Jane Wyman is a repressed wealthy widow and Rock Hudson is the hunky Thoreau-following gardener who loves her in Douglas Sirk's heartbreakingly beautiful indictment of 1950s small-town America. Sirk utilizes expressionist ... more »colors, reflective surfaces, and frames-within-frames to convey the loneliness and isolation of a matriarch trapped by the snobbery of her children and the gossip of her social-climbing country club chums. Criterion is proud to present this subversive Hollywood tearjerker in a new Special Edition.« less
Clare Quilty | a little pad in hawaii | 03/27/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Watching one of Douglas Sirk's 50's melodramas is slightly akin to visiting another planet. Everything about the Sirk reality is a bit askew: the people are basic and sincere, while their surroundings are heightened, beautiful and artificial (we know certain exterior scenes are filmed on sets, but the sets themselves are so big and elaborate they boggle the mind). It's a strange mix -- simple characters in an exaggerated world, almost like a David Lynch movie in which the only violence that occurs is emotional.But if you give Sirk's movies time and attention and allow yourself to be taken in by the strangeness, they are surprisingly easy to accept on their own terms. Sirk's 1955 film, "All That Heaven Allows," tells the story of the romance between a well-to-do widow and a young, dreamy, non-conformist gardener. It's the oldest problem in the world: they could be happy and in love if only it weren't for the other people around them. I think the key to the success of this film is the performance of Jane Wyman as the widow. Her character is so fragile, yet also surprisingly strong. She says no more than she has to, but what she does say speaks on many levels. She's kind, but she's also after something she clearly wants very badly. Wyman is able to communicate these contradictions and complications with a calm, almost effortless stoicism.The Criterion DVD is a marvel of technology. It has quickly become my favorite disk and there are a lot of disks that I like -- the picture and transfer are unbelievably crisp, the colors are richer than wet paint, the movie is restored to its proper aspect ratio, and you also get Fassbinder's essay on Sirk (he remade this movie in thoroughly different form with a film called "Ali: Fear Eats the Soul"), and there's also a long, fascinating interview with Sirk himself -- I'd never seen or heard any footage of the director until I saw this and the interview alone made it worth buying.If you're a fan of Sirk, you're going to love this disk. And if you're not familiar with his work, this is the place to start."
Thoughtful story offers a brilliant cinematic experience...
Kim Anehall | Chicago, IL USA | 01/22/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"All That Heaven Allows is a remarkable story about an older woman, Cary Scott (Jane Wyman), falling in love with a younger man, Ron Kirby (Rock Hudson), which was something unthinkable in the 1950's. Their love for each other seems to be doomed from the beginning with children pressuring Cary and a town that is full of malicious gossip. Ron disregards the public outcry against their love, but it is not as easy for Cary who has lived most of her life with the same societal policies that are now harming their love for each other. All That Heaven Allows offers a thoughtful story of social restrictions that might hamper the development of human beings and it does so with a brilliant cinematic experience."
Far from Heaven
Edward Aycock | New York, NY United States | 04/17/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
"From the opening shots of a small (presumably a New England setting, although I am not sure where this was actually filmed) town during fall, to the bright blue car that pulls up to Jane Wyamn's home, to Agnes Morehead's head turning shade of lipstick, you know that "All That Heaven Allows" is firmly rooted in the 1950s. It's nice to see Douglas Sirk getting the critical appreciation he deserves (most recently with the full length Sirk homage "Far from Heaven".) This film is gorgeously photographed (pay attention to the scene where Wyman and daughter confer in the light of the stained glass window) and well told. While this film can hardly be called a "hard hitting" look at 1950s society at first glance, the more you watch it, the more the subversiveness comes through. One of the most telling moments is the conversation between Jane Wyman and the wife of Rock Hudson's friend who talks about realizing how caught up she and her husband were in material trappings and how they opted out of that lifestyle. This conversation (and indeed this film) is just as resonant and important today where materialism is rampant and the longings underneath the surface are never explored.Rock Hudson is fine as Jane Wyman's landscaper/love interest. He's an incredibly good-looking man and is the recipient of one the film's funniest lines when Wyman asks him "Would you prefer I was a man?" Of course, this line is only funny in hindsight now that we know what we do about Hudson's life. Agnes Morehead (pre-Endora) is also very good as Wyman's best friend.As somebody who was only familiar with Jane Wyman from her work as the devious Angela Channing on "Falcon Crest" (a role she truly must have relished), it is nice to see her playing much more sympathetic characters in her heyday. The eeriest thing is that despite a few wrinkles as she got older, Wyman always looked the same. Wyman is very good in this film as she vascillates between the financial stability of the upper crust and the emotional satisfaction of life with Hudson. I highly recommend this film, and cant say enough good things about it. If you're not a fan of soap opera melodrama, you may want to stay away, but it's your loss as this is a gorgeous film that deserves the respect years of scrutiny have given it."
