ALL I DESIRE (director: Douglas Sirk; screenwriters: from the novel Stopover by Carol Brink/Robert Blees/James Gunn/Gina Kaus; cinematographer: Carl E. Guthrie; editor: Milton Carruth; music: David Lieberman; cast: Barbara Stanwyck (Naomi Murdoch), Richard Carlson (Henry Murdoch), Lyle Bettger (Dutch Heineman), Marcia Henderson (Joyce Murdoch), Lori Nelson (Lily Murdoch), Maureen O’Sullivan (Sara Harper), Richard Long (Russ Underwood), Billy Gray (Ted Murdoch), Lotte Stein (Lena Engstrom); Runtime: 85; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Ross Hunter; Universal Pictures; 1953)
“All the flaws cannot be attributed to Sirk, who does fine work slicing up small-town America’s bourgeois life.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
Douglas Sirk (“Interlude”/”The First Legion”/”Magnificent Obsession”) helms this routine soap opera about a failed actress returning to her hick town after deserting her family of three. It’s based on the novel Stopover by Carol Brink and adapted to the screen by Robert Blees, James Gunn and Gina Kaus. The producer Ross Hunter forced a misplaced happy ending, which doesn’t help but doesn’t completely ruin the film. All the flaws cannot be attributed to Sirk, who does fine work slicing up small-town America’s bourgeois life and its stodgy ideas of morality.
Vaudeville actress Naomi Murdoch (Barbara Stanwyck) ran away ten years ago from gentle school teacher Henry Murdoch (Richard Carlson) and her three kiddies in the rural town of Riverdale, Wisconsin, but never made the grade to Broadway though her family thinks she became a recognized New York actress. Graduating high school daughter Lili (Lori Nelson), the younger of the two daughters, writes her a letter to see her high school graduation play and on an impulse Naomi returns. Hunting store owner Dutch Heineman (Lyle Bettger) was the stud Naomi had a clandestine affair with that forced her to leave rather than face the music of small-town gossips. Dutch tries to force her into continuing the affair, but Naomi realizes she loves her husband and children and wants nothing to do with him. Naomi’s behavior is put under the microscope by Sirk, and hubby’s repressions and her fears and desires are closely examined as it builds to the couple’s unexpected reconciliation. Though on the surface it preserves family values, its underlying tract is a subversive offering of how stifling is small-town life and how it makes its citizens conform and give up on their dreams. The film was heading for an obvious unhappy ending when Mr. Ross stepped in and thought he was rescuing it by sprinkling virtue all over the set with a happy reconciliation, but the way Sirk filmed it by having a disillusioned Naomi returning to her miserable past to start over again realizing that she has run out of options and it’s safer to conform than follow one’s dreams makes that happy ending very suspect.
REVIEWED ON 3/8/2007 GRADE: B
Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”
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