Saturday, June 1, 2013

If You Think Your Life Sucks, Then Please Watch...

Hi keeba and hello, movie lovers! How is life treating you? Not good, eh? Has your career stalled? Has your love life hit a snag? Do you feel everyone else is zooming along the Highway of Happiness while you're stuck idling forever on the off-ramp, wondering if you will ever be allowed to merge?

Relax. No matter how bad your life seems now, remember this: someone, somewhere has it much, much worse. Don't believe me? Well, then, pull up a chair, pour yourself a diet soda and tune into our regularly appearing blog feature "If You Think Your Life Sucks, Then Please Watch...

                                     ...Written on the Wind" from 1956, an over-the-top, tripple-decker soap opera that proves the only good thing about being rich is you never have to worry about money.

Directed by Douglas Sirk, "Written on the Wind" features the trials and tribulations of the mega-rich Hadley oil family. It's cast is composed of A-list stars emoting like blazes as violins swell in the background and technicolor vistas envelope the screen. Never mind that the flick's plot points are really stupid and could have been solved quickly in a simple family meeting. But nooooo. Instead, things are dragged out to Wagnerian proportions while the actors not only chew the scenery, but also the carpets, the drapes, the furniture and just about every extra within 100 miles.

The basic plot of "Written on the Wind" begins like this: Robert Stack (of "The Untouchables" and "Unsolved Mysteries" fame) and Dorothy Malone are siblings Kyle and Marylee, heirs to the vast Hadley oil fortune. Being heirs of the vast Hadley oil fortune has screwed these kids up good. Kyle, for example, is a booze guzzling playboy with the reputation of a wimp. Marylee, on the other hand, is a booze guzzling party girl with the reputation of a floozy. Human beef steak Rock Hudson is Mitch Wayne, Kyle's boyhood companion, watchdog and the son Jasper Hadley (Kyle and Marylee's pop) always wished he'd had. Marylee wishes she'd had Mitch, too, but for some unexplained reason brother Kyle has kept them apart. Sis hasn't taken this well, as you can imagine.

On a business trip to New York, Stack and Hudson meet secretary Lucy Moore (Lauren Becall). They both fall for her, of course, but Lucy unwisely chooses Kyle. They quickly marry and for a while Lucy's love keeps Kyle off the sauce and on an even keel. Then they try to make a baby and encounter some plumbing problems.  Becall's OB/GYN unwisely tells Stack he might have a "weakness"--definitely the wrong word to use around Kyle. Refusing to hear the doctor out, Stack goes bonkers and begins hitting the bottle in earnest, all the while refusing his wife's pleas to tell her what's wrong.

Hovering in the background is Mitch, who falls deeper in love with Lucy with every passing day, but, as a decent fellow, he keeps his feelings and hands to himself. Marylee, meanwhile, pants after Mitch like a hyena, purring at one point, "I've changed since we last swam in the raw, haven't I?" When that fails to arouse Hudson's interest, Marylee announces, "I'm desperate for you and I'll have you (dramatic pause here) marriage or no marriage."

Now, back in 1956, Marylee declaring to Mitch that she's happy to swing without the ring was considered wildly shocking stuff. Why, no decent girl would ever dream of such a thing! But Marylee is such an over the top caricature of a hip swaying, booze gulping, Mambo-dancing bad girl that she's the only fun person in the movie. One scene in the film sums her up perfectly: Marylee picks up an underage gas station attendant (Grant Williams) and they repair to the nearest No Tell Motel. Somehow the cops get called and Marylee and her "date" are dragged back to the Hadley estate. While Williams informs pop Hadley that "your daughter's a tramp", Marylee casually strolls up to her room without a care in the world. She then lights a smoke, cranks up a jazz record, slips into a hot pink nightie and furiously Mambos in front of Mitch's framed photo--while her dad drops dead just outside her door! And that's not all! When Marylee sees Mitch and Lucy leave for town together, she tells her increasingly unhinged brother that the duo are having an affair. When Kyle screams, "You're a filthy liar!", Marylee screams back, "I'm filthy--period!"

What follows next is a series of fast and furious climaxes that prove the Hadley's are nuttier than squirrel poop. Lucy learns from the doctor that she's finally pregnant. Mitch finally confesses to Lucy that he loves her and now that she has Kyle's maladjusted bun in her oven, there's no reason for him to hang around (he's going to Iran--no comment). When Lucy tells her drunk and depressed husband that she's preggers, Kyle goes bonkers, convinced (thanks to sis) that the baby is Mitch's, not his. He wallops his wife and she miscarries. Mitch, seeing that Kyle has hit Lucy, beats the tar out of Kyle and vows to kill him. Kyle, already three sheets to the wind and then some, drives out into the night to find even more booze. He returns to the Hadley mansion and creates a big mess looking for the loaded pistol his late father kept in his desk drawer. Although Mitch has hidden the gun (or so he thinks), the hysterical, bug-eyed Kyle finds it. Mitch tries to talk Kyle into giving him the weapon, explaining that, yes, he does love Lucy but because she was his wife, he never touched her--and vice versa. The baby was 100% his. Kyle seems to be taking all this in when Marylee sneaks up behind Kyle and tries to wrestle the gun away from him. KABOOM. Want to guess which sibling has gone to the liqueur cabinet in the sky?

But we're not done yet! See, there is an inquest about the shooting. And because so many people heard Mitch saying he would kill Kyle, Mitch becomes the number one suspect. Marylee, however, sees the inquest as an opportunity to finally snag Mitch. At breakfast, she slinks over to Mitch and reminds him that it's her word against his that he didn't off the unhinged Kyle. However, IF HE MARRIED HER, she wouldn't have to testify against him. Mitch refuses to take the bait, asking Marylee, "Is there no man who can satisfy you?" Miffed, Marylee takes the stand and at first implies that Mitch did, in fact, kill her brother. Then as the courtroom erupts, Marylee (wearing a hat the size of a tire) recants her testimony, admitting that Kyle was drunk, depressed and "sad. The saddest of us all." Mitch is cleared.

As the soundtrack swells, Mitch and Lucy leave the Hadley estate. Watching them from the window of her father's study, Marylee bursts into tears. She then staggers over to her father's desk, flops down into the swivel chair and clutches an oil well paperweight to her breast. Cue the credits and up and out.


Now, you may be wondering how a glossy soap opera like "Written on the Wind" can make you feel better. Well, it can. Consider these points:

#1--"Written on the Wind" proves without a doubt that money can't buy you happiness or class.

#2--"Written on the Wind" also proves that winning an Oscar doesn't guarantee you a top-notch film career. Dorothy Malone won the Best Supporting Actress Oscar for her over-the-top hysterics and her career promptly went down the toilet.

#3-- "Written on the Wind" reminds us that denying your kids hugs but giving them lots of money is not a sound parenting strategy.

So, you see, your life isn't so bad after all, is it? You may not be as rich as Marylee Hadley, but you're also not alone, watching the man you claim to love leaving with another gal, fondling an oil well paperweight for company. There aren't enough Gin Fizzes and studly greasers in the world to soothe Marylee's ache, poor soul.

Until next time movie lovers, save the movies!

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