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Friday, February 17, 2012

Written On The Wind (released in 1956) - Starring Rock Hudson, Lauren Bacall, Robert Stack and Dorothy Malone

"Written On The Wind" is a drama from the director, Douglas Sirk's stable. It stars his favorite, Rock Hudson along with Lauren Bacall, Dorothy Malone and Robert Stack. Based on Robert Wolderman's novel of the same name, it is said to be based on the life of playboy Tobacco Heir, Zachary Smith Reynolds. A tale of love, money and greed, it has all the ingredients of a potboiler.
Texas oil baron, Jasper Hadley, is a great success with his business, but his children have totally disappointed him. Plagued with their childhood experiences, Kyle and Marylee are dysfunctional and spoilt. With money power, Marylee seduces every one and is a total alcoholic. Kyle is a womanizer and is heavily drowning in spirits. Kyle finds love in Lucy Moore, a simple executive secretary and marries her after a whirlwind courtship. She is a calming influence in his life and things start looking up for the Hadleys. But alcoholism has made Kyle incapable of fathering a child and this drives him to depression. Jasper Hadley does not make things easier with his high expectations and low appreciation. Kyle is driven by the bottle and starts physically abusing Lucy.

Mitch Reynolds is a geologist in Hadley's oil business. Marylee loves Mitch and even Jasper finds a surrogate capable son that he always wanted. But Mitch loves Lucy, and even if it is a one sided affair, Kyle becomes suspicious of Lucy's fidelity. Jealousy rips the couple apart and physical abuse becomes the norm of the day. Lucy becomes miraculously pregnant but this drives Kyle in to a rage as he suspects the child to be Mitch's. As the result of the push Lucy looses the baby and breaks ties with her husband. Mitch vows to leave town with her as soon as she is well enough. A jealous Kyle tries to shoot Mitch. Marylee tries to reason with him and Kyle is shot fatally in the melee. .
Marylee threatens to implicate Mitch for the murder if he does not return her love. Mitch refuses to be seduced or threatened and stand by Lucy. Marylee implicates him for the murder at the inquest and soon realizes that love can never be won sadistically. She changes her statement and allows Mitch and Lucy to depart to another life. She is left alone to mourn her brother and handle the reins of the company.
The movie is a typical potboiler with lot of sexist elements woven in to it. Sometimes it surprises me, how Mitch could just be with the goody two shoes Lucy who is boring compared to the smouldering Marylee. Dorothy Malone who plays Marylee does a un-paralled act which ultimately won her an Oscar. Stack also performs admirably and is said to have been ignored by the award company under pressure from 20th Century Fox. The movie also had a great outing at the box of ice even if the critics had not favored it much.
But still there is something missing from the whole story, and that being the repetitive story line. How often we have been fed with the spoilt rich kid against the nice poor guys saga? The women are never strong; with poor whimpering Lucy getting all the sympathy and Marylee being torn to pieces because she gets what she wants. The lack of originality is the film's death knell as it cannot stand scrutiny with the passage of time. If one has time on their hands and nothing much to look up to, then try a watch. Not highly recommended though.

Written On The Wind (released in 1956) - Starring Rock Hudson, Lauren Bacall, Robert Stack and Dorothy Malone

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