All That Heaven Allows (1955)

Did you see Far From Heaven, the 2002 film starring Julianne Moore, Dennis Haysbert, and Dennis Quaid?  Not only is that film intelligent and sensitive, it harkens back to an era of beautifully-made melodramas.  The director, Todd Haynes, was influenced by the work of Douglas Sirk, the director of All the Heaven Allows, starring Jane Wyman and Rock Hudson, now available on Netflix Instant Play.

Wyman stars as Cary Scott, a widowed mother (somewhere in her 40s) with two grown children living in suburban New York.  Her deep-thinking daughter Kay goes to Princeton and does social work in NYC; she also has a serious boyfriend.  Her jovial son Ned is finishing up college and looking toward launching his career.  The family home is spacious and finely decorated, so we know that the deceased Mr. Scott was a very successful man.

Since her kids pretty much have their own lives, Cary is feeling a bit lonely and wondering what she can do with the rest of her life.  Her best friend and neighbor Sara (Agnes Moorehead; she later co-starred on the TV comedy Bewitched) suggests she get out more to the country club.  Cary does date a bit; she spends time with Harvey, a mild-mannered older man (one of the few single men around).  But she’s still a vibrant woman, so he’s not quite right for her.

Feeling restless, she wonders if she should take up gardening as a hobby.  One lovely Fall day, she invites her handsome younger gardener, Ron Kirby (Hudson), to sit and share some lunch with her.  Ron’s deceased father had cared for the gardens of this community for years, but he has more plans for himself.  They tentatively become friends.  Within one year, Cary and Ron’s lives (and her views) will be profoundly changed by their evolving relationship.

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