When the adulterous Naomi Murdoch (Barbara Stanwyck) returns to the family she abandoned years before, her arrival is rendered all the more difficult by the appearance of her former lover, Dutch (Lyle Bettger), anxious to rekindle the flames of their previous affair. As she tries to re-acquaint herself with the children she left for a life on the stage, Naomi must endure the bitterness of her eldest daughter, Joyce (Marcia Henderson), the misplaced admiration of her younger daughter Lily (Lori Nelson) and the reluctance of her school principal husband, Henry (Richard Carlson), to embrace her return. In early 20th century America, Naomi’s flamboyant style and perceived louche morality set the cat among the pigeons for the gossipy Riverdale, Wisconsin, townspeople.
Douglas Sirk fans will need no encouragement (nor even my review) to revisit this film, one of the first he made of many great films with producer Ross Hunter at Universal. For others this is a great introduction to one of America’s most gifted filmmakers, one who liked to place narrow minded middle American attitudes under the microscope – where he inevitably found them wanting.
This melodrama is a simple but effective story for that agenda; wife and mother leaves her young family in smalltown Riverdale after an affair, returning 10 years later at the invitation of her youngest daughter for a high school play in which the girl expects to make a debut of some impact. But of course with Riverdale’s view of the mother as a scarlet woman, it’s the mother who makes the bigger impact.
Sustained by wonderful performances, especially by Barbara Stanwyck, the story is engaging and develops in unexpected ways, with all the characters playing important parts, even the loyal, devoted and caring long time family cook, Lena, marvellously played by Lotte Stein.
Douglas Sirk’s careful filmmaking is seamless and his use of the camera sublime, communicating things by the way he shoots as much as by the dialogue and the action. There is a detailed commentary from Monash University’s Therese Davis, who lectures in film, providing deeper insights into Sirk’s filmmaking talent.
1.60GB | 1 h 19 min | 784×576 | mkv