Thursday, May 7, 2009

Magnificent Obsession

(1935, USA, 102m, b/w)
d John Stahl p John Stahl, Fred S. Meyer sc Sarah Y. Mason, Victor Heerman, George O’Neil ph John J. Mescall ad Charles D. Hall m Franz Waxman cast Irenne Dunne, Robert Taylor, Betty Furness, Charles Butterworth, Ralph Morgan, Sara Haden

Original of the better-known Sirk film: whereas in the latter’s Imitation of Life Lana Turner is no match for Claudette Colbert in Stahl’s original (and John Gavin is no match for anyone) here the prototype suffers by comparison. Even if the stiff 30s sound-stage style cannot quite quell the melodramatic intensity of the plot, high-pitched expository dialogue settles into a stuffiness that would be unsatisfactory even without comparisons to the unstoppable force of Sirk’s headlong soap opera. The rather serious flow is interrupted by irrelevant comic interludes involving Butterworth, the inexplicably aged suitor/husband of Dunne’s step-daughter Furness (herself pleasing sharp at times). Dunne is fine if colourless, and Taylor remains effectively haunted by remorse, but also somewhat unlikable, and his transformation to the do-gooding philosophy of the Christ-like doctor who died in his stead is never quite convincing (too much eye-shadow doesn’t help).

© Time Out Film Guide

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