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Magnificent Obsession (1954, Jane Wyman, Rock Hudson)



Magnificent Obsession, together with All That Heaven Allows and Imitation of Life, is one of Douglas Sirk’s finest lush big-budget melodramas, enhanced by the lavish colour photography of Russell Metty. Rock Hudson, in his first big Hollywood role, plays playboy Bob Merrick. Involved in a speedboat crash, his life is saved by a resuscitation unit that could have saved the life of a respected doctor. Attempting to make amends, he approaches the doctor’s widow Helen Phillips (Jane Wyman) but she, and her family refuse to have anything to do with him. When he approaches her again, fleeing his advances, she is knocked down by a car, an accident that renders her blind.

Merrick, now doubly torn by grief, sends her to the finest doctors in Zurich but they are unable to cure her. Merrick travels to meet her and they enjoy a brief idyll but when he proposes, she flees again. Merrick decides to assuage his guilt by taking up his abandoned medical studies and becomes a famous brain surgeon. Then word reaches him that Helen is in New Mexico and near to death. He travels to her side, operates and she, successfully cured and sight restored, realises he has become as good a man as her late husband and they are happily reunited.

This second version of this film (the first was in 1935) relies on coincidence, suspension of belief (Hudson just happening to be the one man who can cure Wyman’s condition) and the knowledge that there will, of course, be a happy ending. Sirk’s assured hand and the performance of the two leads (particularly Oscar-nominated Wyman) make this a genuine melodrama and compares, for example to Orphans of The Storm or Letter from an Unknown Woman, as classics of the genre.

production details
USA | 108 minutes | 1954

Director: Douglas Sirk
Script: Robert Blees, Wells Root, Lloyd C. Douglas,

Agnes Moorehead as Nancy Ashford
Gregg Palmer as Tom Masterson
Paul Cavanagh as Dr. Henry Giraud
Barbara Rush as Joyce Phillips
Jane Wyman as Helen Phillips
Rock Hudson as Bob Merrick
Otto Kruger as Edward Randolph
Sara Shane as Valerie Daniels
Judy Nugent as Judy
Richard H. Cutting as Dr. Derwin Dodge
Will J. White as State Police Sergeant Bill Ames
Helen Kleeb as Mrs. Eden
Rudolph Anders as Dr. Albert Fuss
Fred Nurney as Dr. Laradetti
William Leslie as Bar Patron (uncredited)