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Jasper Hadley (Robert Stack) is the playboy heir to an oil fortune who, along with his best friend Mitch Wayne (Rock Hudson), has been hell-raising since childhood. Growing up together along with Jasper's kid sister Marylee (Dorothy Malone) who is deeply in love with Mitch, the two have shared everything. But in their adult lives resentment grows. When Mitch introduces Jasper to advertising executive secretary Lucy Moore (Lauren Bacall), Jasper whisks her off her feet and, after a whirl-wind romance, the two are married. After a year of marriage, problems arise between Jasper and the kind-hearted Lucy and, when fuel is thrown on their emotional fire by the now scandalous nymphet Marylee and Mitch's true feelings for Lucy are revealed, hateful and murderous intentions grow.

Review by Craig Miller:
A sordid tale of personal corruption and debauchery surrounding the inner world of a powerful, rich American family sounds like a story straight from the pages of a well-worn 1980s soapie, right, nothing special. Well the prolific filmmaking career of director Douglas Sirk in the 1950s was full of these melodramatic gems and his technicolour wonderments, like the 1956 offering Written on the Wind, paving the way for the Dallases and Dynasties of our more modern times.

Ok, so it would be ambitious and somewhat naive to attribute Sirk with influencing the whole genre single-handedly, but what his films did do was give the mainstream studio system in America a lot to think about when the general public flocked to see his over-the-top dramas in a time of social and personal repression.

In Written on the Wind, Sirk investigates the quintessential American success story, a fabulously rich Texan oil family, drowning in a sea of dysfunction and self absorption and on the brink of imploding. The family members are all sickeningly shallow in their desires and it's here where Sirk really excels, with much to say about the American culture, the corruptive power of wealth and the emotional subtleties of ordinary, everyday life.

He was often accused of bringing more to these "types" of films than was warranted, but this flair for the over-dramatic and his taste for the strong emotional side of life combine flawlessly to give us real character insight and a much deeper look at the human condition.

The story's primary focus is the siblings and their relationships with two outsiders who they bring into their worlds. The contrasting lifestyles of the four main characters allows Sirk plenty of room to explore personal relationships and he fuels it with a cocktail of bourgeois corruptibility, alcoholism, sexuality and infidelity that satisfy all your melodramatic needs.

The casting is perfection. Mr reliable Rock Hudson stars as the caring brother-like figure to Robert Stack's playboy boozer, and he's the emotional glue that holds the whole sordid world together. Lauren Bacall delivers a solid, yet somewhat reserved performance as the woman the two men love and Dorothy Malone, whose role as the nympho sister to Stack's rich boy slacker won her an Academy Award, is a devilish delight.

Many profess director Douglas Sirk to be a perfecter of melodrama; a filmmaker whose 1950s golden age saw him pump out some of the most lurid and trashy films released from within the mainstream studio system. Looking at these films today, in particular Written on the Wind, they are more akin to the modern-day soap opera and totally relatable to us as modern audiences. It's just such classy trash!

Published April 28, 2005

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(US, 1956)

CAST: Rock Hudson, Lauren Bacall, Robert Stack, Dorothy Malone, Robert Keith, Grant Williams, Robert J. Wilke, Edward Platt

DIRECTOR: Douglas Sirk

SCRIPT: George Zuckerman, based on a novel by Robert Wilder

RUNNING TIME: 95 minutes

PRESENTATION: Widescreen 1.85:1, Dolby mono



DVD RELEASE: March 23, 2005

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