Magnificent Obsession

Talkie of the Week: Magnificent Obsession

USA 1954, 104 minutes, color, Universal International Pictures. Director: Douglas Sirk, Written by Robert Blees and Wells Root, Based on the book by Lloyd C. Douglas. Cast: Jane Wyman, Rock Hudson, Barbara Rush, Agnes  Moorehead, Otto Kruger

Plot summary: When Bob Merrick learns that he survived an unnecessary accident that indirectly took the life of celebrated humanitarian Dr. Phillips, the millionaire decides to change his life and follow the doctor’s example of taking care of others and their struggles. Rejected by Dr. Phillips’ family for his attempt to help them in times of hardship, Bob ultimately manages to prove his sincerity and falls in love with Helen, the late doctor’s widow, despite her initial rejection.

Review: Based on the novel by Lloyd C. Douglas, Magnificent Obsessions had already been adapted for the silver screen in 1935 when Douglas Sirk decided to pick up the story for his technicolor remake. Originally starring Irene Dunne and Robert Taylor, Sirk’s version from 1954 presented Jane Wyman and and a practically unknown Rock Hudson in the leading roles. Commercially successful in theaters, the film received mixed reaction from critics for the emotional story and the director’s choice of material. While Jane Wyman and Rock Hudson conquered the screen with a chemistry that resulted in another collaboration of the two stars in Sirk’s All That Heaven Allows one year later, reviews often stressed the sappy quality of the motion picture, a fact that didn’t stop the Academy of Motion Pictures, Arts and Sciences to nominate Jane Wyman for an Academy Award for her performance.

Recorded for radio several times before Magnificent Obsession re-entered with stars such as Irene Dunne, Claudette Colbert and Myrna Loy, the story itself grew into a classic story about loss, love, grace and altruism. Rock Hudson’s first significant movie role brought him well-deserved recognition and kicked off a career as one of Hollywood’s most charming leading men. It was the fourth Oscar nomination Jane Wyman received for her portrayal of Helen Phillips, an honor Grace Kelly in The Country Girl ended up winning that year.

Magnificent Obsession is a film that works the emotional scale of its audience by merging drama with romance in a way that is now a lost art. Be prepared to stock up your supply of tissues before you watch it, the score and moving performances will make you sob if your heart beats for this kind of gem.

Available on DVD. Magnificent Obsession trailer

The Approaching New Year

With the new year fast approaching, I’ve decided to have a look at 2012 because I may love vintage but I rather look ahead than back. So what’s cooking?!

On January 17th, America’s sweetheart Betty White is going to complete another decade. She’ll be turning  ninety. I know she just recently said that’s not an accomplishment but that it just happened, bless her for  counting her blessings like that. But still. Ninety is quite a milestone. And with her popularity, filmography  and attitude she definitely outshines an entire studio full of performers less than half her age.


On April 18th then, my personal Tinseltown darling, RKO’s 1940s starlet and Perry Mason‘s renowned girl Friday, Barbara Hale, will join Ms. White, my N Hollywood grandma and their club of Fabulous at Ninety. Although long retired, well-deserved and (apparently) happily so, Ms. Hale is still fondly remembered by Della Street fans and classic cinéastes from around the globe. More and more of her work has been published on DVD or online in recent years and I sincerely hope that 2012 will reveal more of her bubbly warmth for us all to enjoy.

Then several films and TV shows will celebrate their anniversaries. Here are some examples:

  • Ironside (1967-75, NBC)
  • The Lucy Show (1962-68, CBS)
  • My Little Margie (1952-55, CBS & NBC)
  • Perry Mason TV show (1957-66, CBS)
  • A Likely Story (1947, RKO, directed by H.C. Potter, starring Barbara Hale and Bill Williams)
  • The First Time (1952, Columbia, directed by Frank Tashlin, starring Robert Cummings and Barbara Hale)
  • Ivanhoe (1952, MGM, directed by Richard Thorpe, starring Robert Taylor and Elizabeth Taylor)
  • The Miracle Worker (1962, United Artists, directed by Arthur Penn, starring Anne Bancroft and Patty Duke)
  • Pat & Mike (1952, MGM, directed by George Cukor, starring Katherine Hepburn and Spencer Tracey)
  • Singin’ in the Rain (1952, MGM, directed by Stanley Donen, starring Gene Kelley and Debbie Reynolds)
  • That Touch of Mink (1962, Universal, directed by Delbert Mann, starring Cary Grant and Doris Day)
  • What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? (1962, Warner Bros., directed by Robert Aldrich, starring Bette Davis & Joan Crawford)

Of course there are many many more, e.g. Bambi (1942), Lawrence of Arabia (1962), Mrs. Miniver (1942) or To Kill a Mockingbird (1962). Also other TV shows like The Carol Burnett Show (1967-78) or The Flying Nun (1967-70).

The legendary Barbara Stanwyck had her screen debut as a fan dancer in Broadway Nights eighty-five years ago. She would’ve turned one-hundred and five on July 16th, Raymond Burr ninety-five on May 21st.

