For my contribution for the Agnes Moorehead Blogathon, I signed up to write about one of the best melodramas from the 1950s, Magnificent Obsession.
Although Agnes Moorehead plays a supporting role in this film as Jane Wyman’s friend/ nurse, Nancy, her role is an important one- for without her Jane’s character Helen, would be totally lost and left to navigate on her own.
I have never seen a Douglas Sirk film before (or a Jane Wyman one,either) so I was very excited to do this blogathon! Personally, I was extremely keen to view this film in particular as the creator of the Australian television show A Place To Call Home took heavy inspiration from this movie for the show. Looking back, I feel the creator did a superb job taking both cinematic elements and dramatic elements and incorporating them into his melodramatic 1950s period drama. (Seriously check it out! Its a great TV show! If you love the 1950s and period pieces- go watch it!!! Non spoiler description here)
For those who may be unfamiliar, the 1954 version of Magnificent Obsession is a remake (I myself have yet to see the 1935 original version with Irene Dunne), yet it is has surpassed the original in terms of popularity. Its theme and feel are very similar to that of An Affair to Remember (1957; which itself is a remake of 1939’s Love Affair). With lush technicolor scenes, dramatic plot twists, and plenty of romantic moments, Magnificent Obsession provides exactly what the name suggests.
The story is kind of a crazy one, You see, Rock Hudson’s character, Bob, gets into a speedboat accident- and then has to be resuscitated, but in a turn of events, the Doctor, Dr. Phillips, who saved him- dies. The Doctor’s widow, Helen then is left on her own, while Bob who is hated by everyone for causing Dr. Phillip’s death. In an effort to get to know Helen better, Bob tries to befriend her, but she rejects his advances. But- in another turn of events, by rejecting Bob, Helen then is run over and blinded by a passing car. Bob, then commits his life to medicine to become a doctor and by doing so, falls in love with Helen.
The lovely Miss Moorehead comes into play as Nancy Ashford, who is Helen’s friend and Nurse. Because Helen is blind, Nancy sort of acts as her eyes doing simple things for Helen, such as writing letters, and keeping her company,and even being a travel companion. I just thought Nancy was a wonderful friend- so patient and kind to Helen- the exact caretaker I would want in a bad situation.
The group of Hudson, Wyman, and Moorehead, and director Douglas Sirk was so successful that all of them reunited a year later to make All That Heaven Allows, with Hudson and Wyman again as love interests. (I have not yet seen it, so I’m not sure what role Moorehead plays).
In short, I can’t wait to add this movie to my collection once it becomes available on Blu-Ray (COME ON CRITERION!!!). Its just one of those feel good movies you can watch on a rainy (or snowy!) day. It transports you to another world and now, I wanna go out and buy these sunglasses!
There’s certainly nothing quite like Magnificent Obsession– go out and watch it today!
*Available on DVD from the Criterion Collection