Douglas Sirk’s 1950s melodramas are largely understood to exist in the plastic, super-saturated world of cinematic excess and artifice. Their lack of gravitas with regard to subject matter and aesthetics, often focusing on the everyday lives of largely unremarkable, even unsympathetic people through an extravagant and garish lens, has led many critics throughout the years to dismiss them as hollow and trashy, with no real meaning. With the benefit of hindsight, still others have championed the Sirk melodrama as entirely campy, subversive, or ironic. The “plastics” of Sirk’s films, like the saturation of color and nearly hysterical exhibition of emotion then, in these readings, act as markers of their separation from reality, as existing in a self-reflexive, dollhouse-esque world. In her book, Melodrama and Meaning: History, Culture, and the Films of Douglas Sirk, Barbara Klinger challenges both notions, arguing instead that “these films have [...] been subject to a vivid array of meanings through the force of changing cultural circumstances.” (Klinger, xv)
By such an estimation, the melodramas of Douglas Sirk change in meaning and significance depending on the socio-political environment in which they are viewed. The films All That Heaven Allows (1955), Written on the Wind (1956), and Sirk’s last Hollywood feature film, Imitation of Life (1959), with their depictions of domesticity and normalcy challenged by larger than life institutions like racism, class, and repression at large speak to a uniquely postwar desire for a kind of simplistic American utopia. In such a fantasy, good and evil are clearly defined and conflicts easily resolved, if one can only resist temptation and align themselves with the good. Whether it’s the volatile, insincere playboy Kyle Hadley, the catty, tight-laced socialite Mona Plash, or the black/white dichotomy defining race relations in America, Sirk’s villains give viewers a figurehead to blame for the woes of society, and through their foils, the means with which to combat them. In this way, melodrama, and especially Douglas Sirk’s melodramas, are not only representative of reality (life, after all, is “the most melodramatic story of all” Sirk is quoted as saying in Michael Stern’s book Douglas Sirk), but perhaps serve as a better window into the secret desires and fears of the American public than the most austere and complex political drama. Subversive readings of the work are easily achieved simply by reclaiming the identities and portrayals that were originally meant to be combated, to inspire revulsion and resistance. It is my aim to illuminate both the constructed and mediated ideal of “good” for 1950s America defined by Sirk’s melodramas, as well as the ways in which the “bad” is both defined and subverted within the same films.
All That Heaven Allows, released in 1955 by Universal and starring Jane Wyman and Rock Hudson, tells the story of a widow, Cary Scott, and her unconventional love affair with her young gardener, Ron Kirby. Though their love is shown to be founded on similar values and interests rather than purely physical lust, Cary’s children, friends, and colleagues reject the relationship as scandalous and unbecoming of a woman of Cary’s stature. The antagonist in the film is less a singular person than a structure, namely, the unnatural constraints of upper class society. Rock Hudson’s Ron Kirby in this film is the very picture of rugged, yet gentle masculinity, an image carefully constructed since the beginning of his career as an actor. As Klinger describes, in fan magazines and photoshoots, “[w]e see Hudson the bachelor living on top of a mountain in a redwood house with a dog, eating steaks. Through such associations with rugged individualism and nature, Hudson emerges as a historical throwback, a quasi-Paul Bunyan figure who has maintained innate masculine characteristics unpolluted by fame or civilization.” (Klinger, 104) These images, like most celebrity photo opportunities, were highly manipulated and controlled to project a particular image that fell in line with the Rock Hudson (an equally fabricated moniker, Hudson was born Roy Scherer) persona Universal was attempting to cultivate. Hudson’s brand of utterly “normal,” wholesome sexuality served as a response to growing anxieties about masculinity in a postwar society inundated with new, Freudian psychology.