I could continue this list ad infinitum. But I rather wish you a smooth start into the new year and hope you’re looking forward to all the vintage treats that will be revisited and adored on this blog in the up-coming leap year.

Bless y’all!

Barbara Stanwyck

Barbara Stanwyck was an American actress who was born as Ruby Catherine Stevens on July 16, 1907 in Brooklyn, New York. She died on January 20, 1990 in Santa Monica, California.

Career: At the tender age of fourteen, Barbara Stanwyck started working for a living, skipped school and escaped her foster homes. She started out with temporary jobs and ultimately tried to break into show business at the age of sixteen. She worked as a chorus girl for a couple of years and as a dance instructor, before she auditioned for a part in The Noose. The play did not skyrocket until its second run which lasted nine months and resulted in her change of moniker from Ruby Stevens to Barbara Stanwyck.

in 1927, film producer Bob Kane responded to The Noose‘s rave reviews and mentions of Barbara Stanwyck’s talent and screen-tested her for Broadway Lights. At the same time, she successfully continued her stage career by getting the lead in Burlesque. In 1928, she got married to fellow actor Frank Fay with whom she moved out to Los Angeles to seek a career in Hollywood. In contrast to her first husband, Barbara Stanwyck managed to land a couple of parts in late 1920s talkies. Her success however only slowly started in the 1930s after Frank Capra had chosen her for a part in Ladies of Leisure (1930). Baby Face (1933) and Stella Dallas (1937) followed, adding to the diversity of her acting and her range. In 1935, Barbara Stanwyck got divorced from her husband and won custody of her adopted son Dion Anthony. One year later, she met Robert Taylor, her co-star on His Brother’s Wife set in 1936. MGM arranged their marriage in 1939 and they enjoyed a good first couple of years together on their ranch in the Brentwood area of Los Angeles.

In the 1940s, she was an established queen of the silver screen who starred alongside Henry Fonda and other big name stars in box office hits like Double Indemnity (1944), Christmas in Connecticut (1945) and Sorry, Wrong Number (1948). In 1944, she was listed as the highest-paid women in Hollywood who was equally popular among crew members and colleagues as she was with her audience. In the 1950s,  Barbara Stanwyck filed for divorce after her husband’s affair with Lana Turner had become public knowledge. She did not remarry and collected alimony from him for the rest of her life. Her movie career also slowly began to crumble and thus decided to move on to television. In 1961, she started The Barbara Stanwyck Show and later to the popular Western show Big Valley four years later. In the 1980s, she turned down a lead in Falcon Crest and worked on popular programs like The Thorn Birds, Dynasty and its spin-off The Colbys instead.

Throughout her career, Barbara Stanwyck received four Academy Award nominations before she was finally rewarded with an honorary Oscar for superlative creativity and unique contribution to the art of screen acting in 1982. She received three EMMY awards and two additional nominations for her work on The Barbara Stanwyck Show, Big Valley and The Thorn Birds. Furthermore, she received an SAG lifetime achievement award and won two Golden Globes out of a total of five nominations.

Characters: Barbara Stanwyck knew how to max out her presence on the silver screen with emotional grace. Her style always earthy yet bordering the sassy, she never played her characters with a sense of naivete. She made clear she was someone no man or woman should ever underestimate. She could be dazzlingly beautiful or dangerous, always sincere and rarely hysterical. She was an excellent temptress, sizzling with diversity and experience.


