Archive for December 1956

Written on the Wind

December 12, 1956

“You’re a filthy liar.”

“I’m filthy, period.”

I have to love a movie in which a miserable rich alcoholic (Robert Stack) has an exchange like that with his swankily skanky sister (Dorothy Malone, winning an Oscar for being filthy, period). Written on the Wind, one of the kitschily revered über-melodramas directed by Douglas Sirk, is a continuous aria of need, despair, self-loathing. It says “Money can’t buy you happiness” in 72-point all-caps Futura Bold. Rock Hudson is Stack’s lifelong buddy, a geologist who works for Stack’s daddy’s oil company. Rock falls hard for Lauren Bacall, who’s just started in the company’s advertising department, but Stack lays claim to her and seems to cling desperately to her, throwing money around to impress her. The money doesn’t wow Bacall, but probably something in his flailing (yet carefully suave) attempts to sway her touches her, and they’re soon married. Then the real troubles begin.

This one’s only for those with a strong appreciation for ’50s cheese, and nobody served it up with more of a flourish than Sirk; this is no chick flick but a fire-breathing tragedy of the gods, mounted with such intensity and conviction that you come to laugh with it more than at it. Malone’s Best Supporting trophy was well-deserved — every minute she’s onscreen is a guaranteed injection of fun — and Stack, Bacall, and even the stoic Hudson get meaty scenes to bite into. Great, foolish, high-pitched stuff.