In the film, Kirby is characterized by his passion for life and his love and understanding of nature. His connection to Thoreau’s Walden, an idealized and rather nonconformist existence, is innate rather than learned, as his friend Alida remarks, “I don’t think Ron’s ever read it, he just lives it.” (All That Heaven Allows, 1955) The blooming trees and flowers that are present everywhere Ron goes also serve as a symbol for his virility. In many scenes he is also shown wearing red, or appears to be lit with a warm, reddish hue. The color serves to parallel his unbridled zest for life with Cary’s, as evidenced by her choice of a bright red dress to wear to a country club event, which nearly everyone in her repressed, upper class world seems to think is inappropriate or in bad taste. Though Ron's lifestyle is indeed unconventional compared to the upper-class country club set, it is never the focus of gossip or even shown to be a concern of Cary's friends and colleagues. Nothing specifically about Ron, his lifestyle or personality, is deemed unnatural or strange. It is mainly the awkward social situation in which the two lovers find themselves that their love affair is regarded as unacceptable. Throughout the film, it is in fact Cary’s choices and actions which are most closely examined, not Ron’s. In this way, the roles are reversed, and it is Cary who becomes the deviant sexual presence, an older, widowed woman in high society being scrutinized and regulated within the filmic world, who must make sacrifices for her community and her children before she is allowed to act on her own desires. Ron’s stable, dependable masculinity is therefore cemented, and the threat of waning male power neutralized. By the end of the film, Cary has acted with perfect propriety and “earned” her happy ending. Love, as long as it is chaste, heteronormative, and socially sanctioned, truly conquers all.
While Cary’s unconventional sexuality serves to cement Ron Kirby (and by extension Rock Hudson) as the picture of normal masculinity, a more subversive reading would portray her desires as normal, and the people around her as aberrant. In such a reading, Cary’s daughter Kay, and her enthusiastic, feminist, and Freudian sensibilities would act as a serious commentary on society and womanhood, rather than the immature observations of a young woman inexperienced in the ways of life and love. The actions of Cary's son Ned would be viewed as the emotionally manipulative and overly-controlling gesticulations they are, instead of the frustrations of a young man trying to do right by his father's memory. As the tale of a liberated woman, Cary’s happy ending would ring less hollow, symbolizing complete triumph over a repressive society, rather than a strict negotiation with it. In John Mercer and Martin Shingler’s Melodrama: Genre, Style, Sensibility, Douglas Sirk is quoted in an interview as saying of the film’s title, “The studio loved this title, they thought it meant that you could have everything you wanted. I meant it exactly the other way around. As far as I’m concerned, heaven is stingy.” (Mercer/Shingler, 50) Cary’s ability to “have it all” in a canon reading of the film is more a game of give and take, of bargaining with heaven and the structures of society. For this more subversive reading, the true villain is not only the repressive country club and the town gossips, but the very institutions of masculinity, femininity, and propriety. Cary’s happy ending with a man she loves and lusts after is only impeded by fears of unchecked female desire and the threat it presents to the status quo. What would the town gossip Mona do, after all, if Cary’s actions and ardor were viewed as entirely socially acceptable? Her role within the community is to maintain a sense of shame, to ensure the unspoken rules of decorum and composure are never broken. If such rules did not exist in the first place, there would be no conflict to drive the story along. Cary being characterized as an independent, sexually emancipated woman in control of her own feminine identity and desires, whose relationship with Ron is decidedly closed to public investigation is a subversive reading because it is a point of contention from which all the tension and conflict in the film arises. The hopes and fears illuminated by All That Heaven Allows are those of an old-fashioned society adjusting to increases in sexual diversity and class mobility. A classical reading of the film reassures the public, reminding the audience that men are men, women are women, and all things in their place as they should be, while an ironic or subversive reading throws these very institutions into question, causing the viewer to wonder if Cary’s given role in her society, even with the love of Ron Kirby, is really such a happy one.
A year later, Universal released Written on the Wind, also starring Rock Hudson, along with Lauren Bacall, Robert Stack, and Dorothy Malone. The film was marketed as a salacious adult film, the likes of which were growing more popular in the late 1950s. Revisions of the Production Code allowed for more depictions of previously forbidden topics, and the Paramount case, which loosened studios’ grip on distribution and exhibition, caused more foreign films to be screened across the country, which generally depicted racier subject matter. These changing trends in production and audience tastes, Klinger claims, caused “melodrama [...] to be equated with adult subject matter and promises of sensationalism. The film melodrama thus became one of the forms by which the studios could profitably respond to particular industry developments.” (Klinger, 40) Unlike All That Heaven Allows, with its happy conclusion, Written on the Wind represents what Tag Gallagher calls an example of Sirk’s “black melodrama,” in his article “White Melodrama: Douglas Sirk.” With its themes of lustful possession and unchecked wealth (portrayed in all their tawdry glory), the story of the spoiled and volatile Kyle and Marylee Hadley and their down-to-earth and earnest foils, Lucy Moore-Hadley and Mitch Wayne, is a cautionary tale about the dangers of overindulgent sexuality and the corrupting power of affluence.
Kyle Hadley and his sister Marylee Hadley are easily identifiable as the psychosexual antagonists of the film from their first introductions: Kyle is immediately seen erratically driving his bright yellow sports car and swigging from a large bottle, while Marylee hides in the shadows, observing as the tragedy she helped orchestrate unfolds. We get a more formal introduction to the siblings after the initial flashback sequence. First Kyle is shown having drinks with two apparently familiar, elegantly dressed women before he sets his sights on Lucy and tries to convince her to give in to his advances when she arrives with Mitch. Second, we are introduced to Marylee, dressed from head to toe in hot pink, generally making trouble and throwing herself on a boorish, drunken brute in a seedy bar, soon to be collected by Kyle and Mitch. The audience is immediately attuned to Kyle’s problematic drinking, and Marylee’s capricious temperament and frenzied sexuality, especially compared to Lucy’s demure disposition and Mitch’s safe reliability. Lucy and Mitch are expressly coded as “normal,” if a bit cold and boring, while Kyle and Marylee are wild and dangerous. Michael Stern eloquently analyzes the purposeful juxtaposition of these characters in his book, saying:
Rock Hudson, of course, is Sirk’s perpetual clean-cut unambiguous symbol of masculinity. He is naive, sincere, and, as we remember him from All That Heaven Allows, a sexual tree trunk. Stack, on the other hand, is played for all the ambiguity of his screen persona. His movements and facial gestures are characterized by great stress and deliberation; his words often come through clenched teeth and a knotted diaphragm. He is bursting with suppressed violent energy-- and yet in his eyes we read a deep vulnerability. As much as Rock Hudson symbolizes certitude, Stack represents doubt and a churning internal conflict. [...] While Lauren Bacall has a somewhat more ambiguous screen persona than Rock Hudson, she is nonetheless characterized by a strength of character [...] she is surely a woman who appears to know what she wants-- and how to get it. Dorothy Malone, like Stack, projects the image of a person ill at ease within her body. But whereas Stack projects a sense of unbearable inner tension, Malone’s smooth features and sinuous movements suggest that she is possessed. [...] her agony is expressed by a self-destructive defiance-- as if daring the demons to consume her. (144-145)
In a classical reading of Written on the Wind, the audience may be inspired to pity the tortured Hadleys and their doomed, privileged existence, but they are certainly not encouraged to identify with them. Both are portrayed as explicitly deviant, psychologically stunted products of an overindulgent upper class upbringing. It is implied that the only Hadley who does any real work for the family oil business is the patriarch, Jasper Hadley, and even he relies heavily on Mitch Wayne, for his loyalty and business acumen. When the audience is introduced to Mitch in the film, we see through his eyes, his attraction to Lucy Moore starting with a casual glimpse of her shapely legs and building as he talks with her and finds that she is level-headed, smart, and holds many of the same values as himself. The connection shared between Lucy and Mitch is one of restrained maturity, quite different from the relationships between Kyle and Lucy, and Marylee and Mitch.
Kyle's courtship of Lucy in the plane, as noted by Gallagher in his article, is highlighted by an unsettling red light on Kyle's head, illuminating his insincerity. He says, “when we see Kyle’s face from Lucy’s side, we see no demonic lighting and his voice is softer: a comfortable feeling – which is the false Kyle that Lucy is experiencing. When she buys his act, Sirk shows it from the red-light side, so we can feel Kyle’s demonic glee at domination.” (Gallagher) Throughout the year of their marriage, Lucy finds a gun under Kyle's pillow, learns the extent of Kyle's drinking problem, and finds that he is tortured by events from his teen years with Mitch to the point of tossing violently and talking in his sleep. She generally comes to understand that she did not know as much about Kyle and the Hadleys as she thought, yet she is determined to make their partnership succeed. In this way, Lucy is the quintessential “good woman,” standing by her man, even if he does not deserve her dedication and loyalty. Compare this relationship between Lucy and Kyle with that of Marylee and Mitch, an utterly childish and erratic pairing. Marylee's attraction to Mitch is based on a girlhood love, she fantasizes about their exploits as children, playing by the river. Her desire is also an immature one, demanding that she will “have” Mitch, marriage or no marriage, and whether or not he wants her. Marylee seems to believe that ensnaring Mitch will bring about the end of her perpetual adolescence, that his staunch normalcy will permeate her and cure her “possession.” But as Mitch himself asks her, when she threatens to lie in court and send Mitch to jail for Kyle's murder unless he marries her, “Ask yourself this, would I ever be enough for you? […] You're sick, Marylee. Your sickness won't be cured by marrying me.” (Written on the Wind, 1956) Marylee thinks of Mitch as a possession rather than a person, and Mitch sees her and the rest of the Hadleys as literally diseased. Similarly, Kyle thinks of Lucy objectively, for her childbearing abilities and physical beauty, and Lucy sees Kyle as something she can fix by forcing it into the predetermined roles she puts her faith in. Despite her knowledge of Kyle's troubled past, she believes building a family with him is the key to changing him for the better. But as Stern notes and Gallagher emphasizes, the Hadleys are doomed to be consumed by their own demons, irreparably broken by their irregular childhoods and their shared legacy.
While Lucy and Mitch's success at normalcy is defined by the Hadleys' utter failure at it, and their ability to remain constant in the face of extreme fluctuation, an alternative reading of Written on the Wind would condemn them for their removed attitudes and repressed sensibilities. To give an example, a more contemporary telling of Written on the Wind might suggest therapy for the Hadley siblings, particularly after the death of their father, offering them an outlet for understandable anger, confusion, and guilt, and insisting their damaged psyches are not of their own doing. As it stands, the classical reading of the Hadleys may not blame Kyle and Marylee for their past and present predicaments, but it certainly marks them as dangerously unbalanced and patently unlovable. The film is already a tragic story, but with the focus set firmly on Mitch and Lucy, it ends fairly happily. Finally rid of the poisonous Hadleys, the couple are free to leave and start a new life together. Seen from the perspective of Kyle and Marylee Hadley, however, the film's conclusion is positively dismal. The only surviving Hadley, Marylee, has been left alone to maintain a crumbling empire she is likely not even remotely qualified to run, and even without the right-hand man her family has relied on for so long, Mitch Wayne. She has been forced by the narrative into a more socially acceptable role for a woman of her stature, forsaking her own happiness and freedom in pursuit of the truth, and assuming a womanly maturity in both her actions and dress.
Gone is the hot pink-clad woman-child joyriding in a bright red sports car, picking up gas station attendants. In her place stands a grim, business-minded matron, clinging to the symbol of her legacy and dressed in a conservative grey suit, much like the one worn by straight-laced and steady Lucy Moore in the beginning of the film. She makes quite the forlorn figure, sufficiently repressed and presentable yet still unfulfilled, confused, and ultimately alone. In an alternative reading of Written on the Wind, Marylee might function as the protagonist in a warped coming-of-age story, the tale of a damaged woman coming to terms with her unchecked sexuality and the expectations of her prestigious family. Her ending would be even more worrying, as she is left with nothing but ideas of what a woman should be, articulated by the men who failed to provide better examples for her in the first place. In the end, Marylee internalizes her father's shame at her sexual exploits, her brother's spiteful violence against her, and Mitch's constant rejection and insistence on her “sickness.” She is merely a shell of a woman, imitating the only thing resembling family she has left: a portrait of her father, holding the symbol of the Hadleys' financial fortune and personal ruin. Written on the Wind serves to titillate 1950s audiences with visions of the lives of impossibly wealthy, sex-crazed, alcohol-soaked socialites while ultimately reassuring them that they are not really missing out, that such lives are hollow and lived without purpose or future. Read another way, it is the lamentable tale of one woman's search for identity and love in a world built on appearances, influence, and money.
Douglas Sirk’s final Hollywood film, Imitation of Life, released in 1959 by Universal and a remake of the 1934 film based on the novel by Fannie Hurst, is perhaps one of his best-known melodramas. The frank discussion of race relations in a country on the cusp of a large-scale civil rights movement was a daring move, though the 1950s reading of the narrative often serves to soothe the fears of White moviegoers rather than call for an overhaul of the racist social institutions which victimize the characters of Annie and Sarah Jane Johnson. In the film, White mother Lora Meredith is down on her luck, attempting to break into a career in theatre, and agrees to provide a home for Annie and Sarah Jane Johnson, a Black woman and her White-passing daughter. Lora refuses to accept fame on any terms but her own, but Annie is expected to be nothing but grateful for the opportunity to serve as Lora's unofficial maid. In fact, her character is rarely explored beyond her role as long-suffering mother and wise and kind confidant to both the Meredith women. After more than ten years of friendship (and a foot massage,) Lora is legitimately surprised to learn that Annie is a member of various clubs and associations, regularly attends church, and has many friends outside the household. When Lora states frankly that she did not know Annie was so social, Annie simply replies, “Ms. Lora, you never asked.” (Imitation of Life, 1959) Indeed, neither did the audience, as Lora's rise to fame and struggles with motherhood dominate the first half of the film. Annie is a tragic figure, a victim of an unjust system, but she is portrayed as honorable and worthy of respect because she assumes this burden without complaint or question, and urges her daughter to do the same. The only glimpse we see into Annie's struggle with the blatant racism both she and her daughter face is when she asks Lora, mournfully, “How do you explain to your child, she was born to be hurt?” (Imitation of Life, 1959) In this scene, when Sarah Jane has run home from school after being “outed” by Annie when she had been passing as white, and Lora, Annie, and Susie all attempt to comfort her, it is made clear that Annie indeed suffers in silence. Annie, like her daughter, is personally hurt by racism on a regular basis. But the scene also indicates a sense of obligation, that racism is simply a fact of life for Black Americans, something they must bravely struggle through rather than question or fight. When speaking to Lora about what she is going to say to her daughter, Annie, the voice for mature Black womanhood in the film, claims, “Sarah Jane must learn that the Lord must have had his reasons for making some of us White, and some of us Black.” (Imitation of Life, 1959) In other words, racism is something Sarah Jane is going to have to simply get used to and learn to cope with, because there is no changing it.
