All That Heaven Allows [1955]

Director: Douglas Sirk
Stars: Jane Wyman, Rock Hudson, Agnes Moorehead, Conrad Nagel, Virginia Grey
Genre: Drama, Romance
Rating: Unrated
Runtime: 89 minutes

Rock Hudson and Jane Wyman were so successful in Douglas Sirk's Magnificent Obsession that they reteamed for this, his first melodrama masterpiece. Young hunk Rock is a strapping son of mother nature, a gardener who woos middle-aged, middle class widow Wyman to the snooty disapproval of her conservative social circle and embarrassment of her self-centered children. Wyman discovers a new life with his open-armed friends and back-to-nature lifestyle, but struggles with life-changing decisions in the face of social pressure and vicious gossip. Living the Henry Thoreau dream, Rock inhabits his personal Walden in a rustic country cabin by a bubbling brook, a dream house lit by a giant picture window overlooking an idyllic countryside where deer pose just outside the window. Wyman's elegant but sterile suburban home transforms into a tomb when she sacrifices her love for the "good name" of her children, and the lonely widow sees her future in the pale, colorless reflection of her TV screen. But don't despair just yet: Sirk's heroines are dynamic and resourceful and no Sirk melodrama ends without a heart-tugging, over-the-top twist. German director Rainer Werner Fassbinder, who championed Sirk as a master and a mentor, remade the film as Ali: Fear Eats the Soul decades later. --Sean Axmaker

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