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All That Heaven Allows

  • Directed by Douglas Sirk
  • United States, 1955, 89 mins., English

Douglas Sirk made a career on moody melodramas, and perhaps none is more effective at evoking the repression of 1950s America than All That Heaven Allows. Cary Scott (Jane Wyman) is an upper-crust widow with a generally good life. Enter Ron Kirby (Rock Hudson), a landscape architect much younger than Cary, who nonetheless catches her eye due to his down-to-earth demeanor. It’s clear the two love each other, but Cary’s repressive milieu, including her adult children, disapprove of the fledgling romance. Sirk’s film is an intelligent and sensitive glimpse into mid-century New England social mores prismatically rendered through one of classical Hollywood’s great love stories. And yet, there is so much more going on in the film: “Sirk’s meaning is conveyed almost entirely by his mise-en-scene—a world of glistening, treacherous surfaces, of objects that take on a terrifying life of their own; he is one of those rare filmmakers who insist that you read the image.”—Dave Kehr, The Chicago Reader.

Genres: Melodrama

Other Films by Douglas Sirk

First Legion

One of Sirk’s most unusual and explicitly philosophical films, this adaptation of Emmet Lavery’s 1934 play centers on a Jesuit seminary where an apparent miracle draws hordes of hysterical supplicants and sparks an internal debate over the validity of the alleged visitation. Working in a very different vein from the baroque flamboyance of his later