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The Second Remembering Barbara Stanwyck Blogathon: All I Desire(1953)

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This is my entry for the Stanwyck blogathon being co-hosted by myself and Crystal next weekend. Can’t wait to read all the other entries.

For this blogathon I’ve decided to write about one of Barbara Stanwyck’s less well known and less discussed films. It is a film about love, family, second chances and following your heart, wherever it may lead you.It’s a very underrated film and features an excellent lead performance by Barbara. 

All I Desire is a film from that master of soap and melodrama, the legendary classic era director Douglas Sirk. When most people think of Sirk’s work they usually associate his name with vibrant Technicolor films such as Magnificent Obsession or Written On The Wind, but he also made some films in Black and White and this film is one of them. 

This film isn’t one that instantly springs to mind when people discuss Douglas Sirk’s films, I think that is a real shame because it is a good film that deserves to be better known and discussed.

All I Desire may well be quite a predictable film, but it is never the less a very enjoyable film. Barbara Stanwyck’s performance is a big reason for this film working as well as it does in my opinion.

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Barbara as Naomi. Screenshot by me.

Barbara does a terrific job of conveying to us how much of a conflicted personality her character Naomi has.

Although Naomi craves excitement and danger, she also longs for a normal life as a mother and wife.

Dialogue isn’t really required in many of Barbara’s scenes in this film, her face tells us exactly what her character is feeling or longing for every moment she is on screen.

I especially love Barbara’s acting in the scene when her character watches her daughter act on stage, it is such a beautiful moment. Barbara was a very expressive actress, she inhabited her characters completely and this film is a good example of her ability to do that.  

The film is set in Edwardian era America. Naomi Murdoch(Barbara Stanwyck)longs to be an actress more than anything else. She abandons her husband and three children to tread the boards. Some years later she receives a letter from her second daughter Lily(Lori Nelson)asking her to come home to see her graduate and perform in the school play.

    Naomi returns to her family and receives different reactions. Screenshots by me.

Naomi agrees and is welcomed home with open arms by Lily. She also receives a warm welcome from Lena(Lotte Stein)who is the Murdoch’s loyal cook and cherished friend. Naomi receives the cold shoulder from her eldest daughter Joyce(Marcia Henderson)and from her estranged husband Henry(Richard Carlson).

Naomi also meets her young son Ted(Billy Gray) who can’t remember her very much. Joyce has had to become the mother figure to her two younger siblings, and she is very angry and upset that her mother thinks she can just come back into their lives and that everything will go back to how it used to be.

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Naomi and Henry find they still have feelings for each other. Screenshot by me.

Henry still cares for Naomi but has just about put his life back together again following her departure, he now has to try and work out just how he feels about her. Things are complicated by the presence of Sara Harper(Maureen O’Sullivan)who is a local teacher who loves Henry. Naomi must also cope with running into her former lover Dutch(Lyle Bettger) who wants to take up with her again. 

                       Naomi, Henry and Sara all look at each other during a party, and they can all tell how they feel about one another just by looking. Love this scene so much. Screenshots by me. 

As Naomi settles back in to her former life, she begins to see the emotional damage she has caused by leaving. Naomi realises that she wants this family life, but will her family want her to stay with them? Will she herself actually be able to settle down to small town life again after so long away? Can she resist the charms of her former lover?

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Naomi and Dutch Screenshot by me.

There is so much going on in this film that it is pretty remarkable that the film only clocks in at 1 hour 16 minutes long. The film doesn’t feel rushed, but I would have liked it to have lasted a bit longer. I always want more scenes between Henry and Naomi when I watch this. I also want to see more of what happens after that ending, as I don’t think this situation would be tidied up so neatly and quickly in reality. 

Barbara delivers the best performance in the film. The rest of the cast all deliver solid performances. Lori Nelson stands out the most from the supporting cast, she lights up every scene she is in. Lotte Stein is terrific as Lena and I love the mother daughter bond between her and Naomi. 

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Lori and Lotte. Screenshots by me.

I think the film does a pretty good job of allowing us to sympathise with all the main characters at times. The film also allows us to dislike the characters or disagree with them at times. Due to this the characters come across as very real, they are all flawed, all full of hopes, dreams and issues. Love is messy and complicated, as are people, and this film shows us these facts.

I highly recommend this film to fans of Barbara and Douglas Sirk. What do you think of the film? What do  you think of Barbara Stanwyck’s performance?

 

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