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  • Panamint14 August 2006
    Stack should have received the Academy Award for this performance, period. Its a crime that he did not. Amazing how he humanizes a rich worthless character.

    Dorothy Malone did earn a well-deserved Academy Award for her performance. In fact, all of the acting in this film is excellent.

    The plot begins with a taxi ride, then an airplane ride, then keeps moving on an emotional ride that will hold your interest throughout. You will be entertained!

    However, this is only a blatant soap opera. One-dimensional, 100-percent soaper. You might call it the ultimate soaper, because the acting so thoroughly triumphs over the material. Excellently acted, well directed, but strictly within its soap genre. I wouldn't even call it a melodrama (such as "Mildred Pierce" or "Imitation of Life"). While not denying the great entertainment value of this film, you can only imagine what this talented cast and director might have achieved with more substantial subject matter.
  • mpofarrell15 December 2002
    At the Academy Awards ceremony on March 27, 1957, Dorothy Malone won the Best Supporting Actress Oscar for her torrid, over-the-top portrayal of a spoiled heiress of a Texas oil tycoon in WRITTEN ON THE WIND. The 1956 potboiler, adapted from Robert Wilder's novel , was a veritable three-ring-circus showcasing alcoholism, greed, impotence and nymphomania.

    Malone's performance as Marylee Hadley , a lonely rich girl who picks up men to assuage the pain of rejection from a former childhood sweetheart, was representative of the movie as a whole. Mesmerizing to watch even as it resorts to the "lowest -common- denominator" melodrama, WRITTEN ON THE WIND is ultimately the work of one man, the incredibly gifted director Douglas Sirk, an émigré from pre -World War 2 Weimar Germany who left his European theater heritage behind to pursue a career in Hollywood.

    An extremely erudite man, Sirk made a name for himself in the 1950's as Universal Studios' reliable director of lavish soap operas, most notably with Ross Hunter's productions of MAGNIFICENT OBSESSION , ALL THAT HEAVEN ALLOWS and IMITATION OF LIFE . Independent producer Albert Zugsmith offered Sirk the opportunity to work outside the limiting constraints of Universal's demure entertainments and create a more adult , "sensational" product , hence the sultry WIND and its follow-up, 1957's TARNISHED ANGELS, both released under the Universal International banner. It's anyone's guess why Sirk didn't pursue loftier themes, but apparently directing these exaggerated dramas appealed more to his artistic sensibilities. WRITTEN ON THE WIND could be considered Sirk's epic soap opera ; indeed, it is so rife with human vulnerability and neurosis as depicted among the very rich that it is as compelling to watch as any real life domestic squabble among the rich and famous, perhaps more so. Robert Stack (not an actor typically known for over -emoting) nearly matches Malone in intensity with his offering of the weak- willed brother Kyle Hadley, a mere shadow of his patriarchal father. When he finds out that he is unable to impregnate his new bride ( a beautifully leonine Lauren Bacall ) , Hadley goes off the deep end, escalating an already serious drinking problem with a "secret " gun fetish that threatens to make him a human time bomb. Both brother and sister, as venal and unlikeable as they are, are presented as victims of their past, giving them a human quality that makes them seem less monstrous ( and far more interesting than the 'good" side of the family, mainly Bacall and the impossibly handsome Rock Hudson , young Hadley's old boyhood friend and business associate, a surrogate son to the old man and Malone' s unattainable object of desire. ) Despite all the domestic co-dependency on display , it's not so much the story that is memorable here as the way it is filmed. With a real panache for pictorial composition and editing, director Sirk draws his audience into this picture with the most heightened Technicolor cinematography imaginable : every single shot in this film is an eye-filling canvas of saturated colors, from the sight of a tank-like pink Cadillac pulling up to an enormous mansion's front doors to the garish decor of a luxury Miami hotel , a spectrum of hues almost blinding in their diversity. Action and dramatic scenes feature Sirk's adept use of tilted camera angles , shadowy lighting and cross-cut editing , shown to greatest effect in the scene where a rebellious , drunken Malone dances uninhibitedly in her upstairs bedroom to the loud blaring of a record player while her stricken father precariously ascends the huge staircase ; the scene is so riveting that you swear you are experiencing a great oedipal drama unfold. What you're really watching is trash of an enormously entertaining kind, gussied up in lurid Technicolor and polished to perfection by a visual genius.
  • Mitch Wayne comes from a working family, but his childhood friendship with the children of oil magnate Hadley sees him continuing within the family and the family business as an adult. Kyle is his best friend, but is a spoilt playboy as a result of his money and privilege. When the two meet Lucy, they both fall for her but, as usual, it is Kyle that gets her attention and quickly marries her. Lucy joins the family home to find a spiteful and spoilt daughter, Marylee, who dislikes her but longs for the childish affection she still holds for Mitch. Against a background of money and privilege, tensions and emotions build between the friends and family.

    Normally when I call something melodramatic it is a criticism but for those looking for melodrama that is well delivered then often Douglas Sirk is as good a place to look as any. This film is a fine example but I'll be the first to admit that the plot summary on paper does make it sound like the soapiest load of daytime TV filler ever! However the delivery is everything and the film succeeds in making the story and characters engaging. It is hard to describe well, but the story doesn't really happen in reality but rather in a sort of melodrama world of high emotions and I didn't expect it to draw me in. Part of the reason it did was down to Sirk's writing and direction. He creates this convincing world where everyone fits in and it all seems real.

    Of course of the biggest factors is the cast, for it is starry and impressive. I've never been that taken by Hudson but he is a sturdy and manly lead actor here, even if he has the less showy material to work with. Bacall is strong and controls a great deal of the emotional core of the film. The main melodramatic flair comes from two other good performances. It was hard for me to get past the Stack I know from Airplane but he is very good here and descends well across the film. Likewise Malone plays her character well. As with many Sirk films, the cinematography, the look, of the film is important and this one expertly captures the feel of the fifties but doesn't look dated in a bad way – it still feels quite fresh and lively.

