Magnificent Obsession (1954)
Reviewed on 2007 July 2
I heard about this cornfest from 1954 but never got to see it until last night. It wasn’t a bad two hours, despite the heavy-handed message and the layer of treacle over the whole thing.
Bob Merrick (Rock Hudson) is a wealthy playboy who does goofy things like race boats in waters he shouldn’t, at speeds they can’t handle. He was studying to be a doctor, but his father’s death at an early age made him decide life is too short to waste studying and working. He uses his father’s fortune to pursue more pressing matters, like getting pickled on fine wines and chasing women. The idiot’s hobbies eventually kill the local hero, Dr. Phillips, a selfless man and talented surgeon, and blind his widow, Helen Phillips (Jane Wyman). Bob is now about as welcome in his town as a bag of pork rinds at a PETA convention.
Bob may be a playboy, but there is a good heart under that bloated wallet. He wants to make it right, but how? A friend of the late doctor, Otto Kruger (Edward Randolph), sees potential in Bob and starts warbling away like Jiminy Cricket about putting others first. He’s about as subtle as the rake-in-the-face gag but he gets the message across. Bob will do everything in his power to help Helen, and others.
Douglas Sirk hammered this thing along, punctuating the melodrama with some of the most syrupy music I’ve ever heard in a movie. But he did a great job navigating the silly plot twists, and I have to give credit to a director that can make you, in this day and age, believe chemistry between Rock Hudson and a woman. Hudson and Phillips were fantastic, even delivering some absolutely purple lines. And though we were beaten over the head with it, trying to good in the world is always a good message.
Two chocolate morsels and some retro atomic drink in a heavy glass.