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All That Heaven Allows

Screening on Film
Directed by Douglas Sirk.
With Jane Wyman, Rock Hudson, Agnes Moorehead.
US, 1955, 35mm, color, 89 min.

With her husband dead and her children off at college, it seems that Cary Scott (Wyman) will resign herself to the quiet, dignified life of the lonely New England widow—that is, until she encounters the virile young workman who tends her landscaping (Hudson). Scandal ensues. As much as the plot line is bound by the conventions of 1950s Hollywood "women’s pictures," under Sirk’s direction the film delivers an unusually perceptive critique of small-town social prejudice and the power it wields over the lives of individuals. As testament to the film’s enduring appeal, All That Heaven Allows has inspired two highly acclaimed adaptations, R.W. Fassbinder’s Ali, Fear Eats the Soul (1973) and, more recently, Todd Haynes’s Far From Heaven (2002).

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