    Overall this is a melodrama and if the very thought of that puts you off then you'd best avoid it. However it is a fine story that engages well even as it exists above reality. The cast are impressive with their material and are a big part of making it convincing and engaging.
  • It is ironic that during the '50s, when Douglas Sirk was at his most successful in terms of audience appeal, he was virtually ignored by the critics… He is now seen, however, as a director of formidable intellect who achieved his best work in melodrama…

    "Written on the Wind" is about the downfall of a Texan oil dynasty surrounded by worthless reputation, alcoholism, and nymphomania… It is about the twisted, fatal connections between sex, power, and money...

    Stack draws a compelling portrait of a tormented drunken destroyed by frustration, arrogance, jealousy, insanity, and some deep insecurities…

    Dorothy Malone succeeds as an attractive woman with an excessive sexual appetites, degrading herself for Hudson and to other fellows in town… Her best line: "I'm filthy." In one frantic scene, we see her shaking, quivering and sweating to a provocative mambo… In another weeping alone over a model oil-derrick at her father's desk—symbol of excessive wealth and masculine tyranny…

    The frenetic atmosphere is both made palatable and intensified by Sirk's magnificent use of colors, lights, and careful use of mirrors
  • Robert Stack never really got over losing a Best Supporting Actor Oscar for his role as Kyle in "Written on the Wind" to Anthony Quinn's 12-minute performance in "Lust for Life." Stack plays the deeply disturbed, alcoholic son of an oil tycoon. He has lived his life in the shadow of the friend with whom he was raised, Mitch, played by Rock Hudson. They both love the same woman, Lucy, (Lauren Bacall), who becomes Kyle's wife. Kyle's sister, Marylee (Dorothy Malone), is a drunken slut who's in love with Mitch. Their story plays out in glorious color under the able direction of Douglas Sirk, who really dominated the melodrama field with some incredible films, including "Imitation of Life," "All that Heaven Allows," "Magnificent Obsession," and many others.

    Make no mistake - this is a potboiler, and Stack and Dorothy Malone make the most of their roles, Malone winning a Best Supporting Actress Oscar. There's one amazing scene, mentioned in other comments, where she wildly dances to loud music as her father collapses and dies on the staircase. We're led to believe that Marylee sleeps with everyone, including the guy that pumps the gas, because she's in love with Mitch. Mitch wants nothing to do with her. He's so in love with Lucy that, out of loyalty to Kyle, he wants to go to work in Iran to avoid temptation. I doubt he'd be so anxious to get there today no matter how much in love he was.

    Hudson and Bacall have the less exciting roles here - Hudson's Mitch is the good guy who's been cleaning up Kyle's messes for his entire life, and Bacall is Mitch's wife who finds herself in a nightmare when her husband starts drinking again after a year of sobriety. Sirk focuses on the more volatile supporting players.

    In Sirk's hands, "Written on the Wind" is an effective film, and the big scene toward the end in the mansion is particularly exciting. The director had a gift for this type of movie, and though he had many imitators, he never had an equal.
  • Channel-surfing earlier today I was passing the A.M.C. site and there was "Written on the Wind" already underway. I'd seen it during its first-run theatrical release (and not since) and was mildly surprised to observe how vividly I recalled its unfolding.

    I rarely submit to watching anything on A.M.C. these days because this once watchable venue has deteriorated into nothing more than a merciless marketplace. Strings of commercials endlessly interrupt every broadcast; virtually all films are shown "formatted" to fill non-widescreen TVs (A.M.C. frequently showed widescreen films in letterboxed broadcasts in the past but not anymore, with the recent exception, I noticed, of a Bruce Lee martial arts festival, of all things!); and then there are A.M.C.'s promotions for its upcoming schedule which are usually outrageously, stupidly silly (and boringly repeated ad nauseum). That said... (once more, I might add...)

    This luridly Technicolored "triumph of trash" (not photographed in CinemaScope at a time when that process was Hollywood's way of luring us from our home black-and-white boob tubes) again grabbed me with the same stupefied amazement that fascinated me as a comparatively sheltered young teenager. Douglas Sirk's subversively manipulative direction, Russell Metty's opulent cinematography, the eye-filling and fairly luxurious art direction, and the turgidly expressive musical score all add up to what "over the top" really means. And the cast, assembled with an eye to populating this fantasy with near-godlike creatures (even the African American servants at the Hadley mansion are played by handsome and elegantly capable actors) was a cut above those assigned to most of the Universal-International product of that era.

    It was surely Dorothy Malone's finest hour and her supporting actress Oscar was a popular choice among her peers and with the audiences of the day. Robert Stack, before he became such an ossified stiff in the years that followed, deservedly earned his own supporting actor Academy Award nomination. Rock Hudson hadn't yet managed to show his mettle as an actor of some range, though his performance in "Giant" released about the same time gave him a better opportunity to escape the oft-repeated complaint that he was "wooden" and nothing more than a slab of beef(cake). Lauren Bacall, though, was credible as an object of desire for two rivals and her soigne presence was a nice counterpoint to Malone's well-heeled tramp.

    All in all this kind of moviemaking is rarely attempted today and the presumed tastes of today's audiences would, were a story like this mounted with a suitable budget and an equivalent cast, most likely be swamped with a degree of tastelessness that would be much less palatable than this example of Sirk's mastery of melodrama was when it was released. It's the cinema equivalent of those new calorie-laden ice cream treats that the dietary watchdogs are so assiduously warning us about now, but I doubt that it's as deleterious for our mental and emotional health. Sure hope not, 'cause I savored every frame!
  • Director Douglas Sirk once said `there's a very short distance between high art and trash, and trash that contains craziness is by this very quality nearer to art'. This statement defines his cinema perfectly, a very unique body of work that includes classic stage adaptations, adventure and war films, westerns and of course, his famous melodramas.

