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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.

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Johnny Belinda Review

What'll happen to poor Johnny Belinda, the son of a deaf-mute woman named Belinda (Jane Wyman), who was raped and impregnated by the local hoodlum?

Well, it will involve tears and a lot of courtroom hair-tearing, and given that this is a feel-good movie from 1948, it's all going to come up aces.

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Stage Fright Review

Alfred Hitchcock might have had a fair-to-good thriller here with Stage Fright had he not blown it with cheap plotting that has made the film one of his most reviled among Hitchcock enthusiasts and historians.

The problem relates to the flashback, a device Hitchcock frequently used to good effect. But here, Hitch deceives us from the get-go with a big (and bold) lie. To explain further would ruin the film more than it already is.

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Pollyanna Review

I've long heard and even used the term "Pollyanna" to reflect a relentlessly (and even inappropriately) happy person, movie, or story -- but I've never had the context.

Disney's Pollyanna is everything its name would imply, the story of an orphan (Hayley Mills) sent to live with her stern aunt (Jane Wyman) in a small town. Along the way, she cheers up everyone's lives, and Pollyanna's naive lessons on life change everyone, presumably for the better.

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All That Heaven Allows Review

Whether we know it at the time or realize it later, life seems to provide exactly what we need. Problem is, blessings that find us unprepared can easily slip through our fingers. Sound like an old story? Well, actually, it is. Originally released by Universal in 1955, All That Heaven Allows explores one woman's struggle to accept a love that threatens to turn her life upside down.

Cary Scott (Jane Wyman) is an attractive, wealthy New England widow who falls for her much younger gardener Ron Kirby (Rock Hudson). Though she is sure of her love for him, Ms. Scott turns back on plans to remarry after her friends and children Kay and Ned (Gloria Talbott and William Reynolds) express reservations. Kirby may be handy with his hands, but Scott is devastated by the small town gossip and her children's bitter rebuff of her newfound love.

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