Sirk and Thoreau
Noel Bjorndahl | Winmalee, New South Wales Australia | 09/09/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"All That Heaven Allows is my favourite Sirk film. All his characteristic stylistic trademarks are present: high contrast lighting; precise, tight framing; expressive colour; and frequent use of reflected images and domestic interiors framed through objects like screens and windows that suggest confinement and entrapment. Sirk is dealing here with lives repressed by social conventions and projections of surface respectability.
Rock Hudson's gentle gardener Ron falls for well-heeled New England widow Cary (Jane Wyman) but is faced with interference from her grown-up children, her friends and social circle, as well as the hide-bound morality and hypocrisy of the small town community. One of this film's incidental pleasures is the presentation of an older woman/younger man liaison in a 1955 film with dignity and a total lack of self-consciousness.
Sirk details the milieu with telling examples of how family togetherness can suffocate emotional growth; how bourgeois comfort and wealth can create spiritual emptiness; and how patronising and mean-spirited much of a community's apparent kindness and concern actually is. Against Ron's Thoreau-inspired "natural man", the artificial offerings of Stoningham's elite are shown as a spiritual wasteland, best summated in a telling image of Cary's tortured face reflected in the TV set she didn't want, but that her children thought she "had to have" for Christmas.
The film is full of beautifully worked out images and set pieces that perfectly capture the characters' inner lives and moral dilemmas. Sirk's high contrast lighting in one of the film's memorable scenes precisely expresses the anguish felt by Ron as Cary tries to reconcile her divided loyalties towards her children, her friends and the only life she has known on the one hand; and her strongly aroused romantic/sexual awakening to a man unwilling to compromise his view of his personal integrity on the other.
Oppositions which create the gulfs between their respective worlds abound:the warm, burnished browns of the old mill house interiors lovingly restored by Ron contrast with the hard, marble white surfaces surrounding Cary's living room/fireplace area; its sense of order and tradition is unfavourably compared with the roughly-crafted log cabin style interiors that characterise the home of Hudson's friends Mick and Alida where a laidback life style encourages friends to just drop in and party on; the Stoningham Country Club's vicious and predatory colony of gossips, cheating men on the prowl (Howard), loveless marriages (Mona) and incongruous older men/young bimbo couplings sets in further relief the love, respect and warmth of Mick and Alida's circle with its impromptu dancing, sing-songs and free-for-all sharing and giving in all senses. This extended sequence, at the film's midpoint, provides a kind of "coming out" for Cary and an awakening on several levels.
Another insightful parallel contrasts the relative suitabilities of Harvey (Conrad Nagel) and Ron as prospective marriage partners for Cary. Outwardly, Harvey has it all over Ron. Cary's children approve of him, he is courteous and respectful in a traditional way (presumably in the mould of her late husband whose friend he was), he mixes in and is approved of by Cary's social circle, and in the eyes of Cary's daughter (the wonderfully precocious Gloria Talbott), he "acts his age" (read sexless). Ron, on the other hand, is from a lower social class (note Ned's haughty response: "The only Kirby I know is old Kirby, the gardener"), he doesn't half try to fit into Cary's world, he drives the wrong kind of car, and is clearly sexually potent. But observe Cary's face when Harvey suggests she'd hardly want romance or that type of thing in a marriage and you realize why in the end it's no contest. Harvey can mix a mean cocktail and has distant memories of male bonding with Cary's departed husband; but Ron has a magnificent window (to his large, open soul) and following the film's deus ex machina which finally brings the lovers together, the appearance of the deer suggests the coming of Spring to Cary's wintry life and no doubt after Ron is nursed back to health by her loving hand, he will be for her as strong and erect as one of his beautiful trees. From the frying pan into the fire? Perhaps. Sirk is robust in critiquing the destructive, materialist, narrow, constricting ethos of small town middle America but he is far from judgmental of some of its victims."
An elegant, classy sudser from director Douglas Sirk
firstname.lastname@example.org | Redwood Shores, CA. | 03/06/1999
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Reuniting from the previous year's hit, "Magnificent Obsession", Jane Wyman and Rock Hudson play lovers torn apart by small town hypocrisy. Wyman is wealthy widow, Cary Scott. She falls in love with her gardener, Ron Kirby(Hudson),and is chastised by her community and loathed by her two grown children. Great, elegant melodrama from director-extraordinarre Douglas Sirk. The film starts off a bit slow, but the dramatic payoff is highly worth the wait. The cinematography, muisc, and dialogue all come together for a beautiful film event."