1985-1986 The Colbys (TV series) – Constance Colby Patterson, 1 our of 2 seasons, 24 episodes
1985 Dynasty (TV series) – The Californians, The Man, The Titans (1985)
1983 The Thorn Birds (TV mini-series)
1980 Charlie’s Angels (TV series) – Toni’s Boys (1980)
1973 The Letters (TV movie)
1971 A Taste of Evil (TV movie)
1970 The House That Would Not Die (TV movie)
1965-1969 The Big Valley (TV series) -Victoria Barkley, 4 seasons, 112 episodes
1964 The Night Walker
1964 Roustabout
1961-1964 Wagon Train (TV series) – The Maud Frazer Story (1961), The Caroline Casteel Story (1962), The Molly Kincaid Story (1963), The Kate Crawley Story (1964)
1964 Calhoun: County Agent (TV movie)
1962-1963 The Untouchables (TV series) – Elegy (1962), Search for a Dead Man (1963)
1962 The Dick Powell Theatre (TV series) – Special Assignment (1962)
1962 Walk on the Wild Side
1962 Rawhide (TV series) – The Captain’s Wife (1962)
1961 G.E. True Theater (TV series) – Star Witness: The Lili Parrish Story (1961)
1960-1961 The Barbara Stanwyck Show (TV series) – numerous characters, 1 season, 31 episodes
1958-1959Zane Grey Theater (TV series) – The Freighter (1958), Trail to Nowhere (1958), Hang the Heart High (1959), The Lone Woman (1959)
1958 Decision (TV series) – Sudden Silence (1958)
1958 Goodyear Theatre (TV series) – Three Dark Years (1958)
1958 Alcoa Theatre (TV series) – Three Years Dark (1958)
1957 Forty Guns
1957 Trooper Hook
1957 Crime of Passion
1956 The Ford Television Theatre (TV series) – Sudden Silence (1956)
1956 These Wilder Years
1956 The Maverick Queen
1956 There’s Always Tomorrow
1955 Escape to Burma
1955 The Violent Men
1954 Cattle Queen of Montana
1954 Witness to Murder
1954 Executive Suite
1953 The Moonlighter
1953 Blowing Wild
1953 All I Desire
1953 Titanic
1953 Jeopardy
1952 Clash by Night
1951 The Man with a Cloak
1950 To Please a Lady
1950 The Furies
1950 No Man of Her Own
1950 The File on Thelma Jordon
1949 East Side, West Side
1949 The Lady Gambles
1948 Sorry, Wrong Number
1948 B.F.’s Daughter
1947 Cry Wolf
1947 The Other Love
1947 The Two Mrs. Carrolls
1947 California
1946 The Strange Love of Martha Ivers
1946 The Bride Wore Boots
1946 My Reputation
1945 Christmas in Connecticut
1944 Hollywood Canteen
1944 Double Indemnity
1943 Flesh and Fantasy
1943 Lady of Burlesque
1942 The Gay Sisters
1942 The Great Man’s Lady
1941 Ball of Fire
1941 You Belong to Me
1941 Meet John Doe
1941 The Lady Eve
1940 Remember the Night
1939 Golden Boy
1939 Union Pacific
1938 The Mad Miss Manton
1938 Always Goodbye
1937 Breakfast for Two
1937 Stella Dallas
1937 This Is My Affair
1937 Internes Can’t Take Money
1936 The Plough and the Stars
1936 Banjo on My Knee
1936 His Brother’s Wife
1936 The Bride Walks Out
1936 A Message to Garcia
1935 Annie Oakley
1935 Red Salute
1935 The Woman in Red
1934 The Secret Bride
1934 A Lost Lady
1934 Gambling Lady
1933 Ever in My Heart
1933 Baby Face
1933 Ladies They Talk About
1933 The Bitter Tea of General Yen
1932 The Purchase Price
1932 So Big!
1932 Shopworn
1932 Forbidden
1931 The Miracle Woman
1931 Night Nurse
1931 Ten Cents a Dance
1931 Illicit
1930 Ladies of Leisure
1929 Mexicali Rose
1929 The Locked Door
1927 Broadway Nights


DVD: All I Desire, Annie Oakley, Baby Face, Ball of Fire, The Barbara Stanwyck Show, The Bitter Tea of General Yen, BF’s Daughter, Big Valley, Breakfast for Two, The Bride Wore Boots, Cattle Queen of Montana, Christmas in Connecticut, Clash by Night, Crime of Passion, Cry Wolf, Double Indemnity, East Side West Side, Escape to Burma, Executive Suite, The File on Thelma Jordan, Forty Guns, The Furies, Golden Boy, The Great Man’s Lady, Hollywood Canteen, Internes Can’t Take Money, Jeopardy, The Lady Eve, The Lady Gambles, Lady of Burlesque, The Mad Miss Manton, The Man with a Cloak, Meet John Doe, The Moonlighter, My Reputation, Remember the Night, Roustabout, The Secret Bride, Sorry Wrong Number, Stella Dallas, The Strange Love of Martha Ivers, There’s Always Tomorrow, Titanic, To Please a Lady,  The Two Mrs Carrolls, The Violent Man, The Woman in Red, You Belong to Me

VHS: All I Desire, Baby Face, Ball of Fire, The Bitter Tea of General Yen, Blowing Wind, Cattle Queen of Montana, Christmas in Connecticut, Clash by Night, Crime of Passion, Cry Wolf, Double Indemnity, East Side West Side, Golden Boy, The Great Man’s Lady, Illicit, Internes Can’t Take Money, Ladies They Talk About, Lady Eve, Lady of Burlesque, Mad Miss Manton, Maverick Queen, Meet John Doe, The Miracle Woman, Night Walker, To Please a Lady, Purchase Price, Red Salute, Remember the Night, Roustabout, Sorry Wrong Number, Stella Dallas, Titanic, The Strange Love of Martha Ivers, The Two Mrs Carrolls, Union Pacific, The Violent Man

VoD: Baby Face, Christmas in ConnecticutDouble Indemnity, Executive Suite, Lady Eve, Lady of Burlesque, Stella Dallas, The Strange Love of Martha Ivers, Titanic

Personal recommendations (in alphabetical order):

  • The Barbara Stanwyck Show, 1960-61
  • Big Valley TV series, 1965-69
  • Forty Guns, 1957
  • Sorry, Wrong Numer, 1948
  • Titanic, 1953

Sources for more on Barbara Stanwyck: