All That Heaven Allows (1955)

all that heaven allows poster 1955 movie
8.0 Overall Score
Story: 8/10
Acting: 8/10
Visuals: 9/10

Great looking classic

Melodrama is over the top

Movie Info

Movie Name: All That Heaven Allows

Studio: Universal International Pictures

Genre(s): Drama/Romance/Seasonal

Release Date(s): August 25, 1955 (UK)/December 25, 1955 (US)

MPAA Rating: Not Rated

all that heaven allows jane wyman rock hudson

Dear, Ron…you are so sensitive that you even have a deer that eats from your hand

Widowed Cary Scott (Jane Wyman) is trying to get on with her life.  Her adult children Ned (William Reynolds) and Kay (Gloria Talbott) visit on the weekends, but the house seems big and empty.  When she meets her arborist Ron Kirby (Rock Hudson), she finds an immediate rapport with him despite the age difference.  Unfortunately for Cary, the idea of true love between an older woman and a younger man doesn’t go over well in the small tight-knit community and the relationship could be doomed.

Directed by Douglas Sirk, All That Heaven Allows is a melodrama.  The film is based on the 1952 novel by Edna L. Lee and Harry Lee.  It received mixed reviews upon its release but was selected for preservation in the National Film Registry by the Library of Congress in 1995.  The Criterion Collection released a remastered version of the film (Criterion #95).

I found All That Heaven Allows in a backwards fashion.  I had seen Polyester and Far From Heaven which borrow from the ideas and style of Sirk’s movie.  While Polyester played it for laughs, Far From Heaven modernized it (while keeping its original time period).  The original film falls in between, but it wasn’t necessarily meant to.

all that heaven allows jane wyman gloria talbott

Mother…your indiscretion is ruining our lives…you are so selfish

The 1950s were a different time with different “rules” for society.  The idea of a rich widow hooking up with a young gardener is something that would have caused a stir.  The level of a stir could be debated.  The film has her children yelling at her and disowning her and men outwardly groping her assuming she’s loose.  It all feels really ridiculous and plays up the melodrama to the max.  When she breaks off the relationship, everyone assumes that the crazy is over.  The kids abandon her and plan to sell the house out from under her (with a TV for comfort).  It is too extreme.

The bigger problem with the film is the cast.  If they had cast a young early twenties guy as the gardener (or even a shocking nineteen year old), it would have changed the tone.  Hudson was in his late twenties and Wyman was only seven years older than him.  Hudson wasn’t a young looking guy and Wyman was a young looking woman.  If the movie didn’t make a point of them being so different in age, you might not even have known it looking at the characters.  The only person who half-way accepts the relationship is Wyman’s friend played by Agnes Moorehead (who looks more her age) and the friendly doctor played by Hayden Rorke.  Even Hudson’s friends played by Virginia Grey and Charles Drake are the same age as Wyman.

all that heaven allows jane wyman christmas

I can’t even enjoy Christmas without being reminded of my hunky tree man

What does look spectacular in the film is the visuals.  The movie is a Technicolor dream with a rich New England setting.  The holidays and colors pop and this adds to the soapy-melodrama nature that the film is trying to portray.

All That Heaven Allows is a movie worth seeking out for its style and its impact on later films.  The drama often invokes more laughs than sadness for the character, and the movie was marketed to women when it was released (which wasn’t always a trend with dramas).  Check out the movie, enjoy the lush look, and try not to take it too seriously…and you might enjoy it.

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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