All That Heaven Allows (Blu-ray + DVD)
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Friends and family want a rich widow to end her romance with a tree surgeon about 15 years her junior.
This heartbreakingly beautiful indictment of 1950s American mores by Douglas Sirk (Written on the Wind) follows the blossoming love between a well-off suburban widow (Magnificent Obsession’s Jane Wyman) and her handsome and earthy younger gardener (Seconds’ Rock Hudson). After their romance prompts the scorn of her selfish children and snooty country club friends, she must decide whether to pursue her own happiness or carry on a lonely, hemmed-in existence for the sake of the approval of others. With the help of ace cinematographer Russell Metty (Spartacus), Sirk imbued nearly every shot with a vivid and distinct emotional tenor. A profoundly felt film about class and conformity in small-town America, All That Heaven Allows is a pinnacle of expressionistic Hollywood melodrama.
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Beautiful love story!
Critics tend to view Hudson films with an eye to what they think they know about his private life, and their reviews tend to be colored by their (mis)beliefs. Biographies of Hudson quote his friends and fellow actors of both sexes as saying that he was generous to other actors and as lovable and fun in real life as he was on-screen, and that he was a true professional on the set, keeping his personal and his professional life totally separate.
Since he was bisexual rather than merely homosexual, the love scenes are realistic. Salome Jens, who co-starred with Hudson in "Seconds," said of their roles in that film, "Those love scenes really worked for me. I never had any sense that he wasn't loving me. He loved women -- there was never any anti-woman feeling in him."
Viewing "All That Heaven Allows," there can be no doubt. In one scene, when he takes Wyman in his arms and kisses her, his hand comes up and presses her head into his and his other hand caresses her body as if he can't pull her close enough to him.
The song-and-dance scene at the house of his friends is worth the price of admission. Hudson plays the piano (he did in real life) and sings to Wyman, and then dances with her. The last time I saw anyone dance with such happy abandon was in an Elvis Presley film. (See the scene in the You Tube "Rock Hudson:singer/dancer extraordinaire!")
Hudson, as young landscaper Ron Kirby, knows what he wants out of life, and when he sees Jane Wyman, it's Damn the torpedos, full speed ahead. Wyman, as widow Cary Scott, a decade or so older, can't quite figure out what's going on, but allows herself to be swept along. All goes reasonably well, until her selfish children make her choose between them and Hudson.
Reportedly, the director, Douglas Sirk, wanted either an unhappy or an ambiguous ending. He compromised, so viewers may wish -- as I did -- that the deus ex machina conclusion had been a couple of minutes longer and more definitive. But one's imagination can provide the missing moments.
"All That Heaven Allows" was made to capitalize on the popularity of the previous "Magnificent Obsession" -- but I felt "Heaven" was much more believable, and much more enjoyable.
Some types of men will scoff at it -- but women will love it, and not a few will wish that many so-called heterosexual males had more of the sex appeal and sensitivity that Hudson displayed in this role.
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