Moviegoers must have loved the combination of Rock Hudson and Jane Wyman in “Magnificent Obsession,” for just one year later, Hollywood paired them up again for “All That Heaven Allows,” a film that concludes at Christmastime. I found myself a bit captivated by this melodramatic romance, not because I’m a big fan of melodrama, but because this film made me think about my own life.
Hudson plays Ron Kirby, a young man who has taken over his father’s landscaping business. Wyman is Cary Scott, a wealthy widow who has employed the Kirby company for the last several years to prune the trees around her property and do general maintenance.
One day, Cary invites a friend over for tea and sets her tea service outside on the patio. When her friend is unable to come, Cary doesn’t like the thought of the food going to waste, so she invites Ron across the yard to share lunch with her. She’s impressed with his carefree attitude and enjoys the few minutes they spend together. As he finishes up the work in her yard, they’ve developed a friendship that turns into romance.
This sets tongues wagging all over town. Cary’s husband left her a good sum of money, and it’s unseemly that she would be spending her time with a laborer, of all people. After all, he’s so beneath her in social ranking. But part of what Cary loves about Ron is his total lack of caring about the social norm. His philosophy of life is very simple and very honest—he does what he knows is right and doesn’t care a bit what other people think. He tries to get Cary to see that it really doesn’t matter if they’re the topic of all the town’s hot gossip, but it does matter to her. She was raised to believe that social standing is everything.
Their relationship is further complicated by her two grown children, who feel she’s dishonoring their father’s memory by entering a new relationship. Unable to put her foot down with her children, and unable to turn a deaf ear to the winds of gossip, Cary calls off her relationship with Ron, only to realize that she’s done herself a great disservice by letting others tell her how to live her life.
Ron Kirby was a fascinating character. He held so fast to his ideals, he was unshakable. I did wish he’d been a little more flexible, for Cary’s sake, but his steadfastness got me thinking. Am I strong in my beliefs? Am I sure enough of my own identity and my own purpose here on earth that I’m willing to stand up in the face of any opposition and stare it down? Even if I didn’t agree with all Ron’s choices, I have to admire his integrity, for it greatly influenced my own.
This film was unrated.
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