WRITTEN ON THE WIND

a film by Douglas Sirk released through Universal Pictures in 1956

Sire to audacious '80s prime-time soaps, Written on the Wind, despite shocking content for its day, doesn't sink to the gauche, tacky-sicko depths of its illegitimate progeny. It is solidly constructed and powerfully acted.

The exhilaration of this trenchant Douglas Sirk expose of the not-so-idle rich lay, in part, in the guilty feelings of the audience.  It wants to see these characters suffer out of spite; how it would love to wallow in such opulence!  But then, ironically, as the miserable lives of the hopeless wrecks unwind on the screen, the more plebian realities just outside the exit doors suddenly seem more tolerable—even welcoming—than just two hours previous.  Such a tectonic shift in perspective/perception is strangely cathartic.  Other Southern gothics like The Long Hot Summer (1958) don't seduce the audience with comparable staging and lighting.  Indeed, Douglas Sirk was one of a kind.  He was laying the groundwork for his masterpiece, the anything-but-lurid, stylish and sober Imitation of Life.

Inspired by the scandalous death of tobacco-fortune heir and dissolute aviator-playboy Z. Smith Reynolds, Written on the Wind is a surprisingly thought-provoking examination of two interlocking love triangles, the burdens carried forward from childhood, and the desperate need to escape our very selves.  Deserving of careful study, this is an engrossing classic.

 

★★★★☆

Best for ages 12+

 

 

FEATURING

ROCK HUDSON, LAUREN BACALL, ROBERT STACK, AND DOROTHY MALONE

© 2023 Ian C. Bloom