    Sirk's melodramas were, as the very word signifies, dramas with music. The music sets the tone for his masterful style, and every stroke of his brush (Sirk was also a painter) leaves a powerful image on the screen-turned-canvas. But this ain't life but its representation, an imitation of life. Sirk never tried to show reality, on the contrary. None of the directors of his generation made a better use of all the technical devices provided by Hollywood (most notably Technicolor) to distinguish the artificial from the real thing. Let's remember that his golden period coincides with the time when Hollywood films turned its attention into the social drama (Blackboard jungle, Rebel without a cause). Sirk always knew that cinema was meant to be something else.

    Another of Sirk's statements summarizes this: `You can't reach, or touch, the real. You just see reflections. If you try to grasp happiness itself your fingers only meet glass'. I defy anybody that has seen Written on the wind to count the amount of mirrors and images reflected that appear on screen. One ends up giving up.

    Therefore, we are in a hall full of mirrors where there's no difference between real and its false copy. Nobody can say that the Hadley are real people. That town ain't real either, with those hideous oil pumps all over the place. So in this realm the acting is affected, the decore is fake, the trick is visible. Everything is pushed a little bit off the limit (the sexual connotations of Dorothy Malone with the oil tower, for example). Sirk was criticizing and theorizing at the same time.

    `The angles are the director's thoughts; the lighting is his philosophy'. In Written on the wind we follow the fall of a traditional way of life both in a geometrical way and in terms of light and shadows. The Hadleys house, with its different levels connected by the spiral staircase operates in a strictly metaphorical way. A house that resembles a mausoleum, that no party can cheer up. As tragedy progresses from luminous daylight to shadowy night, Sirk's photography becomes an extension of the inner state of his characters, and so are the colours of the clothes they wear. Drama is thus incorporated to every element at the service of the director's craft.

    Sirk considered himself a `story bender', because he bended the standard material he was assigned with to his style and purpose. Written on the wind is a good example. It wouldn't work in any other hands.

    The other director that was using similar strategies was Frank Tashlin, who was for 50's comedy the same that Sirk was for melodrama. Their films are full of the machinery of american life -advertising, TV sets, jukeboxes, washing machines, sport cars, vacuum cleaners- to depict its emptiness and decay. I'm inclined to think that their films were regarded in a different way by their contemporary audiences. The game was played by both sides, so it was camp. Now we regard them as `cult' or `bizarre', because we are not those spectators anymore. That is why Todd Haynes's homage `Far from heaven' turns into a pastiche, because it reproduces Sirk's work nowadays as if nothing happened in between. Then Sirk turns exactly into that painting hanging in the art gallery that Julianne Moore and the gardener discuss in the aforementioned film.

    Sirk understood the elements of melodrama perfectly. There were always immovable characters (Rock Hudson and Lauren Bacall here) against which he could assemble a series of split ones. His balance through antithesis is remarkable and not surprisingly we root for the split characters, because these are the ones Sirk is interested in too. When Robert Stack flies the plane and `tempts' Lauren Bacall with all sorts of mundane comforts of the world below them (obvious Faustian echoes) we are strangely fascinated with him too, as we are when the devilish nymphomaniac little sister painfully evokes her past with Mitch alone by the river.

    In the Sirk's universe the studio often-imposed `happy ends' have no negative impact. In fact they worked just great. Sirk was fond of greek tragedy and considered happy endings the Deux ex machinea of his day. Thus the final courtroom scene fits well and one must also remember that the whole film is told in flashback, so we know from the very beginning that tragedy will fall nevertheless over the Hadley feud.

    It was pointed out the many similarities between Written on the Wind with the Godfather saga. I absolutely agree and I'm sure the parallel is not incidental. Both share the theme of the old powerful father head trying to keep his empire going while protecting his family. The temperamental son portrayed by Robert Stack has an amazing physical resemblance with Jimmy Caan's Sonny Corleone. The action of fighting her sister's male friend is symmetrical. The non-son in which the old man put his trust is also common in both films, as the fact that both families carry the names of their town. Even details as the gate that gives access to the property, and the surroundings of the house covered by leaves, suggest that Coppola had Written on the Wind in mind while setting his masterwork. Because both films deal with the subject of Power: the acquisition of power, its manipulation and legacy (even Kyle Hadley's sterility, the event that hastens the turmoil, is an issue easily tied to the central theme of Power, in this case, a weakness in sexual power). The other great film that deals with power and uses american life as its representation is Citizen Kane. One wouldn't think at first of similarities between Welles and Sirk's films but there are a good many, starting with the petrol business as the origin of the family's fortune and ending in the fact that Mitch Wayne (Rock Hudson), as Charles Foster Kane, was adopted by a tutor, having his own father alive. Amazingly, the same actor (Harry Shannon) perform both Wayne and Kane's fathers. This detail is cannot be a coincidence.

    Written on the Wind is a masterpiece in every aspect, in execution and vision, in style and technique, a highlight in the career of this wonderful director. Some say that this is his best film. In my opinion, `Magnificent obsession', `All that heaven allows', `There's always tomorrow' and `Imitation of life' are just as good. And for those who put Sirk in the level of Dallas or Dinasty I wish them no happy end.
  • I had the pleasure of seeing this lurid chunk of celluloid camp on television last night. It's a candy-bright trash-o-rama about a secretary (Lauren Bacall) who marries into a filthy rich oil family only to find a more general kind of filth under the gloss of privilege and public respectability.

    Oddly enough, both Bacall (usually the epitome of strength and gravity) and Rock Hudson are given fairly bland roles, always remaining above the hideously dysfunctional quagmire that surrounds them. They're too "good" to be very interesting. The characters at the opposite end of the spectrum are what keep our attention. Once soaked in alcohol, a pre-Unsolved Mysteries Robert Stack is immensely entertaining as tormented, pistol-waving Kyle, upset over his inability to conceive the children needed to complete the little American Nightmare in rich-people hell.

