Friday, September 09, 2016

All I Desire


All I Desire. Naomi Murdoch (Barbara Stanwyck) returns home after ten years.

All I Desire. Naomi is a model for her daughter Lily. Lori Nelson (Lily Murdoch) and Barbara Stanwyck (Naomi Murdoch).
All I Desire. Naomi Murdoch (Barbara Stanwyck) sees her daughter Lily performing in a high school theatre performance of Baroness Barclay's Secret.

Ainoa toive / Miksi jätit minut / Varför lämnade du mig / All min längtan. USA© 1953 Universal Pictures Co., Inc. PC: Universal International Pictures Co., Inc. P: Ross Hunter. D: Douglas Sirk. SC: James Gunn ja Robert Blees – adaptation: Gina Kaus – based on the novel Stopover (London 1951) by Carol Ryrie Brink / Carol Brink. Poem: Elisabeth Barrett Browning: ”How Do I Love Thee? Let Me Count the Ways” (from Sonnets from the Portuguese, 1847). DP: Carl E. Guthrie / Carl Guthrie – b&w – 1,37:1. AD: Alexander Golitzen, Bernard Herzbrun. Set dec: Russell A. Gausman, Julia Heron. Cost: Rosemary Odell. Jewels: Joan Joseff. Makeup: Bud Westmore. Hair: Joan St. Oegger. M: Henry Mancini (n.c.), Herman Stein (n.c.). Stock music: Daniele Amfitheatrof, Hans J. Salter, Frank Skinner, David Tamkin, Edward Ward. Music quoted: in the poem recital scene: Schubert's Unfinished Symphony. Song: “All I Desire” (comp. and lyrics David Lieberman). M dir: Joseph Gershenson. CH: Kenny Williams. S: Leslie I. Carey, Robert Pritchard, James V. Swartz (n.c.) – mono (Western Electric Recording). ED: Milton Carruth. Location: Universal Studios (Universal City).
    C: Barbara Stanwyck (Naomi Murdoch), Richard Carlson (Henry Murdoch), Lyle Bettger (Dutch Heinemann), 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), Dayton Lummis (Col. Underwood), Fred Nurney (Peterson).
    An uncredited recurrent music theme: a violin arrangement of "Un sospiro", the third étude from: Franz Liszt: Trois études de concert, S.144 (for solo piano).
    Helsinki premiere: 11.12.1953 Elysee, distributor: Väinän Filmi – tv: 2.2.1993 TV3 – dvd: Barbara Stanwyck – Screen Goddess Collection (Universal Pictures, 2006) – VET 39134 – S – 79 min
    Viewed at Cinema Orion, Helsinki (Douglas Sirk), 9 Sep 2016.

The first American family melodrama by Douglas Sirk, his last conte moral set in nostalgic turn-of-the century America, his second film produced by Ross Hunter, a turning-point on his American career and on his career as a Universal house director (comprising his last 21 films, all during the 1950s, half of them produced by Hunter).

Barbara Stanwyck is the name above the title. All I Desire is a Barbara Stanwyck vehicle, shot in black and white because of her, and with profound affinities with other contemporary Stanwyck movies such as Clash by Night. Sirk considered Stanwyck one of the greatest actors in Hollywood. She has such a strong presence that a problem of balance arises because she outstages the others. But the conflict of balance is also central to the narrative: the glamorous performer returning to the little provincial community.

Only the supposedly brilliant international career of the Shakespeare actress Naomi Murdoch is an illusion. Naomi has fallen on hard times, and by now she is reduced to vaudeville, performing with dog acts.

All I Desire starts as a first person narrative with Stanwyck as the narrator.

She has left her family and hometown ten years ago. When she returns there is a perfect silence. "What a dramatic entrance". The father is shocked, the youngest child too young to remember. Naomi is warm and kind, but the family is mostly unwelcoming. "We aren't your family. You aren't our mother". Only Lily, with whom Naomi has been in correspondence, idolizes mother.

Naomi has returned to see Lily performing in a school theater performance of Baroness Barclay's Secret. It is an amateurish high school play until Lily comes on stage. There is a very moving close-up of Naomi watching her daughter perform (see image above). There are tender moments of comedy: "just a stage kiss" is Lily's instruction to the young man playing her lover. Despite or because of the amateurishness the sequence is a display of Sirk's affection for the stage. Naomi is proud of Lily, and Lily is proud of Naomi.

In the party after the show there is a dance at the Murdoch home, and Naomi is invited. It soon turns out that she is the supreme dancer, even in bunny hop, and the event threatens to turn into a Naomi Murdoch show. The rest of the family is embarrassed. But Lily keeps showcasing Naomi and urges her to give a recital. Naomi selects a poem by Elisabeth Barrett Browning, "How do I love thee?". The moment is magical and complex. The tenderness between mother and daughter reaches its peak. Lily expects Naomi to take her to New York and introduce her to the theatre world.

Another daughter, Joyce (Marcia Henderson), condemns her mother, and they have a frank confrontation. Naomi urges Joyce to live a little. "A mother with no principles", Naomi says ironically. "A daughter with no guts". Joyce is offended and affected, but mother's word give her a sting to be more active.

During the long years of Naomi's absence Lily's drama teacher Sara Harper (Maureen O'Sullivan) has become personally close to Henry Murdoch (Richard Carlson) but soon she sees what is happening. "I want him to be happy. You are the woman he needs".

Soon the make-believe of Naomi's supposedly glamorous Shakespearean career becomes unbearable, and Naomi tells the truth to her daughters, crushing their illusions. There is also a frank discussion between Henry and Naomi. Naomi tells him "how unimportant success is". Lily is angry and disappointed when it turns out that Naomi is going to stay.

