In 1900, Naomi Murdoch deserted her small-town family to go on the stage. Some ten years later, daughter Lily invites Naomi back to see her in the Riverdale high school play. Her arrival sets the whole town abuzz, wakes up old conflicts, and sets off new emotional storms.
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Douglas Sirk was the prince of the melodrama in thefifties.However,there are two kinds of melodramas in his work :theextravaganzas ("Imitation of life" which nearly cut Stahl'sversion,"written on the wind" "magnificent obsession" ) and theintimate dramas which verge on realism: "all that heaven allows" or"tarnished angels" are good examples.When he connects all the links ofthe chain ,he produces his masterpiece ,the overlooked "a time to loveand a time to die" ."All I desire " belongs to the second kind of melodrama;its story issimple -but that kind of simplicity ,it takes years and years ofpractise and a touch of genius to make it work.Barbara Stanwyck-excellent- is the black sheep of the family,the mean woman who walkedout on her family and what a nice family they are!In the small townwhere her husband is a principal in a high school ,people will talk.Andthere's the prodigal woman's erstwhile beau.(Re)building of a family was one of Sirk's main permanent features:Hudson and Wyman in "ALL that heavens" and "magnificent obsession",Sarah Jane and her mother's friends in "imitation of life" .
If you like soap operas you would like this movie.It is a little like the soap opera Santa Barbara when Sophia (Judith McConnell) came back to the family.Lori Nelson who co starred in the syndicated 1950's "How To Marry A Millionaire" with Barbara Eden and Merry Anders plays the daughter in the movie who wants to be an actress.Marcia Henderson who co starred in the movie "The Wayward Girl" with Barbara Eden plays Lori Nelson's character's sister in the movie.
Here we are again, folks, Sudsville, USA, Douglas Sirk, sole owner andproprietor. At one level this is Meet Me In St Louis without thetechnicolor and the songs and also, it must be said, without VincenteMinnelli. Sirk is one of those directors you either love or can take orleave but who could never be accused of less than fine craftsmanship.It's 1910 and Barbara Stanwyck is lying a bad second to Fink's Mules onthe vaudeville circuit; years ago she abandoned her husband andchildren to become a star on Broadway except someone forgot to tell theProducers and she ended up one stop away from burlesque. At this lowpoint she receives a letter from her daughter (no one bothered towonder just HOW the daughter got her address) who's about to graduateand will be appearing in her High School play. Against her betterjudgment Stanwyck goes back for the gig, sets tongues wagging anew and,in the fullness of time, is reconciled with her high school principaldull husband, Richard Carlson. It's a fairly painless way to spend 100minutes or so, Stanwyck didn't know how to turn in a bad performanceand Billy Gray, playing her youngest son, would soon be familiar toDoris Day fans when he played Wesley Winfield in On Moonlight Bay andits sequel By The Light Of The Silvery Moon. Certainly worth a look.
A failed actress returns to the family, the lover and the small townshe abandoned years earlier and sets tongues wagging anew. Does it rankup there with ALL THAT HEAVEN ALLOWS or IMITATION OF LIFE? No, notreally. It all wraps up too neatly (the "happy" ending was forced bythe producer), Lyle Bettger has the charisma of a toilet brush (whywould Barbara Stanwyck ever fall for this lummox?) and it's pointlesslyset in the early part of the century. The only rationale I can think offor the latter is that Stanwyck's lack of success would be harder tokeep a secret in modern times, but it takes the edge off and makes thewhole thing a bit too quaint. However, it's not really a dud, either.It's a tight script, Stanwyck is riveting as always, and Sirk's eye forbrilliant framing is hard at work. It makes for a quick, easy watchwith some slight subversiveness in its commentary on small town gossipand hypocrisy.
A great fan of Stanwyck's work I was quite entertained by this film; but only because she was in it - most of the other players are dull and mealy in contrast to the realistically alive Stanwyck. She's Naomi who's come back to the family she left for the stage ten years before. Needless to say that she ISN'T warmly received (except by the cook). Her daughter wants to be an actress as well (she has two; the other won't have anything to do with her) In a great scene Stanwyck chides "You have a mother with questionable morals and I've got a daughter with no GUTS" Director Douglas Sirk was in awe of Stanwyck. Said he about the actress: "She impresses me as someone who has been touched deeply by life in some way; she has great depth as a person and that's exactly what the audience sees on the screen; for that reason, she is a great star. Notice that Richard Long appears in this little flick which was made a dozen years before he and Stanwyck would star in the great western series THE BIG VALLEY!
Barbar Stanwyck, Maureen O'Sullivan, Richard Carlson and Lyle Bettgermake up the leading cast in this Ross Hunter-produced and DouglasSirk-directed film. Stanwyck goes back home to her small town and thefamily she left behind, after receiving a letter from her oldestdaughter, who's starring in a school play and graduating from highschool, and who asked her to attend. Stanwyck is an stage actress, buthasn't found much success, and when she hits the small town, gossipflies. Her son just happens to be fishing buddies and best friends withLyle Bettger, a guy who had an affair with Barbara, before she up andleft. And, Miss O'Sullivan is on hand as a love interest for Richard,even though Barbara's new presence puts a fly in their plans. Does hestill love Barbara? Does Barbara still love Richard? And, Lyle Bettgeris all upset with Barbara for leaving him. That pretty much sets upanother melodramatic story, courtesy of Hunter and Sirk. The only critique or negative thing I have about it, is that it takesitself too seriously too early in the picture and gets reallymelodramatic really fast, instead of easing into the melodrama, and thedramatic events evolving and complicating their lives. Thenot-so-subtle score also adds to the dramatics. Bettger and Carlsonseem to be overacting, especially Carlson, who appears to beuncomfortable in this movie. (In other words, they and the movie seemto be overdoing it a bit.) But, as we get to the second half and morecomplications ensue, this begins to find its heart and the dialogue isa lot more believable and realistic. Carlson and Bettger appear to havesettled into their roles. Stanwyck is always great, as usual. The onlyother question is why did Richard Carlson get this role, instead ofsomeone like George Brent or a more charismatic leading actor? But onthe whole, you will definitely enjoy this film and be glad you'vediscovered this unknown melodrama. It can be found on a new BarbaraStanwyck DVD collection out in 2010. I could watch it again right now,and this cold weather makes me want to snuggle in for a nice quietSaturday afternoon with Barbara Stanwyck. Who could ask for anythingmore?