Rock Hudson became a beefcake star playing a self-absorbed, thrill-chasing millionaire playboy in the first of Douglas Sirk's glossy Technicolor melodramas. In a classic example of the wicked machinations of soap opera fate, Hudson's showboating antics kill the most saintly man in motion-picture history and stalk his newlywed widow (Jane Wyman), driving her into an accident that leaves her blind. The kindly attentions of a bohemian painter and part-time guardian angel help turn Hudson's life around, and he rejects his irresponsible lifestyle and dedicates himself to his new "magnificent obsession" of philanthropy and good deeds, meanwhile romancing Wyman in a sincere, soft-spoken voice and with a phony name. Magnificent Obsession
was a huge success and established a style Sirk would refine through the 1950s, reaching a baroque peak in Written on the Wind
and culminating with what may be his most successful and most famous film, Imitation of Life
. Compared to his later successes, this is arch and flat, lacking the ironic edge and luscious style of his best films, but it's an exceedingly handsome production in bold, bright colors where swooning romance and life-saving operations define life as an emotional roller coaster of mythic proportions. --Sean Axmaker
Reckless playboy Bob Merrick (Rock Hudson, in his breakthrough role) crashes his speedboat, requiring emergency attention from the town’s only resuscitator—at the very moment that beloved local Dr. Phillips has a heart attack and dies waiting for the life-saving device. Thus begins one of Douglas Sirk’s most flamboyant master classes in melodrama, a delirious Technicolor mix of the sudsy and the spiritual in which Bob and the doctor’s widow, Helen (Jane Wyman), find themselves inextricably linked to one another amid a series of increasingly wild twists, turns, trials, and tribulations. For this release, Criterion also presents John M. Stahl’s 1935 film version of the Lloyd C. Douglas novel, starring Irene Dunne and Robert Taylor.