Meanwhile, Naomi's ex-lover Dutch Heinemann (Lyle Bettger), a gun store keeper, has been lurking around, and he alerts Naomi with his secret code signal, "two shots and then one" (which everybody in the community seems to know). Against the warning of the housekeeper Naomi rides for one last time to the river to call it quits with Dutch. When Dutch tries to take her with force, Naomi uses the horsewhip, and Dutch's gun goes off, wounding him dangerously. (Connections with Summer Storm: the shooting party, the nostalgic river, the Chekhovian gun).

Dutch is taken to hospital. The community is alarmed, and the scandal threatens Henry's position as school principal. "I'm sorry I'm such a disappointment to everybody", comments Naomi. Especially big the disappointment has been to Ted (Billy Gray), her youngest child, the one who was too young to even remember her. Naomi cries while explaining to Ted what has happened. But facing the scandal Henry stands up to Naomi. At Dutch's hospital bed (Dutch's wound is feared to be lethal) Henry hears the full story and understands that their affair had ended. Naomi is about to leave, and Sirk shot a consistent tragic ending, following the novel on which the film is based. But Ross Hunter demanded a happy ending. "I'm asking you to stay", says Henry. "Some grow old. Some grow up".

Out of this material another director might have made a mediocre and conventional melodrama. Douglas Sirk treats it intelligently, without irony or condescension. The two worlds - the fake world of glamorous entertainment and the provincial world of the little community - reflect each other in a complex way. There is a mastery of mise-en-scène in Sirk's direction. The first thrilling instance of it is the sequence of Naomi's homecoming (see the first image above). Another great instance is the play within the play. The composition in depth and the breakdown of scenes in shots is admirably effective.

A brilliant print.

OUR PROGRAM NOTE BASED ON JON HALLIDAY: SIRK ON SIRK AND MICHAEL STERN BEYOND THE JUMP BREAK:
OUR PROGRAM NOTE BASED ON JON HALLIDAY: SIRK ON SIRK AND MICHAEL STERN BEYOND THE JUMP BREAK:

Vuonna 1950 Douglas Sirk solmi sopimuksen Universal-yhtiölle, jolle hän ohjasi koko lopputuotantonsa, 21 elokuvaa vuosikymmenen aikana. Niistä puolet tuotti Ross Hunter. Yhdeksi kiinnekohdaksi tuli idyllinen Americana, jota Sirk lähestyi aluksi komedian keinoin. Sirk käytti näistä elokuvista nimitystä contes moraux kuten Eric Rohmer sittemmin. ”Ne eivät ole moraalisia tarinoita vaan tarinoita ihmisten moraalista” (Sirk). Komedioissa Vahingossa vaimoksi (The Lady Pays Off, 1951), Kuherrusmatka kuudelle (Weekend with Father, 1951), Ei rikkautta, vaan rakkautta (Has Anybody Seen My Gal?, 1952), Ei sijaa sulhaselle (No Room for the Groom, 1952), Meet Me at the Fair (1953) ja Take Me to Town (1953) Sirk sai tuntumaa amerikkalaiseen ikonografiaan ja ymmärrystä miljööstä ja yhteiskunnan luokkajaosta.
    Sirkin ensimmäinen perhemelodraama Ainoa toive kumpusi samasta miljööstä kuin hänen Universal-komediansa. Jälleen palaamme nostalgisesti menneisyyden kauniisiin muistoihin. Komedioissa paluun epäonnistuminen oli huvittavaa. Nyt tulee aihetta kyyneliin.
    Komedioissa musiikki oli keventänyt tunnelmaa. Nyt tilalla on melodraaman melos: musiikki ei ole olemassa tarinan henkilöiden iloksi, vaan kyseessä on suoraan katsojien tunteisiin kohdistuva musiikki, joka muokkaa draaman emotionaalista hahmoa.
    Komedioissa satiirin kohteeksi asetettua arvomaailmaa ei voi enää sivuuttaa naurulla, kun kotiin palaa Naomi Murdoch (Barbara Stanwyck). Hänellä ei ole enää paikkaa mihin mennä, ja niinpä hän palaa kotiinsa ja kotiseudulleen. Kotiväelle hän on valehdellut olevansa suuri näyttelijä; itselleen hän on valehdellut todellisuudesta, joka häntä odottaa.
    Kotiinpaluukohtaus on kaunis esimerkki siitä, miten Sirk osaa asettaa vastakkain unelmat ja todellisuuden. Naomi näkee perheensä ensin sermin läpi, kuin kuvaelmana. Kohta idylli särkyy, ja vastassa on vihaa, kostonhalua ja halveksuntaa. Romaani, johon elokuva perustuu, on Stopover, minkä nimen Sirk olisi halunnut elokuvallekin. Romaanissa kiertue-esiintyjän surkea tie on Naomille lopulta kotia parempi vaihtoehto. Mutta Universalilla vallitsi Ross Hunterin rautainen laki – onnellinen loppu. (Olkoonkin että vailla toivoa.) Ainoa toive oli Sirkin viimeinen conte moral, viimeinen nostalginen kuvaus menneisyyden Amerikasta.
    Sirk on Sirk -kirjassa ohjaaja toteaa, että Barbara Stanwyck oli Hollywoodin parhaita näyttelijöitä mutta ei enää suosionsa huipulla, minkä takia elokuvaa ei saatu tehdä väreissä. Stanwyck ilmensi loistavasti ”särkyneen elämän epäsentimentaalista surua”. Ainoa toive oli myös jo alustava versio tarinaan Suurinta elämässä (Imitation of Life). ”She comes back from an imitated life”.

– Lähteinä Sirk on Sirk (Jon Halliday, 1971) ja Michael Stern: Douglas Sirk (1979) AA 6.9.2016

No comments: