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All That Heaven Allows

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All That Heaven Allows (19) starring Rock Hudson, Jane Wyman, Hayden Rourke
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All That Heaven Allows (1955) starring Rock Hudson, Jane Wyman, Hayden Rourke

Synopsis of All That Heaven Allows

All That Heaven Allows – Friends and family want a rich widow to end her romance with a tree farmer about 15 years her junior.

Review of All That Heaven Allows

I have to admit to being very pleasantly surprised with All That Heaven Allows.  In short, Jane Wyman does a very good job of portraying a widow, with many years of life ahead of her.  Many lonely years.  She’s dating a dependable, stodgy man who doesn’t offer her love – only companionship.  Until she meets Rock Hudson’s character, seemingly a gardener.  He’s a man who has taken over his deceased father’s business, but he has his own dreams.  He wants to grow and cultivate a variety of trees.  He’ll never become wealthy at this – unlike Wyman – but he’ll be happy.  Unlike Wyman.

Despite the difference in their ages, they begin falling in love with each other.  Her children are aghast — although they plan on living their own lives away from her.  Most of her “friends” are catty at best, and openly hostile at worst.  With two notable exceptions: her best friend, portrayed well by Agnes Moorehead, and her doctor, Hayden Roarke.

At the end of the movie, there’s a contrived moment that brings things to a head, and brings Jane back to the injured Rock Hudson.  Despite that, All That Heaven Allows is a very good film.  The acting is good, although many of the secondary characters seemed like cardboard cutouts.  The music, cinematography, etc. are all excellent. I enjoyed All That Heaven Allows and hope that you do as well.

Cast of characters in All That Heaven Allows

  • Cary Scott (Jane WymanThe Lost WeekendHow to Commit Marriage).  A recently widowed woman, who doesn’t look forward to the rest of her life.  An empty life without life, as her children move on with their own lives.  And she’s left in her empty house, to watch other people’s lives on television.
  • Ron Kirby (Rock HudsonGiantPillow Talk).  A younger man, who isn’t consumed with material success.  He’s embraced a quieter life style, doing what he loves.  He doesn’t care about the approval of society, but he does care about Cary.  He goes so far as to redesign the mill on his property to make it a home for the two of them.  If she’s willing …
  • Sara Warren (Agnes MooreheadCitizen KaneBewitched).  Cary’s true friend, who wants her happiness.  And doesn’t care if the “in crowd” disapproves of Cary’s new love.
  • Harvey (Conrad NagelThe Divorcee).  The stodgy man, Cary’s age, who offers her companionship, not love.  He becomes quite jealous when she chooses the younger Ron over him.
  • Kay Scott (Gloria TalbottWe’re No AngelsThe Cyclops).  Cary’s daughter, who doesn’t want her mother to “walling up the widow alive in the funeral chamber of her dead husband”.  Until Cary falls in love with a younger man, threatening her social status.  Until Kay falls in love herself, and understands her mother’s position.
  • Ned Scott (William ReynoldsThe Thing That Couldn’t DieThe F.B.I.).  Cary’s son, who’s unwilling to let her move on.  Partly due to his father’s memory, and partly due to the “scandal”.  Sadly, a two-dimensional character.
  • Dr. Dan Hennessy (Hayden RorkeI Dream of JeannieFather’s Little Dividend).  Cary’s doctor – and friend – who gives her the advice she needs, but doesn’t want.

Editorial review of All That Heaven Allows courtesy of

Rock Hudson and Jane Wyman were so successful in Douglas Sirk’s Magnificent Obsession that they reteamed for this, his first melodrama masterpiece. Young hunk Rock is a strapping son of mother nature, a gardener who woos middle-aged, middle-class widow Wyman to the snooty disapproval of her conservative social circle and embarrassment of her self-centered children. Wyman discovers a new life with his open-armed friends and back-to-nature lifestyle, but struggles with life-changing decisions in the face of social pressure and vicious gossip.

Living the Henry Thoreau dream, Rock inhabits his personal Walden in a rustic country cabin by a bubbling brook, a dream house lit by a giant picture window overlooking an idyllic countryside where deer pose just outside the window. Wyman’s elegant but sterile suburban home transforms into a tomb when she sacrifices her love for the “good name” of her children, and the lonely widow sees her future in the pale, colorless reflection of her TV screen.

But don’t despair just yet: Sirk’s heroines are dynamic and resourceful and no Sirk melodrama ends without a heart-tugging, over-the-top twist. German director Rainer Werner Fassbinder, who championed Sirk as a master and a mentor, remade the film as Ali: Fear Eats the Soul decades later. –Sean Axmaker

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