Sarah Jane's rebellion against her Blackness (or rather, the fact that her Blackness affords her different treatment in society) is characterized by a childish petulance, a refusal to see the truth. Her young, repetitive cries of “I'm as white as Susie!” are shown as literal tantrums, making her appear both contrary and willfully ignorant. Her attempts at passing are seen as dishonest and duplicitous, and the abuse she suffers at the hands of her White boyfriend is lamentable yet somehow expected. When she returns home after being viciously assaulted, she is scolded by Lora for lashing out at her mother, and admonished once again by Annie about the dangers of passing, who assumes that such violence against her is inevitable if she continues to lie about who she is. At every turn, Sarah Jane is the character in the wrong. Whether she is wrong for rejecting her mother, wrong for resenting Lora and her upwardly mobile Whiteness, wrong for chastising Susie, or wrong for her chosen lifestyle of dancing in clubs and soaking up the nightlife, Sarah Jane is the misunderstood wild child juxtaposed with wide-eyed, innocent Susie (brilliantly cast as the quintessential picture of virginal White girlhood, Sandra Dee). In Sirk on Sirk by Jon Halliday, when asked about Imitation of Life, Douglas Sirk said, “The imitation of life is not the real life. Lana Turner's life is a very cheap imitation. The girl (Susan Kohner) is choosing the imitation of life instead of being a Negro. The picture is a piece of social criticism-- of both white and black. You can't escape what you are.” (Halliday, 130) By such a comparison, both Lora Meredith and Sarah Jane make choices that contribute to their false and ultimately unsatisfying dream lives. But Lora has the advantage of “true” Whiteness that Sarah Jane is not allowed. A privilege which allows her to masquerade as a Hollywood starlet in order to be seen by agent Allen Loomis, to refuse his advances and potentially ruin her chances of hiring out of a desire to maintain her integrity, and even to talk back aggressively to playwright David Edwards about his writing, convince him to change his script, and eventually write many more expressly for her. Sarah Jane never gets these chances, nor these choices, due to her color. And the message, as 1950s audiences were meant to believe, is that it is indeed, as Shakespeare said, “nobler in the mind to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune.”
However the character of Sarah Jane in particular has very powerful subversive potential, if not by virtue of her attempts to run away from her Black heritage, but because she actively and constantly speaks out against the fact that she is treated differently than Susie, both in and out of the Meredith house. Though Lora attempts to shut down Sarah Jane's accusations of racism, she only exposes her complacency in a system that thrives on the difference Lora is so eager to erase when she asks, angrily, “Have I ever treated you as if you were different? Has Susie? Has anyone here? […] Then don't ever do this to us again.” (Imitation of Life, 1959) Sarah Jane rightfully states that Lora can never understand what it is like to be Black, but Lora clings to the colorblind ideal that as long as one treats others equally, everything will work out in the end. Over and over again, Sarah Jane wonders about the disparities between her and other White children: why she always has to play with the Black doll, why she and her mother always have to sleep in back rooms, why she shouldn't be allowed to go out with a White boy, why everyone assumes she is dating the “Hawkins boy,” and why she cannot simply run away from it all. Her very existence questions the institution of racism, as she is only rebuked when it is learned that she is Black, seeming perfectly adequate to dance in bars or date White men beforehand. From the perspective of Sarah Jane, the imitation of life is not in her pretending to be White, it is her life while Black. Her White-passing life is seen as offering a full spectrum of exciting experiences, while living as a Black woman dictates where she can study, where she can work, who she can date and marry, and even where she can physically exist without scrutiny. She correctly deduces that her life as a Black woman will be severely predetermined in myriad ways, and chooses to reject that. Not, as it seems, because she has internalized the notion that her Blackness makes her inherently ugly or undesirable, but because she has learned the hard way that the way she will be treated in society is predicated on the color of her skin, that one's color is all that matters. Sarah Jane's rejection of Blackness as a construct is not a denial of herself and her mother, as she tearfully confesses at the film's conclusion, but a denial of the racist system of society which defines her and her mother as intrinsically inferior. So while the discussion of race in Imitation of Life appears to be very progressive for the time, the overwhelming message is that staying within one's predetermined roles is admirable, and more likely to bring success and happiness. This extends even to the storyline of Lora and Susie Meredith, who are affected more by concepts of class and status than race. Lora's fame, sudden wealth, and class mobility prove to be the downfall of her relationship with her daughter, causing her to give her daughter everything but her physical presence, and leaving their bond strained by the end of the film. The more progressive reading is found by focusing on Sarah Jane and identifying with her struggle to accept not only herself, but her place in an unfair world. Only with such a shift in perspective can we begin to examine the critiques on the systemic racism within society voiced by the character of Sarah Jane, the only person in the film who attempts to challenge and dismantle societal institutions, rather than simply accepting her fate.