    However, this decidedly cracked soap is dominated by Dorothy Malone as Marylee, the boozed-up, fast-driving slut with the temperament of your average cobra. Malone won a well-deserved Oscar for her astonishing, one-of-a-kind performance--all bulging eyes and twitching lips, like a drag queen in heat, spewing acid at the other members of the cast. From her wild mambo of death (!) to fondling a model oil derrick (!!!), she is a hilarious delight. Aren't the bad girls always more interesting? Other reviews talk about her being "reformed" at the end. I, personally, did not see that. Yeah, she's upset...but with someone like Marylee, how long is that gonna last?

    Later parodied by John Waters's Polyester, Written on the Wind is a seamy, steamy don't-miss. In gorgeously saturated Technicolor.
  • What can you say about "Written on the Wind," other than this is where the

    genre of overproduced, inane Hollywood melodramas teeters into the realm of

    genuine art. Every aspect of this highly artificial concoction is fully realized, an amazing example of the whole becoming far more than the sum of its parts.

    Elements that are, considered separately, laughable (the abundance of

    Freudian symbols, the hyperrealistic colors, the over-the-top acting, the gushy soundtrack) all strangely combine into a hypnotically watchable masterpiece. Clearly there's a genuine artist (director Douglas Sirk) at work here -- someone who can take all the usually misused contents of the 1950s Hollywood big

    studio toolbox and create an astonishing work of art.
  • One of the most oddly colored (violets,bright yellows and reds) wildly flamboyant films made in the 50's, expatriate German director Douglas Sirk made this as a soap opera with a nasty satiric bite. Although Lauren Bacall and Rock Hudson as staid camp followers of a wealthy Texas family are the "stars", it's the perverse characters played by Robert Stack and Dorothy Malone who make the film such a vivid nightmare of the Eisenhower era of outdoor barbecues and post-war wealth. Malone in particular, playing a nymphomaniac oil heiress who dances wildly while her father dies of a heart attack, breaks the mold of the sexually sequestered decade.
  • Rich, alcoholic Robert Stack falls in love with secretary Lauren Bacall. He marries her and is so happy he stops drinking. However, Bacall is secretly loved by Stacks' best friend, Rock Hudson. And Stacks' nymphomaniac sister, Dorothy Malone, lusts after Rock. Throw in a few complications and the movie goes spinning out of control (in a good way).

    Very glossy movie in beautiful Technicolor with jaw-dropping fashions and furnishings (check out Bacall's hotel room at the beginning). Everybody looks perfect and dresses in beautiful, form-fitting clothes. Basically this is a soap opera with grade A production values. The story itself is lots of fun and some of the dialogue at the beginning is hilariously over the top. The acting by Hudson, Stack and Bacall isn't that good, but seeing them so young and glamorous is great...especially Stack...when he smiled my knees went weak! Dorothy Malone, on the other hand, is fantastic--she deservedly won Best Supporting Actress for her role. She's sexy, violent, vicious and sympathetic...all convincingly.

    Fun, glossy trash. Don't miss it!
  • Of all of Douglas Sirk's sly and subversive melodramas, Written on the Wind may very well be the one that takes itself the most seriously. This is not to say that Sirk's wicked undertones are not present as they are; rather by this time (1956), he had perfected his ability to balance the false and lavish exterior with the sad, repugnant interior of the characters and the lives they inhabit.

    What is unique to this film is how intense and emotional the story becomes rather than simple-minded fodder for soap fans. This is due in part to the very strong performances, particularly Robert Stack and Dorothy Malone as Kyle and Marylee Hadley, the filthy-rich but morally empty children of an oil tycoon who traipse about looking for thrills and challenges. Kyle finds one in straight-laced secretary Lucy Moore (Lauren Bacall), whom he eventually marries. Marylee has been attracted to Kyle's best friend Mitch Wayne (the incomparable Rock Hudson) all her life but cannot get past his wall of incredulity. In short, none of these characters are truly happy or satisfied with their situations, even after attempts to correct them. This may be Sirk's most devastating critique of all: everyone, despite their varied backgrounds, remain unfulfilled and unwilling to settle for anything but what they feel is ultimate satisfaction.

    If nothing else, this film is gorgeous to look at. Russell Metty, Sirk's longtime cinematographer, photographs Hollywood sets better than anyone. Perhaps its the color palate or Sirk's mise en scene; whatever it is it is used brilliantly to reflect the characters (and 1950s America's) vapid soullessness. This, combined with over the top acting and scenarios, would seem to present itself as sheer stupidity and disregarded melodrama. Of course, this being Douglas Sirk, one must attempt to look closer for the signs of that most modern of ideas: that people are strange and life is the most ironic of situations.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    It's the 1950's in the town of Hadley, Texas, and the town's namesake and resident oil baron Jasper Hadley (Keith) has about all he can handle with his business and two adult children, Kyle (Stack) and Marylee (Malone). Kyle has just met Lucy Moore, (Bacall) an advertising executive's secretary who was introduced to him by his best friend Mitch Wayne (Hudson) after they had only just met themselves. Kyle sweeps Lucy off of her feet and after a one-day courtship end up eloping, much to Mitch's chagrin since he's in love with Lucy himself. Meanwhile, Marylee, who is the resident town tramp, is becoming increasingly aggressive in her pursuit of Mitch, who wants nothing to do with her. When Marylee plants the idea in Kyle's head that Lucy and Mitch are having an affair (at the time, untrue) in a sick attempt to break up the couple in order for her to have Mitch there for herself, Kyle goes on a bender. Lucy, meanwhile, discovers from the doctor that she is pregnant, the father definitely being Kyle. That night, after Kyle returns home drunk, she tells him the news and he hits her, knocking her to the ground, assuming that it is Mitch's, and leaves the house after Mitch throws him out, threatening to kill him if he returns. He of course does return, and tries to shoot Mitch, but Marylee sneaks up behind him and grabs the gun, causing Kyle to shoot himself instead, not before finding out that he indeed was the father of Lucy's baby, which was of course, miscarried.

