Written on the Wind (1956)

8.0 Overall Score
Story: 8/10
Acting: 8/10
Visuals: 8/10

Classic melodrama

So-so story

Movie Info

Movie Name:  Written on the Wind

Studio:  Universal International Pictures (UI)

Genre(s):  Drama/Romance

Release Date(s):  October 4, 1956 (UK)/December 25, 1956 (US)

MPAA Rating:  Not Rated

written on the wind robert stack lauren bacall

I don’t know why I love an Untouchable Unsolved Mystery like you…

Kyle Hadley (Robert Stack) gets what he wants…and when he sets his eyes on Lucy Moore (Lauren Bacall) he wants her.  Kyle’s friend Mitch Wayne (Rock Hudson) has always lived in Kyle’s shadow and works for Kyle’s oil rich family.  Kyle’s sister Marylee Hadley (Dorothy Malone) has always wanted Mitch, but Mitch has eyes for Lucy.  With tension and pressure rising, an explosion will occur…and people will end up hurt.

Directed by Douglas Sirk, Written on the Wind is a Southern melodrama.  The film is an adaptation of Robert Wilder’s 1946 novel and received the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress (Dorothy Malone) with nominations for Best Supporting Actor (Robert Stack) and Best Original Song (“Written on the Wind”).  The Criterion Collection released a remastered version of the film (Criterion #96).

written on the wind rock hudson dorothy malone

I’m a snake in the grass

Written on the Wind received production problems.  It was fictional account of the events of singer Libby Holman and the death of her tobacco heir husband Zachary Smith Reynolds in 1932.  The film faced legal threats from the Reynolds family and the threats kept the movie from being made until 1955…that context helps the movie add more drama.

The film is based on a bunch of unrequited love.  While everyone stays in their lanes, Marylee is the toxic monkey wrench in the story by pitting her brother Kyle against her crush Mitch and her sister-in-law Lucy.  Like something like Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, the movie is about rot and decay within the Southern family.  People do not speak to each other honestly…and it destroys them.

Rock Hudson found his place in movies like Written on the Wind and All That Heaven Allows as the “good guy”.  It is odd to watch Robert Stack if you grew up with him from his comedy turns in Airplane! or as the narrator/host of Unsolved Mysteries.  Lauren Bacall plays the ultimate nice girl who stays with her husband through thick-or-thin.  Dorothy Malone is a scene stealer as the jaded and angry Marylee who is cool, calculating, and cruel.

written on the wind rock hudson lauren bacall kiss

Forbidden love

The movie looks good. It is big and bold with nice sets and a good looking transfer on nicer editions.  Movies like this soak up the Technicolor and look probably even better today than they did when they were made (due the clean and crisp versions).

Melodramas like Written on the Wind are kind of contrary to the classic romances of the time and screwball comedies.  They are a bit over-the-top and driven by jealousy and lies and miscommunications as much as love.  Written on the Wind is a classic example of the genre…and of a family destroyed.

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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