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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Aka Whoever Slew Auntie Roo?
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"What if nature were trying to get back at us?" the film asks, before the Birds-reminscent attack begins? (The frogs are enhanced due to pesticide over-use.) Look no further than Ray Milland's typical reaction: "I don't think there's much to worry about..." His family's so self-obsessed they barely notice when members start dying off.
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