    "Written on the Wind" was one heck of a movie. Directed by the great Douglas Sirk, it is high melodrama and camp at its best. (Worst, depending on how much you like this kind of film.) Lauren Bacall, who has been quiet and dignified in every film I've seen her in, carries that demeanor through to this film, but it seems grossly out of place. Dorothy Malone, an actress I have heard of but haven't seen in a film that I can recall, is so tanned she is orange, and has a bad brassy blonde dye job, and practically spits out her lines, she is so evil and childish. Rock Hudson stays pretty true to character, playing the big lug who is generally a good guy, and Robert Stack, who I honestly only remember seeing in Unsolved Mysteries, is a riot as a drunken playboy. The story is nothing better than your average nighttime soap opera fare, and as stated earlier, the ending is sewn up a little too nicely and easily to be believed.

    What the film does have, however, is style to spare. In classic Douglas Sirk fashion, the vibrancy of the colors in the film is astounding, and the lush scenery and costumes are beautiful. One scene in particular that actually left me kind of breathless was a pivotal scene in the film where the father, Jasper, dies. Marylee has just picked up another guy, a gas station attendant this time, and was brought home by the cops. After marching upstairs defiantly, she puts on a Latin-style "cha-cha" type album with screaming trumpets and turns it up very loudly, while dancing around in her bedroom with this flowing dark pink nightgown on. We see the father walking up the stairs resolutely, but weakly, to confront her about it, but when he reaches the top of the stairs he collapses and falls down the entire staircase. Meanwhile, we still hear the music shrieking, and the shots of the father are intercut with his daughter dancing furiously and kicking her legs around in this pink gown. It is a stunning scene that lasts for only about 20 seconds, but was enough to make me sit up and take full notice. The melodrama factor in "Written on the Wind" is about as high as I've seen short of a Joan Crawford/Bette Davis film, and it is pretty delicious. Much like the great "deer scene" at the end of "Magnificent Obsession", "Written on the Wind" has its own overly done final scene. Marylee, left alone in the family house now that Kyle and her father are both deceased, watches Mitch and Lucy leave from her father's office window. She turns around and is wearing a prim suit (first time we've seen something like that on her) and as she sits at her father's desk, she clutches a model of an oil tower, mirroring the portrait of her father behind the desk. It is an absolute riot, pure and simple.

    "Written on the Wind" begins with the film's near conclusion, and the wind blows the pages of a day calendar back to show what happened in the preceding year leading up to the events. Unfortunately, the characters in the film were so shallowly presented, with little background, that I didn't feel a whole lot for them. However, that is not to say that the film is not well done or enjoyable. If anything, Douglas Sirk shows that he can take bland fare and turn it into a film that is both well-presented and easy to watch. It isn't remotely boring, nor is it believable, but it is great escapist cinema. Watching this film is like watching a good episode of Dynasty, or in recent programming, Desperate Housewives. I actually had a pretty low opinion of it on a surface level, but after reconstructing it in my mind I could not deny that the film was exactly what it set out to be, and that I had actually really enjoyed it for its extravagance. If you don't have an appetite or appreciation for this kind of drama, don't bother with the film; you'll hate it. If you do like and appreciate this type of film and subsequently, the work of Douglas Sirk, don't miss this one because it is actually a lot of fun. 6/10 --Shelly
  • moonspinner5528 October 2006
    Texas millionaire Robert Stack, into oil and the ladies, meets attractive executive secretary Lauren Bacall from New York--via best friend Rock Hudson, who already has eyes for her--and finds himself immediately proposing marriage; Hudson feels rightfully snubbed yet keeps up a brave front, but the Texan's rowdy sister (Dorothy Malone) gives the new lady a rude awakening to the lifestyles of the rich and ruthless. Overheated Douglas Sirk film mixes sweeping romance with hard-boiled melodrama and fisticuffs--obviously targeting both male and female audiences, though not quite disguising the standard soap opera trimmings. It's well-cast, well-upholstered, glossy and occasionally involving, but it seems a bit stale, like flat champagne. Malone has given much better performances than this, yet her goosey outrageousness was enough to win her the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress. The title song (sung by the Four Aces) is pretty, but its refrain sounds a bit like "When You Wish Upon A Star". Rock Hudson gives his usual strong-jawed performance, but didn't he get enough oil and misery from "Giant" this very same year? **1/2 from ****
  • jotix10022 August 2008
    Warning: Spoilers
    "Written on the Wind" was an enormously successful Universal picture. It could only be done by Douglas Sirk, a man who saw the possibilities in the material he was given. Based on a popular novel by Robert Wilder and an adaptation by George Zuckerman, it had all the elements that make an excellent melodrama: nymphomania, a large oil fortune, alcoholism, incest and a mild touch of homosexuality. Mr. Sirk laid the path for what would follow later on in the soap operas genre, mainly, "Dallas" and "Dynasty", just to mention two.

    The fact is this movie was shot entirely inside a studio. Most of the decor is phony. Like a lot of those 1950s pictures, "Written on the Wind" was shot entirely in a studio lot. Just look at the scenes that are supposed to take place in Manhattan, or Miami, or even the lake are, one can see how the scenery is a painted backdrop. Mr. Sirk couldn't care less about realism as long as he could tell the story his own way.

    We recently caught a screening, part of a revival of Mr. Sirk's work, where people were laughing at some of the most dramatic moments, especially during the scenes where Rock Hudson, who plays the good Mitch Wayne, appears. There is also something graphic in the way that both Robert Keith, who plays the patriarch Jasper Hadley, and later on his own daughter, the evil Marylee, caress the oil derrick that adorns the elder man's desk, a sort of phallic object d'art.

