Magnificent Obsession

"Good"

Magnificent Obsession Review


Restrained passion, brooding desire, and undying love are painted on the screen in glorious Technicolor. Obsessed with the suffering of the American over-privileged upper class of the 1950s, director Douglas Sirk created several Hollywood blockbusters that subversively tackled topics ranging from race to age in relationships. And while All That Heaven Allows (1955) and Imitation of Life (1959) are beloved by cinephilies as "masterpieces," Magnificent Obsession is not among that canon.

That's not to say that Sirk's 1954 remake of a 1935 film, and adaptation of the 1929 novel by Lloyd C. Douglas, is not a melodramatic gem. The story focuses on reckless playboy Bob Merrick (Rock Hudson, in his first leading role), whose boat-crashing antics inadvertently kill Helen Phillips' (Jane Wyman) husband. When Merrick falls for the widow, he learns a lesson in selflessness and giving to others -- but not before Helen is blinded in an accident that was once again a result of Merrick's actions. Whereas the melodrama in Sirk's major works are supported by substantive themes that still resonate today -- the racism that forces Sarah Jane to abandon her mother in Imitation of Life, for example -- Magnificent Obsession drowns in its sentimentality.

Although Sirk and company shoot for a theme of redemption, they fall short. The fundamental plot flaws are to blame for this one. While the dark cloud of a clichéd blindness plot device that allows Merrick to become a part of Helen's life without her knowing overshadows Merrick's do-gooder lessons, the cloud that shuts out any hope of thematic light comes in the final third when Merrick becomes a doctor. Degrading nearly to an episode of TV's General Hospital, Merrick -- now, an accomplished brain surgeon -- is the only one that can save Helen's life. Not only does that, he restores her vision to boot!

Appreciation for Sirk as a director comes from his ability to deliver tear-jerking melodrama with genuine emotion. Magnificent Obsession doesn't quite hit all the marks, but it still sends enough emotion through its performances and beautifully-compositions to make the eyes swell, just before you remember how silly it all is in the first place. For Sirk fans, it's a chance to see the first pairing of Rock Hudson and Jane Wyman before they once again ignited the screen in All That Heaven Allows. For everyone else, it's a shameless emotional escape on a lazy Saturday afternoon.



Magnificent Obsession

Facts and Figures

Run time: 108 mins

In Theaters: Saturday 7th August 1954

Production compaines: Universal Pictures

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 3 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 90%
Fresh: 18 Rotten: 2

IMDB: 7.1 / 10

Cast & Crew

Director:

Producer:

Starring: as Helen Phillips, as Bob Merrick, as Joyce Phillips, as Nancy Ashford, as Edward Randolph, Gregg Palmer as Tom Masterson, Sara Shane as Valerie Daniels, Paul Cavanagh as Dr. Henry Giraud, Judy Nugent as Judy, Richard H. Cutting as Dr. Derwin Dodge, Will J. White as State Police Sergeant Bill Ames (as Will White), Helen Kleeb as Mrs. Eden, Rudolph Anders as Dr. Albert Fuss, Fred Nurney as Dr. Laradetti

Also starring: ,

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