Written on the Wind

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  1. Written on the Wind – Variety
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  3. Written on the Wind
  4. Douglas Sirk, Master of Americana

After landing in New York, Sirk later arrived in Hollywood in and settled inside a community of European exiles that had migrated to the West Coast.

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Not until his first foray into melodrama would Sirk find the career-defining genre and stylistic freedom he once enjoyed in Germany. The freedom of melodrama for Sirk, an artist otherwise suspcious of straightforward and one-dimensional narratives, resides in the potential for the duplicitous meaning he imbues onto every plot twist, every synthetic setpiece, every line of dialogue bubbling with parody yet unreserved gravity. Melodrama literally means a combination of melody and drama, which suggests a bold if emblematical way of storytelling.

But beyond that, melodrama is defined by lucid and emphatic narrative structure, complete with heavy rises and deeply affecting falls.


Written on the Wind – Variety

From its origins in medieval morality plays to its breakthrough in French opera, the melodrama has evolved and been oversimplified throughout the centuries, and now is somehow cheap and unrefined in its soap opera classification. Melodrama inhabits stories about class struggles, conflicts between the upper and lower social ranks, frequently taking sympathy with the underdog for greater emotional impact.

Actions are unambiguous, subtlety is almost nonexistent, and the expressive intrigue of the plot is communicated with explicit articulation. Indeed, Sirk was wholly aware of every detail in his films, tying implication onto the filmic environment and the story structure with a tight, gaudy ribbon. All That Heaven Allows centers on a widowed suburban woman enclosed by social boundaries, who scandalously falls for her gardener and learns life and love are about appeasing yourself, not your community sewing circle.

Robert Wilder wrote the novel in , and George Zuckerman brought it to life within his screenplay—a spectacular tale about the spoiled and venomous brood of fictional oil magnate Jasper Hadley. Enough film scholars have analyzed the narrative in detail to make new, extensive examination into every plot point redundant.

And so, why place surplus importance onto the events of the film when Sirk hardly cared about the scenarios himself? Because his picture is a sumptuous yet outrageous joy wrought with unforgettable behavior, tempting romance, and raw performances. Instead, Lucy and Kyle end up married within a day, she confusing pity with love for his veiled undercoat of tragic self-destructiveness.

Mitch continues in agony, tortured by his love for Lucy and his knowing that Kyle can never make her truly happy. And Marylee, she makes fruitless advances on Mitch with all the subtlety of an atomic bomb. The Hadley family children are either sexually inadequate or disturbed in some way, and the virtual faultlessness and composure of Mitch and Lucy drive them crazy.

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The boozehound carousel starts again. Of course, in Hadleyville, a Freudian dreamscape with phallic symbols everywhere—pumpjacks rising up and down, derricks raised into the sky—Kyle is bound to be sensitive about his potential sterility, and thus feel like a disappointment to his father who erected such rigs. Marylee, meanwhile, remains driven by insatiable sexuality. Though she throws herself at Mitch, she also picks up local men.

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Consumed by disappointment, the industrialist makes his way upstairs. Sirk cuts back and forth between Marylee and Jasper. All at once, Jasper tumbles down the stairs.

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  8. Watch Malone in her role. She writhes like a drug addict hungry for more; her portrayal is brilliantly brazen. The Manhattan skyline in an early scene is obviously a painted backdrop. The rear-projected traffic uses cars that are 10 years too old. The swimming hole at the river, where the characters make youthful promises they later regret, is obviously a tank on a sound stage with fake scenery behind it. The actors are as artificial as the settings.

    Written on the Wind

    Now Mitch holds an important post in the Hadley Oil empire, which requires him to wear a baseball cap and keep a yellow pencil parked over his ear, while studying geological maps. Kyle has turned into a drunken playboy, and Marylee into a drunken nympho. When she tells Kyle she wants to work in advertising, he picks up the phone to buy her an agency. She demurs. All three have lunch at 21, and then Kyle sends Mitch to buy cigarettes while he whisks Lucy off in a cab to the airport, where Mitch who knows his tricks is there ahead of them on the Hadley plane.

    He's poor.

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    5. Half an hour later after dressing with Mitch in the suite they Miami Beach was a painted backdrop. Texas, apart from a few shots of sports cars racing past oil derricks, is all built on the back lot. The plot heats up. Marylee has had a crush on Mitch since childhood, and wants to marry him. So great is her need, indeed, that when she sashays around in low-cut dresses, her knees almost buckle under the weight of her lust Malone won an Oscar for the performance.

      Kyle goes on the wagon, until a doctor unwisely informs him he is impotent. If I smile as I synopsize the plot, surely Sirk was smiling when he directed it; he's subverting the very lifestyle he celebrates.

      Douglas Sirk, Master of Americana

      Well, yes, but it's possible to enjoy Sirk's subtleties as simple entertainment, too. Films like this are both above and below middle-brow taste. If you only see the surface, it's trashy soap opera. If you can see the style, the absurdity, the exaggeration and the satirical humor, it's subversive of all the s dramas that handled such material solemnly. William Inge and Tennessee Williams were taken with great seriousness during the decade, but Sirk kids their Freudian hysteria that Williams' work survives is a tribute to his poetry, not his common sense.

      One test of satire is: At what point do we realize the author is kidding?

      Written on The Wind, 1956 Rock Hudson, Lauren Bacall, Robert Stack

      Or are you soul-searching? In one of the film's more lurid sequences, Sirk uses a closeup of her face in orgiastic nostalgia, as we hear little Mitch's childish voice piping out a promise to marry Marylee when they grow up. There's a broad wink and nudge at the end. Old Jasper Hadley is often seen behind his desk, which holds a large bronze model of an oil derrick.