    Douglas Sirk probably wanted his cast to give over the top performances, which makes sense in the way Dorothy Malone portrays the nymphomaniac Marylee, and to a certain degree, Robert Stack, who overacts as Kyle, the tormented heir of the story. That would probably be the easy explanation of what comes across the screen. The only one that seems normal is Lauren Bacall, who wasn't asked to make her Lucy Moore character appear to be anything but a grounded person caught hanging out with the wrong crowd.

    Together with his other Hollywood movies, "Written on the Wind" shows the genius of a talented director who gave the public just what they wanted to see: stories bigger than life that could only be seen on the big screen
  • This gloriously turgid melodrama represents Douglas Sirk at his most high strung. It eschews the soft wistfulness of "All That Heaven Allows" and the weepy sentimentality of "Imitation of Life" and instead goes for feverish angst and overheated tension. And of course, it's all captured in vibrant Technicolor.

    The cornball story has something to do with a friendship between Rock Hudson and Robert Stack that becomes a rivalry when Hudson snags the affections of Lauren Bacall, but who's really paying attention to the story? Dorothy Malone won a Best Supporting Actress Academy Award for her splendidly over-the-top performance as Stack's sister, who takes the family business into her own hands when no one else will. A highlight of the film comes when this high-spirited wild child breaks into a frantic dance in her bedroom, unable to bear the restraints placed upon her by middle-class propriety. As so frequently happens in Sirk movies, the scene is both unintentionally hilarious in its absurdity and yet strangely moving in its effectiveness.

    Sirk came closer than anyone else to turning pure camp into high art, satisfying the philistines and the high brows at the same time within the same films. His was a unique talent and I don't know that there's ever been another film maker quite like him since.

    Grade: A-
  • Warning: Spoilers
    Douglas Sirk directs this over-acted drama about the unhappy affluent. Kyle Hadley(Robert Stack)and Mitch Wayne(Rock Hudson) are boyhood friends with different looks on life. Kyle is the womanizing son of an oil tycoon; Mitch works for the Hadley Oil Company. Both fall in love with the same woman, Lucy Moore; but it is Kyle that has the means to wow her off her feet and marry her. Sister Marylee(Dorothy Malone)seems to be the town's nymphomaniac and carrying a torch for Mitch, who always seems to be the one to clean up the Hadley's messes. Ambitious with pretension; a little over the top, but the stars make it a movie to see. I was most impressed with Malone. Rounding out the cast: Robert Keith, Edward Platt, John Lurch and Robert J. Wilke.
  • When I was studying English Literature as an undergraduate, I read a play called The Octoroon by one Dion Boucicault (spelling?), an Irishman (no kidding) with a panache for melodrama. Well, The Octoroon was, perhaps, the most reviling and offensive piece of literature I had ever read (until I picked up Tropic of Cancer anyway). Nevertheless, I absolutely loved the lurid story and the classic closing tableau of a silhouetted American Indian frozen, hatchet-bearing arm raised above the cowering "bad-guy." It was brilliant trash, really, eliciting from me the reaction opposite my professor's expectations. I believe he said something about needing to be able to recognize worthless literature as well as wonderful. Well, I thought the Octoroon, in its own way, was wonderful, even if I thought it was racist, sexist, ist ist ist ad infinitum. I read another Boucicault play while in Ireland (apparently, he's considered one of their greatest dramatists over there) and, though not quite as good, it was still rather wonderful melodrama. Boucicault's plays, to be told, are melodrama perfected and, if you like your stories over the top and busting at the seams, they're very enjoyable.

    Now, that brings us to Douglas Sirk: perfecter of the American melodrama in the 1950s. Unlike Boucicault, I would never doubt Sirk's talent, as his films reveal him as a true, visionary artist who was able to transform soap operatic stories into sublime motion pictures.

    His best, I believe, is Written on the Wind. Not to diminish the quality of All that Heaven Allows or Magnificent Obsession, but the story, mise en scene, and technicolor cinematography all come together so perfectly in Written that it's hard to argue against this film's placement at the top of Sirk's oeuvre.

    Written tells the tell of a thoroughly dysfunctional family of rich oil barons. Impotent sons, un-loving fathers, and nymphomaniac daughters all make an appearance. People die, go mad with un-requited love, wind up in court, smash cars, lie, drink heavily, fight, and on and on. The characters in this film do just about everything.

    As immensely entertaining as this story is, the reason people remember it (besides Robert Stack's wonderful performance as a raging drunk) is Sirk's masterful direction. The scenes make perfect use of the wide-screen format with painterly mise en scene. The colors are vibrant and lush. The cinematography - of both interiors and the flat landscape outdoors - is beautiful. Written on the Wind is simply gorgeous to look at. You could watch it without sound and still find it entertaining.

    Furthermore, though it definitely contains typically 50s sensibilities, it is a timeless story of unrequited love and jealousy that anyone can find, at the very least, entertaining if not brilliant.

    Watch this film; you will not be bored.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    When I think of something trashy and good, I'm thinking of something so bad it's good. Or maybe something that's trying really hard to please and is working, even if it is kind of crappy, maybe something like The Mummy Returns, which truly did please me. I don't think melodrama is in its nature trashy. This past weekend, I saw for the first time in my life Gone with the Wind, and, as God is my witness, I'm never watching that clumsy piece of filmmaking again. It is a florid melodrama, and so is Written on the Wind. But Written on the Wind handles itself so amazingly well. I almost wanted to clap when "The End" appeared on the screen. It is my personal Gone with the Wind, about 10 times better than that supposed masterpiece.

    POSSIBLE SPOILERS

    As for the writing, the story and the dialogue, it was all good. Maybe not the best in the world, but still quite good. I did care about the characters, a good (and necessary) sign for a drama. The only weak spot is the courtroom scene, which is particularly bad even for this most cliched type of scene. But it also incorporates a lot of Freudian touches into the script, so there is always more going on beneath the surface. Especially watch Marylee and the scenes involving her. Pay close attention to her final scene in the film, where she has sole control of the Hadley oil industry. Look at what she is holding in her hand, for instance (and make sure to notice the painting of her father behind her in this same scene).

    The acting was quite high quality, for the most part. Rock Hudson was good as the tough guy who has to try to keep the lid on his emotions. Robert Stack was excellent as a pathetic rich boy (he also played drunk well, which is very hard to do), and Dorothy Malone is a standout as the nympho sister who works as a catalyst for the harrowing climax. The only weak point in this cast is Lauren Bacall, who, while not bad, does not exhibit much depth in the role of the newcomer into the oil dynasty.

    The real point of light in the whole proceedings is Douglas Sirk. He is why I picked this film up. I had heard his name countless times in my readings, and had always been interested. I mean, go through any user comments on this site to any of his films. People will say how cheesy or soap-opera-like his films are, but they all still love his films (I don't recall a single negative comment in all of those that I read, and I read most of them). Any director who can do that, heck, any director who can be singled out as an auteur in the American studio system, deserves recognition. And Written on the Wind has an amazing style when compared to other Hollywood features of the same period. The way he moves his camera is quite a feat at times. Watch the way the camera rolls from Stack's yellow car to the upstairs bedroom window in the prologue/climactic scene, or how the camera follows the bartender through the beaded door, allowing the beads to graze the lense (most Hollywood films in the studio system would have done a lot to have avoided this, but it adds a particular feeling to what is happening in that scene), or, my favorite scene, watch both the camera placement (actually, here, the decision NOT to move the camera) and the editing of the sequence involving the father's death. Possibly the most noticeable technique that differentiates this film from other Hollywood films of the same era is the startling use of color. The production design is more reminiscent of an MGM musical than a melodrama. The way color is used is very painterly, of the more modern art variety like Lichtenstein and Warhol. I don't know exactly what Sirk did all that for, but it makes these color films much more impressive than the often boring realistic style used in most films of the same period. In fact, I generally prefer black and white to color at this period, because so many cinematographers were unskilled in the way of color yet. Watching Written on the Wind is something akin to a light acid trip, and I'm sure Sirk regained popularity in the late 60s because of it.

    All in all, Written on the Wind is quite spectacular. I can't wait to see more Sirk films. I just rented Imitation of Life and Magnificent Obsession, so hopefully they live up to the high standard Written on the Wind has already set. 9/10.
  • robman-52 December 2001
    Another in the they don't make em like that category. This story of a family with some real skeletons in its closet still qualifies as good clean, sometimes over-the-top fun. Robert Stack and Dorothy Malone are at their peak as the troubled Hadley siblings, and they really took the roles and ran with them. Malone won an Oscar and Stack was nominated in the supporting categories, both honors being eminently well-deserved. They counterbalance the somewhat bland leads. Neither Bacall nor Hudson could ever be called bad actors, but they've both had better parts and played them far more convincingly than they do here. It's kind of hard for me to accept Rock Hudson playing such a red-blooded heterosexual as he does here, but that's more of a personal bias than anything else. But that doesn't take away from the movie's overall entertainment value, which is considerable and this movie is extremely watchable. If you're up some night and this movie comes on I'd say watch it. It's well worth it.
  • was excited to finally obtain a copy of this movie, which isn't always easy to do. The DVD is too expensive to buy sight-unseen, so I grabbed a used VHS when I saw it on sale. For one, my brother had said "You HAVE to see Dorothy Malone in this film. She's unbelievable." Then, a bunch of classic film board posters had praised this film, so my interest was there.

    Well, one viewing was enough. I am just not a fan of soap operas, and this is so "soapy" you could fill a tub big enough to wash (you fill in the blank.)

    I have no problem with the four main actors of this film - Robert Stack, Rock Hudson, Lauren Bacall and Dorothy Malone - having enjoyed all of them in other movies/TV shows. However, the characters they played in this movie were unappealing. The only "normal" guy, ironically, turned out to be the one Rock Hudson played. Bacall's dialog, at least early on, was unrealistic; Malone's looks turned me off (I was spoiled, having seen her look fantastic in other things; here she was just cheap-looking , which was what they wanted); and Stack, well, he was just plain super-annoying. That's what soap fans want, anyway: annoying, loser-type people. Me, I prefer some nice, normal characters.

    So, if you like whining drunks, squabbling siblings, stupid romances, etc., this is your cup of tea. However, one thing in here that was to interest was the color palate: it's pretty wild. I'm sure this looked a lot better on DVD than on the tape I watched.

    To be fair, the film is okay and the story is just fine for what it is: a '50s melodrama. It's a good movie for those who like this genre. I'm just not a fan of these overwrought stories, but I'll still rate the movie decently for what it presents: good acting, a somewhat-involving story and interesting cinematography with a wild color scheme.
  • Kyle Hadley (Robert Stack) is an obnoxious, spoiled and selfish playboy. He and his assistant, Mitch (Rock Hudson) fall for the same woman (Lauren Bacall) but Kyle somehow wins her with his charming personality. I say 'somehow' because after this, you see very little of his charm--mostly the actions of a boorish, sulking jerk. He immediately takes his wife for granted and you feel for the lady. As for Mitch, he can't stay--as he is carrying a torch for this now married woman. And then there's Marylee (Dorothy Malone), Kyle's rather obnoxious sister. She's in love with Mitch but Mitch tells her he's not interested. When Mitch doesn't reciprocate, she decides to destroy herself and everyone around her. And then, there's Kyles 'man problem'*...what's to become of that?

