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Magnificent Obsession

Average Rating 3.5
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  • Posted April 14, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    The Beginning Of The Hudson-Sirk Colloborations

    There have been many great actor-director collobrations through the years. John Wayne and John Ford. Jimmy Stewart and Alfred Hitchcock. Clint Eastwood and Sergio Leone. Robert DeNiro and Martin Scorsese. Johnny Depp and Tim Burton. Yet, hardly anyone ever mentions the teaming of actor Rock Hudson with director Douglas Sirk and their films together are among the finest motion pictures of the 1950's.

    Hudson was a handsome and charismatic actor who also happened to be a closetted gay man. Sirk was a German filmmaker who fled to the United States when the Nazis took over his homeland. Together, they created films that, on the surface, were classic, weepy melodramas. Underneath, though, they were sideswipes of the straight-arrow, ultra-conservative times that America underwent in the Eisenhower Era.

    The first film they did together was "The Magnificent Obsession" in 1954, which was actually a remake of the 1935 original featuring Irene Dunne and Robert Taylor. It tells the story of Bob Merrick (Hudson) who carelessly gets in a boating accident. As the doctor waits for a life-saving device for Merrick, the beloved doctor dies. Merrick starts getting pangs of conscience and through a series of complications, he begins to give more of himself to the doctor's widow, Helen (Jane Wyman).

    To tell more, of course, would be telling. What we can tell you is that the movie is told in a lush, colorful manner, which would be one of Sirk's trademarks. The film cemented Hudson's reputation as a fine, serious actor. It also has an undercurrent of guilt and classicism which would be a reoccuring theme in Sirk's films. And it should be mentioned that The Criterion Collection version also contains the 1935 version of this film.

    Hudson is known primarily for the comedies he did in the 1960's with Doris Day and, of course, for his high-profile death from AIDS in 1985. Just watching him in Sirk's movies---not just this one but also "Written On The Wind", "All That Heaven Allows" and "Battle Hymn"---seems a more appropriate epitaph.

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