Friday, November 06, 2009


Lloyd C. Douglas was a pastor at a series of Lutheran, Congregational and United churches before starting a prolific writing career at the age of 50 with The Magnificent Obsession (1929), the first of several of his novels to eventual reach the silver screen. The most notable film treatment of a Douglas story is Douglas Sirk's 1954 Technicolor extravaganza, which was recently released on DVD by Criterion. (Director Todd Haynes pays tribute to Sirk's fifties "weepies" with the extraordinary 2002 film FAR FROM HEAVEN.) Now OBSESSION plays the big screen in all its magnificence: thanks, Cinematheque!

Pacific Cinematheque
Tuesday, November 17 - 1pm
Friday, November 20, 2009 - 9:35pm
Sunday, November 22, 2009 - 7:15pm
Thursday, November 26, 2009 - 9:15pm

Director: Douglas Sirk
Cast: Jane Wyman, Rock Hudson, Agnes Moorehead, Barbara Rush, Otto Kruger

VanCity: Douglas Sirk described Magnificent Obsession as the "craziest" of his stylish, sumptuous, subversive melodramas. The film’s delirious plot has Rock Hudson as an irresponsible playboy who indirectly causes the death of a doctor and blinds the dead man’s widow, played by Jane Wyman. Sirk's Magnificent Obsession was the director's first big commercial success, and a remake of the 1935 melodrama of the same name, which was based on the 1929 novel by pastor Lloyd C. Douglas. "It was the most confused book you can imagine," said Sirk. "My immediate reaction to Magnificent Obsession was bewilderment and discouragement. But still I was attracted by something irrational in it. Something mad, in a way — well, obsessed, because this is a damned crazy story if there ever was one."

More VanCity: Douglas Sirk’s extravagant 1950s melodramas — All That Heaven Allows, Written on the Wind, Imitation of Life et al. —constitute one of the most piercing critiques of American society to be found in classic Hollywood cinema – an achievement largely unappreciated by “serious” critics of the day because it came in the form of a much derided (but popular) genre: the “women’s picture,” or “weepie.” Sirk described Magnificent Obsession as the “craziest” of his films, and even that might have been an understatement. The film’s delirious plot has Rock Hudson as an irresponsible playboy who indirectly causes the death of a revered philanthropic doctor, blinds the dead man’s widow (played by Jane Wyman, the former Mrs. Ronald Reagan) in another accident, and then becomes a world-renowned surgeon in an effort to restore her sight — falling in love with her, of course, in the meantime. Magnificent Obsession was Sirk’s first big commercial success, and the first in the series of gloriously stylish, over-the-top, colour-drenched melodramas on which the bulk of his enormous critical reputation rests. The film demonstrates “Sirk’s daring, his willingness to take on the most outrageous material and work on it with the deep irony which was one of the most important gifts he brought with him to Hollywood” (Jon Halliday). “Extraordinary . . . Sirk’s films are something else” (Chris Petit)

THE MAGNIFICENT OBSESSION is available on Criterion DVD at Videomatica

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