Written on the Wind (1956)

Genres - Drama  |   Sub-Genres - Melodrama, Family Drama  |   Run Time - 99 min.  |   Countries - United States   |   MPAA Rating - NR
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Douglas Sirk's lurid melodrama could well be the most gloriously hyperbolic of the German-born director's films. One of his now-heralded "women's pictures" for Universal in the 1950s, Written on the Wind finds Sirk once again elevating what he himself called "impossible" material to the level of pop art. The trite plot, bubbling with dime-store psychology and Freudian innuendo, follows the heated shenanigans of an unhappy foursome: sibling oil-dynasty millionaires Kyle (Robert Stack) and Marylee Hadley (Dorothy Malone); Lucy Moore (Lauren Bacall), Kyle's new wife; and Mitch Wayne (Rock Hudson), the Hadleys' best friend since childhood. The actors dig into their roles with gusto. Stack and Malone were both nominated for their hammy supporting turns, while Hudson's performance as the virile Mitch rivals his role in the previous year's All That Heaven Allows in its part-iconic, part-parodic embodiment of frontier masculinity. Sirk places his characters in a garish Texas landscape of bold colors, shiny surfaces and vulgar opulence. The hyperstylized visuals transform the hokum into something else altogether: a deliriously excessive representation of a vacuous America. Shameless soaper that it is, the movie does occasionally succumb to camp and datedness. For the most part, however, Written on the Wind holds up, a robust and enjoyable epitome of Sirk's formally audacious cinema.