ALL THAT HEAVEN ALLOWS directed by Douglas Sirk (USA, 1955)

heavenThis is a curious role for Rock Hudson who seems to be under instructions to play down his heart-throb potential while still looking as rugged and dreamy as a younger Elvis.

As gardner and handyman Ron Kirby, he is courteous to a tee but rather than the chivalrous, respectful image he seems to be aiming for, he actually manages to appear quite creepy. A few times you suspect he might be doing what her bitchy neighbors and stuck up kids fear and exploiting the wealthy widow to get his hands on her fortune.

As a result, it’s easy to see how this movie could have become a Hitchcock-style drama instead of a romantic melodrama.

In part this is due to the fact that there is very little chemistry between the well healed but lonely Jane Wyman as Cary Scott and Hudson as the ‘nature boy’. She wears some slinky dresses but never really looks sexy enough to convince you that she would turn the head of the younger man.

And the only time you see the other, lighter side of Hudson is at a party when he dances and sings in quite a farcical manner – see clip below .

This does enough to show the gulf between her repressed social life and the earthier world he inhabits. This is also illustrated by  the way the  drab formality of her home contrasts with the rich splendour of his country retreat where the autumnal colours and cosy indoor scenes stand for the passion and intimacy she’s missing  out on.

A more modern movie would have steamier scenes but , as this is the 1950s, the hot-blooded sheenanigans have to be suggested rather than depicted.

This is an unconventional movie which could and probably should have taken even more risks than it does. Call me cynical but in many ways I feel that a tragic ending would have made it more memorable. Instead, it all ends on a predictably sentimental note.

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