if everyone is talking about it, I automatically find it boring. I'm weird.

    Ed - "Sumptuous, overblown style" - I like it!

    Bill - Oh it's all about the laborer. It goes back to our most basic instincts. The strong man who can go hunt down a bison and drag it back home. A man who does physical work is very sexy!

    Ginger - Well of course deer won't just come up to you (I'm trained in wildlife biology so I know), but if you are around one long enough and have enough patience and care it could get used to you. It would probably take months but it's possible. It took me weeks to get a chickadee to eat from my hand. It was worth it. I'm sure for this movie they used a domesticated deer probably from a zoo (which are not afraid of humans seeing as I've almost been trampled by some).

    I think Rock Hudson's just dreamy. It kills me to see images of him at the end of his life. He went so frail from the illness.

    I'm glad you liked the header. It's coming down soon though.

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