With these three examples of Sirkian melodrama, All That Heaven Allows, Written on the Wind, and Imitation of Life, I hope to have succeeded in illuminating the mundane as well as the ironic and revolutionary. It is perhaps too simplistic, after all, to view classic-era films with the benefit of our modern sensibilities and attitudes with regard to race, gender, sexuality, and class without taking into account their respective socio-political context. And yet, it is equally limiting to only allow for one interpretation of any given film, effectively locking it into a certain time and space. Films are necessarily products of their time, but they are equally timeless, having the ability to speak to people of varying beliefs and cultural backgrounds. Hence it is important to examine the ways in which societal constraints can alter the meaning of media over time. It seems especially necessary in the case of popular culture and melodrama, to offer a more multifaceted approach to analysis in order to extract meaning from a given text. When we merely dismiss a film or piece of media as meaningless typified trash, we also dismiss its potentially empowering or subversive qualities. Conversely, when we glorify those subversive qualities and dismiss any critics as simply “not getting it” or missing the “subtext,” we selectively ignore the power of the status quo to impose itself within popular culture. By accepting the original context of a film as a groundwork from which to start, we can paint a more complete picture of the impact a film has had, both in its original release and reception, and over the years. Douglas Sirk's Hollywood melodramas were initially viewed as “weepies,” formulaic and sometimes titillating tableaus to entice housewives to the theatre. At the time, critics dismissed them the way modern day critics may dismiss the Twilight franchise. But upon being discovered by the French film critics, Sirk's relevance as a director and maker of meaning was suddenly re-examined and celebrated. It seems that since the split in theorists and critics, Sirk's films have been quantified simply as emotionally manipulative and unexceptional garbage, or the work of a genius. I contend that it may not be one or the other, but perhaps a little of both. Just as there are clear messages to take about relationships, family, adolescence, and love from the Twilight films, be they positive or negative, Sirk's melodramas offer a privileged look into the values and fears of 1950s America. Who we are when we think no one is looking is often touted as the truest picture of the self. Should such an observation be any different when speaking in filmic terms? Perhaps, as viewers, we are the most honest, the most receptive, the most “real” when we zone out and watch so-called “trash.” It may behoove us, then, to pay attention to it.
All That Heaven Allows. Dir. Douglas Sirk. Perf. Rock Hudson and Jane Wyman. Universal International, 1955.
Gallagher, Tag. "White Melodrama: Douglas Sirk." Senses of Cinema. N.p., 22 July 2005. Web. 01 Dec. 2012. <http://sensesofcinema.com/2005/feature-articles/sirk-2/>.
Halliday, Jon, and Douglas Sirk. Sirk on Sirk; Interviews with Jon Halliday. New York: Viking, 1972. Print.
Imitation of Life. Dir. Douglas Sirk. Perf. Lana Turner, John Gavin, Sandra Dee, Susan Kohner, and Juanita Moore. Universal International, 1959.
Klinger, Barbara. Melodrama and Meaning: History, Culture, and the Films of Douglas Sirk. Bloomington: Indiana UP, 1994. Print.
Mercer, John, and Martin Shingler. Melodrama: Genre, Style, Sensibility. London: Wallflower, 2004. Print. Short Cuts.
Mulvey, Laura. "All That Heaven Allows." Current. The Criterion Collection, 18 June 2001. Web. 01 Dec. 2012. <http://www.criterion.com/current/posts/96-all-that-heaven-allows>.
Stern, Michael. Douglas Sirk. Boston: Twayne, 1979. Print.
Written on the Wind. Dir. Douglas Sirk. Perf. Rock Hudson, Lauren Bacall, Robert Stack, and Dorothy Malone. Universal International, 1956.