All That Heaven Allows
1955, NR, 89 min. Directed by Douglas Sirk. Starring Jane Wyman, Rock Hudson, Agnes Moorehead.
REVIEWED By Marjorie Baumgarten, Thu., July 22, 1999
The Austin Film Society's current series is devoted to films whose greatness serves as a tribute to George Morris, the Film Society's mentor and "patron saint" and a former film critic for The Austin Chronicle. Jane Wyman plays a widow in a small New England town who needs her hedges trimmed. Rock Hudson plays the gardener who comes to prune her shrubs. Soon, love and affection sprouts between them, but their romance sets the whole town aghast. For starters, the gardener is much younger than she, which alone sets the town's tongues wagging. (Agnes Moorehead is especially tart in her position as Wyman's best friend.) But the gardener is also a bohemian, a Fifties-style tree-hugger who's more comfortable partying with a jug of wine in his work plaids and boots than is he with a martini and formal wear at the country club. Wyman's college-age children reject her for despoiling the memory of their father and embarrassing them by not playing the role of dutiful and chaste widow. Then, add to all this highly charged melodrama master Douglas Sirk'slavishly saturated color schemes and loaded compositions, and you have a potent story for the ages. Ageism, sexism, classism, and unabashed snobbery rear their ugly heads in a provocatively told story by probably the greatest film melodrama stylist who ever lived. Sirk was one of the inspirations for R.W. Fassbinder's vivid visual style and Brechtian narrative approaches; his Ali: Fear Eats the Soul is modeled on All That Heaven Allows. The film will be introduced by Louis Black, editor of The Austin Chronicle. For more info on the series (and numerous reviews by Morris) see the May 28 Screens section of the Chronicle, call the AFS at322-0145, or see www.austinfilm.org.