    Does this all sound like a bit of fluff--like just another soap opera? Well, yes, but it is a very glossy and pretty soaper--thanks to director Douglas Sirk, who made a name for himself by making what was essentially high-quality trash. Films like "Magnificent Obsession**", "All That Heaven Allows" and "Imitation of Life**" were all about rich, bored and screwed up pretty folks. In many ways, these films are a lot like forerunners of shows like "Dallas" and "Dynasty". In other words, they appeal to a certain niche--and if you like this sort of thing, Sirk was great in creating them. He did, however, make MANY films that did not fit this mold--though today he is most known for the soaps. As for me, I am not a huge fans of soaps. This doesn't mean they are bad--just not the sort of genre that usually appeals to me. Additionally, there wasn't any subtlety about this film (except in what I mention below*)--it was loud, crass and bigger than life (particularly in regard to Malone's character). I also think it plays better if you see it as a comedy and not a drama--especially since Malone's and Stack's characters are so ridiculous and over-done! But, in an odd way, it IS entertaining...I will give it that!

    Oddly, despite all this, Sirk and his melodramas have been adored by the French New Wave writers and directors--and perhaps that is why the film has been released as part of the much-heralded Criterion Collection. For me, I just cannot see what they see in this--it's just a soaper...and a rather trashy one at that for its time.

    *Because it was the 1950s, the script really didn't know what to do with Kyle. Sirk envisioned the man as a closeted homosexual. However, they couldn't put that in American films at that time due to the Production Code, so they talked about him having some 'problem' that prevented the couple from having kids. Talk about cryptic and silly! The viewers might have thought he was impotent or had poor sperm motility or was chronically constipated or had major Freudian issues or goodness knows what!! Having him being clearly gay would have improved the film tremendously and made sense of some of the plot.

    **These were remakes and especially in the case of "Imitation of Life", the original was much better. However, I am a guy who almost never likes remakes.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    Written on the Wind is on par with Douglas Sirk's other cinematic experiments and is aided considerably by a most skilled cast.

    Particularly, the entire film hinges on Dorothy Malone's performance. She is the one who sells us the bill of goods at the end. And if she happened to be unconvincing, then we would feel that the entire 99 minutes was lost. But she does save the film at the end. And it is not surprising that for her efforts, she did receive the Oscar for a best supporting performance. Her scenes in the courtroom make it clear to us that not only is her brother Kyle (Robert Stack in an Oscar-nominated performance) a sad waste of a life, but they all are living a nothing existence-- except those who manage to get away (which is what Lauren Bacall and Rock Hudson must do in the last shots). Malone's character will never get away, having been forced to take over the family business at the end. It's a very sobering conclusion.

    In the meanwhile, Sirk fills the earlier portions of the film with inspired mise-en-scene which continues to build the tension and suggest the inevitable outcome for these characters. At every turn, the director is offering motifs and manipulating them carefully, often without our noticing. The scene where Stack throws the drink into the mirror is not only played for dramatic effect but is rich with symbolism. Another important moment occurs when the father (Robert Keith) is experiencing a heart attack on the stairs. Sirk does not allow the camera to linger on the old man during this display like most directors might be tempted to do. Instead he inserts quick cuts to other members of the household, experiencing their own mini-attacks of anguish at the same time.

    As a result, Sirk provides quite a searing tale about the so-called lives of the spoiled rich in a desolate oil town. He brings us into the world of its interconnected destinies and the smoldering passions of its inhabitants. He holds us hostage and doesn't let us go.
  • Presently, a shooting occurs at the Texas mansion owned by the oil-rich Hadley family. In a flashback, we witness what led up to the apparent tragedy… Over a year ago, handsome Hadley geologist Rock Hudson (as Mitch Wayne) meets attractive secretary Lauren Bacall (as Lucy Moore) in New York. He is interested in her, but she is taken by Mr. Hudson's childhood chum, the "Prince Charming" of the Hadley oil empire, Robert Stack (as Kyle Hadley). An alcoholic playboy, Mr. Stack settles down when he meets Ms. Bacall. But family problems and old demons eventually return...

    One problem is sexually-charged sister Dorothy Malone (as Marylee Hadley). She suffering from unrequited love for Hudson, who only has eyes for Bacall. She doesn't get the man she wants, but Ms. Malone has a active sex life as the town tramp. She moves from bar to bedroom with ease and will even take the guy who pumps her gas to a motel. Service station attendant Grant Williams gets the invite. Hadley patriarch Robert Keith (as Jasper Hadley) is furious. Stack and Malone, the doomed and tormented brother-sister duo, steal the show. They are an indictment of industrialized wealth...

    "Written on the Wind" won Malone the "Film Daily" and "Academy Award" honor as "Best Supporting Actress" of the year. Stack was nominated by both groups, but it turned out to be Anthony's year (Perkins for the former in "Friendly Persuasion" and Quinn for the latter in "Lust for Life"). Neither director Douglas Sirk nor cinematographer Russell Metty received noms, although both are award-worthy. Moving his players artfully in and around the Hadley mansion, Mr. Sirk is in peak form. And, you can't be bored in a courtroom scene when Malone's hat repeatedly slices the movie screen.

    ********* Written on the Wind (12/12/56) Douglas Sirk ~ Rock Hudson, Lauren Bacall, Robert Stack, Dorothy Malone
  • gavin69428 August 2013
    Alcoholic playboy Kyle Hadley (Robert Stack) marries the woman (Lauren Bacall) secretly loved by his poor but hard-working best friend (Rock Hudson), who in turn is pursued by Kyle's nymphomaniac sister (Dorothy Malone).

    I love that the Criterion disc says it is presented in "lurid Technocolor". Not sure that is a compliment, but the film's palette is definitely brighter and more overwhelming than most films. And not in a bad way.

    I find it sad that director Douglas Sirk is largely forgotten and it took a German director, Rainer Fassbinder, to bring him back. There really needs to be a re-examining of his boundary-pushing films.
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