Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:
- Alcoholism and Drug Addiction
- Class Relations
- Dorothy Malone Films
- Douglas Sirk Films
- Lauren Bacall Films
- Love Triangle
- Robert Stack Films
- Rock Hudson Films
Response to Peary’s Review:
Peary notes that this “tempestuous melodrama” — “produced by Albert Zugsmith… and directed by Douglas Sirk, the German emigre who made films about American life and family” — features “strong performances, especially by an extremely sexy Dorothy Malone” (who won an Oscar for her supporting work here), and “ranks with The Tarnished Angels  as Sirk’s best work”. He points out that “as in all good potboilers, the characters are driven by their passions and are surrounded by destructive forces: those characters who are destroyed also have destructive forces emanating from the inside”. As argued by Tim Dirks on his Greatest Films site, the film critiques “the underlying hollowness and shallowness of American society in the placid 1950s,” portraying “misfit lives stunted and corrupted by mental anguish, alcoholism, sexual frustration, and corruptible materialistic wealth”. And, as noted in Bright Lights’ review, the presence of “private jets, rivers of booze, barroom fisticuffs, shiny clothes, and a forest of phallic oil derricks” link this film inextricably to its heirs apparent — the popular television series “Dynasty” and “Dallas”.
While Sirk’s previous films — such as Magnificent Obsession (1954) and All That Heaven Allows (1955) — afforded audiences the opportunity to relate to the central female protagonist’s romantic and social crises, such an association is less obvious here. Presumably, audiences were meant to primarily sympathize with Bacall’s character:
… who is lured into a world of wealth and privilege in part due to her compassion for such an obviously “broken” man as Stack (who comes across as oddly sympathetic, despite his character’s deep-seated flaws; Stack is in fine form).
Meanwhile, Hudson’s “Mitch Wayne” is a likable, no-nonsense counterpart for male audiences to relate to.
But it’s Malone’s sexy, deeply troubled “Marylee” who is ultimately most memorable here, with her drunken, frenzied dervish (cross-cut with her father’s death) a disturbing highlight of the film.
She and her brother are clear cautionary evidence of the way in which “those who have money… are doomed, as if money created bad genes”. One may leave the film feeling oddly grateful for not being wealthy.
Redeeming Qualities and Moments:
- Dorothy Malone as Marylee Hadley
- Robert Stack as Kyle Hadley
- Rock Hudson as Mitch Wayne
- Vibrant sets and Technicolor cinematography
Yes, as a mid-century melodramatic classic — and for Malone’s Oscar-winning supporting performance.
- Important Director
- Oscar Winner or Nominee
(Listed in 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die)