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Mario Bautista, has been with the entertainment industry for more than 4 decades. He writes regular columns for People's Journal and Malaya.

Apr 17, 2021



‘ALL THAT HEAVEN ALLOWS’ is a romantic drama shown in 1955 and we remember our aunts raving about it. 

Directed by Douglas Sirk, we never got to see it then but we did see Sirk’s “Imitation of Life” with Lana Turner, Sandra Dee and Susan Kohner and it’s an unabashed tearjerker that really works. 

We finally saw “All That Heaven Allows” last Holy Week. It stars Jane Wyman (whose “Miracle in the Rain” we just reviewed) as Cary, a wealthy widow with a grown up son and daughter in college. 

She lives alone in their beautifully furnished home in a New England town and though some men her age court her, she’s not interested.

She gets attracted to Ron (Rock Hudson, one of the best looking leading men of that era who turned out to be a closet gay in real life), who works for her as a landscape gardener. 

They fall in love and Cary admires Ron’s principle of simplicity, shunning riches and high social status but living life just as he pleases. 

When Ron proposes marriage, she accepts it, but later backs out when her two children and their relatives and friends objected to the match which they deem socially unacceptable, even accusing Ron of being a fortune hunter. 

This May-December romance is the second film of Jane and Rock as they were also paired the previous year in “Magnificent Obsession” where Rock played a doctor and Jane his blind patient. 

Although Jane as Cary initially bowed down to the pressure of social ostracism, she later realizes how lonely she has become and eventually throws conventional behavior to the winds for the obligatory happy ending. 

The first thing you’d notice is the film’s fantastic visuals in technicolor with its tastefully designed mise en scene. 

Both the interior and exterior scenes are fabulously photographed and underline what’s going in the story with telling effect. 

This is a trademark quality of Sirk’s films which are initially dismissed by critics in the 50s as mere melodramas. 

But in the 70s, European directors and American film scholars re-examined his works and praised their aesthetic and social perspectives as ahead of its time. 

A writer said: “Time will vindicate Douglas Sirk.” And his reputation has indeed grown since then. 

“All That Heaven Allows” was belittled then as just a glossy tearjerking love affair between a rich widow and her younger gardener. 

Now, it is considered as “a scathing attack on the facets of American Dream” that smack of snobbery and tolerance. 

Beneath the stunningly lovely visuals and expressionist colour are reflections of despair, as seen in Wyman’s giving up her love for Hudson due to the pressure of society that considers it a taboo relationship. 

It may ostensibly work as a straight melodrama but it’s so carefully crafted by a master of good visual imagery that serious viewers can surely mine it for deeper social meaning, specially with its tribute to Henry David Thoreau’s “Walden” which is shown in a key scene, 

They even quote a line from it, “mass of men living lives of quiet desperation," spousing its homegrown American philosophy of simplicity. 

The acclaimed German filmmaker Werner Fassbinder chose to remake this film in “Fear Eats the Soul” with characters trapped by social conditions. 

Sirk’s films were later given tribute retrospectives. Other filmmakers like Tarantino, Almodovar, Wong Kar Wai and Lars Von Tier also paid homage to him. 

American director Todd Haynes’ “Far From Heaven” in 2002 is a tribute to Sirk’s work with Julianne Moore playing the role of a wife who falls for her black gardener after learning her husband is a closet gay. 

Next on our agenda is to look for a copy of “Imitation of Life” and his other acclaimed work, “Written on the Wind”, that became the source of sprawling family dramas like “Dynasty” and “Dallas”.