Bathed in lurid Technicolor, melodrama maestro Douglas Sirk’s Written on the Wind is the stylishly debauched tale of a Texas oil magnate brought down by the excesses of his spoiled offspring. Features an all-star quartet that includes Robert Stack as a pistol-packin’ alcoholic playboy; Lauren Bacall as his long-suffering wife; Rock Hudson as his earthy best friend; and Dorothy Malone (who won a Best Supporting Actress Oscar for her performance) as his nymphomaniac sister. —The Criterion Collection
The film director Douglas Sirk, whose reputation blossomed in the generation after his 1959 retirement from Hollywood filmmaking, was born Hans Detlef Sierck on April 26, 1900, in Hamburg, Germany to a journalist. Both of his parents were Danish, and the future director would make movies in German, Danish and English. His reputation, which was breathed to life by the French nouvelle vague critiques who developed the “auteur” (author) theory of film criticism, casts him one of the cinema’s great ironists. In his American and European films, his characters perceive their lives quite differently than does the movie audience viewing “them” in a theater. Dealing with love, death and societal constraints, his films often depend on melodrama, particularly the high suds soap operas he lensed for producer Ross Hunter in the 1950s: Magnificent Obsession (1954), All That Heaven Allows (1955), and his last American film, Imitation of Life (1959). (Sirk’s favorite American film was the Western… read more
I had the pleasure of being introduced to Sirk on the big screen tonight, and what an experience it was. This wickedly entertaining melodrama features beautiful colors, a fantastic performance by Dorothy Malone, clever symbolism throughout, and bitingly ironic social commentary. The excessive lifestyles of these characters cannot put an end to the misery, emptiness, and lack of love in their lives, yet the ending suggests that there is hope for them after all. A masterpiece.
Despite a cold opening comprising Hudson’s stiff chemistry with Bacall and Stack’s slimeball dulling the flirtatious screenplay, Sirk’s vivid melodrama emerges a match with the cautionary tale of wanton excess, whose real conduit is Malone’s jilted ladette (with whom Hudson can more easily struggle, bless) - the muffled exchanges tempering the gaudiness, so as for the villa tapestries to not overshadow the emotional one. Proof that sprawling drama can be searing without bloating (unlike its sibling Giant) in purveying the same high-strung territory.
Four clips from the cinema of cabaret: Chabrol, Godard, Sternerg, Sirk.
Above: Irene Dunne and Charles Boyer in John M. Stahl's When Tomorrow Comes. Anthology Film Archives is performing a public service by showing
The French do love their Douglas Sirk, it would seem. Here in America, acquiring a Region 1 Sirk library involves a bit of cherry-picking—get