All That Heaven Allows (1955)
Douglas Sirk second and more successful attempt in seducing the women’s picture from the hands of Hollywood schlock, and reinventing it with clever subtleties, is highlighted in ‘55’s ‘A That Heaven Allows’. Sirk previous attempt ‘A Magnificent Obsession (as written by the odious Lloyd C Douglas, a preacher turned Hollywood script bro - yes, its as bad as that) - whereas the plot of Magnificent Obsession is pure camp at its best (and would go on into influencing John Waters) (seriously its too be seen, to be believed), the follow up - ‘A That Heaven Allows’, contains a lighter technicolor touch (Rock Hudson doesn’t unintentionally kill, blind, or maim Jane Wyman in this one). Sirk explores the conformity of sexuality within 1950s America - when Wyman, an older lady, falls for Rock Hudson, a younger gardener, and through their affair, shocks and defines the sexual morals of a small town. Wyman, a widower, has the best cutting lines, when her daughter tells her about relief in that they don’t wall up the widows of today, like they do in Ancient Egypt - Wyman responds ‘Don’t they?’. It’s a film bursting with unconcerned lust and sexuality, with clever asides at societal loneliness and the damaging effects of television and neurotic middle class children with an emphasis on bohemianism and Freud as America’s answer. ‘A That Heaven Allows’ - is charming as it is cutting. Rock Hudson, openly gay in his private life, plays a virile young woodcutter’, an effect that Sirk must have been bemused by, as he slowly morphed him into housewife’s choice.
With autumn upon us, you can do no better than some of the shots Sirks builds in the movie (with Todd Haynes going as far as using the same shots to provide backgrounds for his driving scenes in Far From Heaven’).