The Sirk/Hunter/Wald Overstuffed Melodrama Thread

Another thread on favorite movies has brought up the Divine Triology of the Overstuffed, Plush-Velvet Melodrama: Douglas Sirk, Ross Hunter, and Jerry Wald. Just check out their filmography: Sirk and Hunter’s Magnificent Obsession, All That Heaven Allows, Imitation of Life . . . Hunter’s Back Street . . . Wald’s Caged, Queen Bee, An Affair to Remember, The Best of Everything, Peyton Place . . . And remember, it’s not done till Jean Louis does the gowns!

I love these films—old-style camp queen that I am—but I’m not sure if they’re so bad they’re good or so good they’re bad. I can happily cry myself into a tizzy watching Back Street or The Best of Everything: they’re “event movies,” I watch them while wearing a satin dressing gown, eating bon-bons and sniffling happily into a linen hankie.

I know there are other 1950s/60s Women’s Films fans hereabouts . . .

I’m a hardcore Sirkian, and will tell you definitively that, as with the films of Hitchcock, John Waters, and Paul Verhoeven, all the “badness” you think you see–all the camp–is 100% intentional and very much a part of what he’s trying to say. The most subversive Hollywood fare until Showgirls.

I love Peyton Place, and An Affair to Remember, but I’m not sure I’ve seen the others. I’ll have to look.

But the best of the true camp–the bad=>good hyperbolic melodramas–HAS to be The Valley of the Dolls.

And what about Tea and Sympathy? another subversive favorite.

I saw Tea and Sympathy again a few months ago, and it was more terrifying than any horror movie. I mean, intentionally, I’m sure—though maybe I’m not sure. The play was done pretty straight-faced, wasn’t it?

I haven’t been able to get any Sirk, but I hate An Affair To Remember. I just can’t stand the plot or the script. The boat scenes are good, but after that it’s all downhill. Camp! In HITCHCOCK! BLASPHEMER! BURN HIM!

The play pulled fewer punches; the film was pretty heavily cloaked. And yes, terrifying, except of course the “Watch how I walk!” scene. An alltime favorite scene.

No camp in Hitchcock? How can you watch The Birds, or Vertigo, or Dial M for Murder, without getting a sense of H’s appreciation of hyperbole?

Eve, have you ever seen Leave Her to Heaven? a little earlier, but deserving of a place at the top of this list. I’d kill a whole family for a letterbox copy of that.

I haven’t actually seen Dial M. Ok, I get the point about the Birds, though ‘camp’ isn’t the word I would have used. I read something entirely different into Vertigo; that’s a discussion for the next film fest thread.

Hitchcock is not at the extreme end of camp dial: Sirk, Waters, and Verhoeven are far more extreme. But his use of exaggerated Hollywood “types”–Kim Novak in Vertigo–is not unintentional, and is not all that it seems on the surface to be.

I can see that, now that you mention it. I think Scottie was dead throughout the whole film anyway, Madeleine was simply a visual metaphor for his death. More later.

I’d kill an entire friggin’ country to get The Crowd and Sunrise and Docks of New York and Joan of Arc, etc.

I have three of those four. They’re out there. Quit screwin with your lizards and get a job.

Ha. Just picked up the fourth; now I have all those titles.

I agree, the '50s version of An Affair to Remember is awful. “Darling, if you can paint, I can walk!” says Deborah Kerr. “Hmmph–if he can paint, I can fly!” I thought.

I thought the “Watch how I walk” scene in Tea & Sympathy was one of the scariest scenes!

My own favorite is The Best of Everything, perhaps because it takes place in the NYC publishing biz. A lot of it still strikes true–I’ve loaned it to my coworkers and they’ve said, “Good lord, a lot of this could have been filmed right here . . .”

What about Nicholas Ray? Rebel Without a Cause and Johnny Guitar? Eve, please say something about Johnny Guitar!

And–and and and–Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter?! How could I have missed that one? Or am I getting a little farther afield? (John Goldfarb, Please Come Home !! and What a Way to Go !! somebody stop me PLEEZ!)

And Eve, TELL me you’ve seen Leave Her to Heaven !!!

Tell me that was a joke.

Which part, the 3/4? or the lizards? Which one was funnier?

Neither was very funny. Check your mail. Sorry, but people telling me to get a job, or insinuating that you have to work for things when I already do really pisses me off. Like the time one of my professors remarked on the value of my camera equipment “I didn’t have that kind of allowance when I was your age” when I earned every penny of it working at his department.

I’m all better now.

You’d probably be a lot more relaxed if you worked off some of that nervous energy by getting a job.

Oh, I love Leave Her to Heaven . . . But amazingly enough, I have never been able to get through Johnny Guitar, despite the fact that worship at the Giant Joan Crawford Head.

I just Hate. Westerns.

As for Rock Hunter, I love it–but that’s a comedy (an intentional comedy), not a meller-drammer.