A second class vaudeville theater is where Naomi Murdoch finds herself after a few years trying to make a go of her talent. It is far from the glamorous life she was aiming for. She has a surprise waiting for her: a letter from her daughter Lily who invites her to come see her act in her high school play. Naomi does not have anything to lose, or so she thinks, when she decides to go back to the provincial town she abandoned ten years before.
The family Naomi left behind is quite shaken as she arrives. Most troubled of all is Henry Murdoch who was left to bring up the three children. He is the highly regarded high school principal of Riverdale. He has a reputation to live up to, so it is not surprising he is bothered by the uninvited Naomi's presence. After all, he has never stopped loving her. Joyce her oldest daughter, going steady with one of the town's richest young men, is not happy at all. She resents what her mother put the family through. Happiest of all is Lily, the girl with theatrical aspirations. The youngest son, Ted, is confused by his mother's appearance.
To make matters worse, there is Dutch Heinemann, the man Naomi had an affair, and the cause of her departure. He wants to renew what they had one time. Naomi, though, is not too happy to be around him. Not only that, but she suddenly realizes how much she lost by throwing all away when she decided to run away. Naomi must examine herself and decide what she wants. It is clear Henry still cares for her, in spite of the life he endured after being left alone.
Douglas Sirk came to Hollywood in the 1940s with a tide of European filmmakers who decided to pack it in rather than working in the war torn continent. "All I Desire" seems to be a turning point for Mr. Sirk. He went to make a name for himself in what came after. He turned melodramas such as this one into a classy product much admired by the movie going public. The basis is a novel "Stopover" by Carol Ryrie Brink, a perfect story that suited Mr. Sirk's talent.
Casting Barbara Stanwyck as Naomi Murdoch paid off tremendously for the director. Ms. Stanwyck was in her forties at the time the film went into production and the mature actress shows she was always an asset for anyone wanting to work with her. Her Naomi is perfect. Richard Carlson plays Henry, the husband Naomi abandoned. Marcia Henderson appears as the older Joyce and Lori Nelson as Lily. Lyle Bettger, the villain in most of the films where he appeared, is at hand to play Dutch Heinemann, who wants to rekindle the passion he felt for Naomi. Maureen O'Sullivan appears as Sara Harper, the school teacher in love with Henry.
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